Usually when people contact me for the first time, they are excited about the prospect of having a book, but they are also nervous. One of the most common comments I hear is, “I don’t even know what to ask yet.” That’s normal. Publishing a book is not an everyday experience for most people, so I don’t expect new clients to know what they need. That’s my job.
Of course, just like with any service, it’s important to work with people you trust to do the job right, and there are many publishing companies to choose from. There are some that are great companies that do great work, but there are others who have cropped up in the last several years who are not so great. Like every industry, the publishing industry has its share of scammers, and it’s important to know how to avoid them.
If you’re thinking about writing a book to help boost your credibility and positioning as a business owner, but you’re not sure how to evaluate publishing companies, we’ve made a list to help you out.
Discuss expectations, and make sure you get clear answers.
Clear expectations are the most important key to any successful business relationship. Everyone needs to know their part, and everyone needs to understand the goals they’re working towards.
It’s no different in publishing. What are you hoping to achieve by having a book? Better positioning in your field? Gaining a valuable networking and promotional tool? Demonstrating your expertise to clients and colleagues? A publisher can help you tremendously with all of those things, and they should be able to explain how they’ll work with you to do it.
If your hope is that you’ll make a huge sum of money from book sales, well, you won’t. If any publisher promises you will, you should run in the other direction. We’ve seen publishing companies charge huge amounts of money for fancy “marketing packages” that just aren’t effective, and we’ve talked to dozens of disappointed authors who truly believed that an extra few thousand dollars upfront would equal millions of dollars in sales.
Make sure you understand what your publisher can offer you, and make sure you’re on the same page.
What will they be like to work with?
Creating a book is a collaborative effort. There are writers, editors, book designers, and cover designers who all have different tasks to complete in order to publish a book. As the author, you should be able to have input at all stages of the process. In your initial consultation, be sure to ask about how involved you’ll be able to be. A great publisher will want you to be as involved as you want to be.
It’s also important to have a level of transparency with the people who are working for you. In publishing, there are different costs associated with different things, and it’s important to know what your money is being used for. At the very least, your publisher should be willing to talk about it so that there are no surprises.
How will your books be distributed?
There are a variety of ways to read books in this day and age. Most people are turning to e-readers, mobile phones, or tablets, and reading digital versions of books. The print industry is certainly still alive, but it is not the only path to success. If credibility and positioning is your goal, you need to work with a publisher who understands distribution and who can make your book available in the right places.
There are companies out there who still insist on doing large print runs, and then forcing their authors to buy a set number of books. You, as the author, should be able to buy copies of your book at a wholesale discount, and only the number you need. Some companies even include a number of free copies in the upfront price. Don’t trust anyone who mandates that you purchase a ridiculous number of copies of your own book.
At the end of the day, it’s about relationships.
If you’ve never published a book before or even thought about the publishing industry one way or another, you may truly not know what questions to ask at first. The important thing is that you feel comfortable enough to ask any questions you may possibly come up with. Even more importantly, the answers to those questions need to be satisfying to you. If the publisher is acting shady or evasive, there’s a good chance they’re hiding something that could come back to bite you later.
Go with your gut. Define your expectations, and make sure you have a clear understanding of how the publishers plan to work with you to meet those expectations. A relationship that allows you to voice your concerns and participate in the process is what you need to create and publish a book that you’re proud of and that boosts your career.