How Do I Pick a Publisher?

This question comes up a lot! I don’t purport to be an expert on the topic, in fact, I’ve gone around in circles on this one in the last two and a half years. Please note that I’m limiting this discussion to electronic/electronic-trade pubs. I noted two posts yesterday–the demise of Scheherazade Publishing (I hope that those folks find a good home) and the call for submissions at Champagne Publishing. The first was four years running (and happens to be the spot I first submitted to, and was rejected at), the second is fairly young, maybe over a year old now, and seems healthy as far as I can tell. As a new writer (if you are one), how would you have been able to spot the one that would fold?

I chose the image of Rosie the Riveter up there because it reminds me that we women (most of us are women) can be turned from strong independent types to clueless babes in the woods when faced with the daunting prospect of picking a publisher to submit to. “I’m new, and I just want someone to take this book”–which may have already been rejected at EC or some other pub that looks healthy sales-wise. “Who would you suggest?” Surely you’ve gotten that question, fellow Rosie. Your answer may go something like this: “Well, I was at Acme Publishing, but I had a run-in with an editor there. You may like them, however. I was also at Sexy Reads, but they’re only putting their best sellers into print, and I wasn’t in that category. Sales were abysmal. Now I have books at Hunky Heroes, and I like them so far.” Yeah, thanks for the help.

I think what’s missing in the question (variations of which you see all over the loops) “what is your GOAL?” To simply get published? To learn, grow, get better? To get onto the NY Times bestseller list in two years? Or the inevitable “I MUST see my book in print.” Do you want to be a big fish in a tiny pond? Comfortable waiting a year hearing about whether your jewel is accepted?

I wish someone would have said this to me when I started: “Who are you? Is this a hobby? Do you want to make a career of this? How much time can you devote to writing? How long have you been at this? Let me read the book and I’ll answer you after I do.”

Just about anyone can get published now. It’s true! Your romance will likely be accepted by one of many new epublishing houses springing up. They may become the next big place, too! It’s okay to sub to those places, really! Just remember that sales may be blecky, and you may (repeat MAY) not get the kind of editorial guidance you’d like. The alternative is to scout out the publishers with “big” name romance writers (in epubbing). Do these writers stay there? Do their books go to trade, even mass market (if that’s important to you)? Do their writers routinely get good reviews, win awards? Read their books. Try writing to one of them–they may or may not answer. Remember that there are a lot of sagging shoulders, big chips weighing them down. And no matter how big the company, how successful, it can still fold, or change, just like 99% of new businesses do in the first year.

The real question is–what are YOU willing to put into this hobby or career or yours? Ready to pay your dues? I wasn’t, but I’m learning it’s time to face my writing truth. I’ve a lot more to learn, need to get a lot better, and I’m pretty happy where I am right now. That’s a good place to be.


6 thoughts on “How Do I Pick a Publisher?

  1. Sandra says:

    Hi Ciar!

    You make excellent points any writer should consider. You get out of your writing as much as you put into it.

    While there is a definite correlation between promo and sales, promo takes away time from your writing which is why most of us do this crazy stuff anyway – because we love to write and the muse won’t let us alone. If we can get paid to play with our hobby, boy howdy, isn’t that grand? 🙂

    Of course, we want to do well, and wouldn’t it be great if someone recognized us as the next great literary genius?

    You have to be willing to learn. In this business gaining enough knowledge can take a lot of time.

    Angela Knight is quick to tell her readers that she was an overnight success after twenty years.

    Twenty years? That’s a lot of dues. Dues that were paid with a lot of words written, a lot of waiting, and a lot of learning.

    Going to an e-publisher can take your writing to the next level, a place where you can be aware of what it means to revise, polish, accept criticism (which is often hard to accept), apply yourself to the critical comments, and then end up with a story 100 times better than what you originally had (at least in theory anyway).

    I’m the owner and Editor-in-Chief of Aspen Mountain Press. I want writers who want to learn. I want good stories that I can help them make better by getting rid of such things as passive voice and head-hopping. There are a lot of writers who don’t even know what head-hopping is.

    I want a place where writers can feel comfortable asking questions and getting answers. I will give them that at Aspen Mountain. The worst of the e-publishers I’ve been with so far have serious communication issues. Questions get asked and authors wait weeks and weeks for answers that may or may not come.

    I want writers to get paid in a timely manner, even if its $1.00. Aspen Mountain plans on paying its writers monthly.

    I want writers to write the stories they are moved to write. I don’t want sex for sex’s sake, or paranormal just because someone has been told that is selling. All I ask for is a minimum word count of 10k. The rest is up to the individual authors.

    I want mystery stories, romance, horror, paranormal, westerns, military, political thrillers. I want to be an open-ended, open-minded place for the stories of your passion to appear.

    I want an active community for authors at Aspen Mountain to vent thier frustrations, without having my nose it it. I also want authors to feel good about griping to me and them knowing that I’m okay about their venting and willing to work out any problems that may creep up.

    I want an active readers community where authors and readers can talk with one another. A place where excerpts can be read and discussed.

    I want a place that doesn’t put pressure on its writers to produce so many stories in x amount of months. I want your best efforts and if that means you have a full length novel ready in a year, that’s what it will be.

    We’re still building, but if you want to see our submissions guidelines you can go to

    Aspen Mountain Press

  2. Barbara Sheridan says:

    Hey Ciar!

    I’ve been “paying the dues” since I sold my first short story for $10 in the late 80s and I’ve been with a major name publisher and “new e-kids on the block” and for me a major thing to look for is how much do they respect an individual author’s “style” that may not be the same old follow the dots thing.

    Perfect example is the ability to accept the “dreaded” “head hopping”.

    Point of view shifting can be done badly–very badly, but it can also be used well and shouldn’t be rejected or forced into a prescribed “house style” mold just because “It’s the way we do it here”–which you often don’t find out about until AFTER the contract has been signed…

    That’s not say I have editing “issues”. Hell I know this is s constant learning process and I’ve been known to trim back the POV to tighten things but I still appreciate teh freedom to do some things my way becuase they work and help make the story for involving.

  3. Barbara Sheridan says:

    *sigh* I do seem to have typo issues though–of course it’s 4 am and I’m watching a fussy baby so…I get cut some slack yeah? ^_^

  4. Carolyn Rogers says:

    Hi Ciar, I bounced over here from Chuck’s list to see what was going on. I am very active on LJ but think I may get a blogspot too as there are some good things going on here also.

    I’ve thought lots about what we were talking about. Lots. And shared my thoughts on the ‘writing as hobby’ mindset and why it seems to be working for me, helping me break out of that horrible tight-laced binding I found myself in. A mind-thing? Sure, but your comments made me realize I was missing the boat on the joy of writing.

    I feel like I am finally getting going again after a long, long drought. Wonderful!


  5. C says:

    Okay I got one, but there is nothing on it yet!


  6. Lyn Cash says:

    Bigtime goal setter here – I love reading books or listening to tapes by people like Zig Ziglar, who says “you can’t hit a target you don’t have”. Then there’s Anthony da bomb Robbins and Barbara Sher. *grin* Good blog. I just got through harping on writers who waste time, giving mental real estate to things that shouldn’t matter. Must be hitting a lot of us – lol. Told my readers you have good blogs and info on writing.

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