Evaluating Book Publishing Routes
June 10, 2018 4:30 PM   Subscribe

The process of selecting a self-publisher is daunting. Lots of self-publishers evaluate themselves against their competition. And surprise, they always seem a so much better deal than their competitors. On the other side, finding a traditional publisher often requires first, finding an agent. And I've heard agents are focused on repeat performers, not untested first timers.

I have a plan to work my way slowly and individually, through agents and publishers to maybe find a fit. But I am also looking at self publishing. So, is there a place where I can get an objective evaluation of legitimate self-publishing companies?
posted by CollectiveMind to Media & Arts (12 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
This will be very tough. This industry isn't regulated at all and there's a wide range of options from scammy to boutique. I haven't seen a specific evaluation/recommendation list and wouldn't trust any that I did see, but from several years of reading/membership, members of the Independent Book Publishers Association are likely to be legitimate companies (independent publishing can mean both self-publishing and non-big-corporate-house publishing). Check BBB ratings for any self-publishing companies you are evaluating. Choosing a local company may be a good metric, as you will probably be able to meet with them in person and get a better vibe than just evaluating a website.

Carefully consider your goals - if you want a traditional publishing experience with wide distribution in the bookselling world, self-publishing will not be a good fit. If you want full control of the process including interior and cover design, traditional publishing will not be a good fit. What kind of book are you writing? What are your deepest goals for your book and the experience of publishing it?

(Also, fwiw, many agents love to find debut authors, and many publishers accept unagented manuscripts - especially smaller, independent publishers.)
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 7:23 PM on June 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

Maybe check that anything you're considering doesn't show up as a cautionary tale on Writer Beware?
posted by inconstant at 8:45 PM on June 10, 2018

You may want to check out the Alliance of Independent Authors in general, and specifically their index/ratings of self-pubbing companies.
posted by BlahLaLa at 8:47 PM on June 10, 2018

Not sure if it is OK to recommend a specific company here in the comments, but I know of one company that straddles the self-pub to small-pub space. They will help you self-pub or do it for you. Several friends have published with them. I have bought books from the publisher. I have worked with the person who owns and operates the company. (I actually edited some of her writing long, long ago.) I can vouch for them as fair, above board, and effective. Memail me or maybe a mod can let me know if it is OK to post the name of the company.
posted by Gotanda at 11:46 PM on June 10, 2018

And I've heard agents are focused on repeat performers, not untested first timers.

Just as an FYI, this is not the case! (For one thing, agents always need new clients and there's a finite number of repeat performers.) Agents LOVE finding the next new big thing. I got an agent without having written a book previously, and so have many many many writers I know! So if you want to go the traditional route -- and there are pros and cons to that -- know that lots of agents are looking for debut authors.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 12:07 AM on June 11, 2018

In addition to Writer Beware, do a search at the Absolute Write watercooler for any self-publisher you're considering working with.

(And FYI, you should also check on agents before you sign them. You can also use Absolute Write for this as well. You probably know this, but just in case: agents make money by selling your work. Any agent who asks for money from you up front is a scammer.)
posted by yankeefog at 8:07 AM on June 11, 2018

Response by poster: Countess Sandwich and Peanut McGillicuty, this goes directly against what I've read about publishers who don't like unrepresented manuscripts essentially tossed, "over the transom." And what I've heard about agents who are squeezed by an industry that is looking for the next "50 Shades of Grey" ... on Mars, for example. But it's encouraging. I'll check it out.
posted by CollectiveMind at 8:33 AM on June 11, 2018

Yes, the "big five" publishers generally do not accept unagented manuscripts. It's just that there are many more than five small/indie presses which do. (However, some small/indie presses also do not accept unagented manuscripts, and presumably they tend to be more specialized as well.)

Either way, just make sure to read the submissions guidelines carefully when considering a traditional publisher.
posted by inconstant at 8:47 AM on June 11, 2018

There is no such thing as a "legitimate self-publishing company." There are vanity presses, which will help you manage the printing of physical books, but YOU are the "self" in "self-publishing." All the functions that really count as publishing (selling books on a broad scale, distributing through retail channels, publicity, etc) will be handled by you.
posted by rikschell at 2:05 PM on June 11, 2018

Unagented and "over the transom" are two different things. Sending in unsolicited complete manuscripts without querying, or outside of open submission periods, or literally mailing them "to whom it may concern" - that is over the transom and yes, is unwelcome. Abiding by a publisher's submission guidelines is important, but there are a ton of publishers who accept unagented or even explicitly state that they do not want agented submissions. If you're already considering self-publishing, you might start researching traditional publishers who do. I've been in publishing for 13 years and literally every place I've worked has accepted unagented submissions, even the big 5 house.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 3:51 PM on June 11, 2018

Response by poster: That's a little more encouraging. It looks like be slowly walking both paths.
posted by CollectiveMind at 10:10 PM on June 11, 2018

If you go with self-publishing, I've successfully self-published three novels: created the e-books with Sigil or Calibre, and uploaded the books to CreateSpace for print-on-demand following their exacting rules and have been very happy with the end results. I was with lulu.com for print-on-demand of the first two books but learned that since Amazon owns CreateSpace there is more cross pollination between the two, for what that's worth.
posted by drinkmaildave at 8:09 PM on June 17, 2018

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