The world of publishing is very much like playing craps in Vegas. No matter how hard a writer evaluates a publishing house or tries to predict its future success before signing on the dotted line, the industry itself is as consistent as a roll of the dice.

There are calculations you can make based on factors such as the length of time the house has been in business, the size of its stable of authors, the number of titles and presence on the Internet. But, getting information on sales stats or evaluating their marketing is near impossible. You simply aren't privy to what is going on behind the scene.

I know a friend whose publisher closed shop and burned all the book stock. Another has had two publishers die on her. Sometimes a publisher goes in a new direction—say, deciding to switch from Christian publishing to erotica. Heaven forbid!

As the saying goes, nothing is guaranteed in life except death and taxes. While it's understandable that an author wants to hold on tight to their life's work until the “sure thing” comes along, the results is never getting a book out on the marketplace. Publishing houses have their ups and downs, their quirks and foibles. Remember, there are real people behind each house and they gotta be a little crazy to want to deal with the egos and eccentricities of writers.

How exactly do you pick a publishing house to get your novel out there? I could give you a generic answer, like find a good fit. But, if you haven't published, what is a “good fit?” This isn't a pair of shoes you're trying on.

One of the things you can do is contact the authors and ask “How is your experience with your publishing house?” Authors are usually very honest with their peers. But, don't stop at the first bad review because that could be a single experience or an author who is never satisfied. When you encounter people at conferences, ask how they feel about the house they're publishing with.

Many people rely on online sites like Predators and Editors or Absolute Write. The problem with these sites is that once a publisher or agent is blacklisted, they offer no recourse for getting off their hit list. Nobody is watching the watchers.

So, what is the savvy author to do? You're not going to like my advice, but here it is: jump in with both feet and hope for the best. Take a chance and get a book out to the marketplace. The only reason to hold on to your treasured words is if this is the only book you will ever publish. If that's the case, you don't have much of a career ahead of you or a publishing house willing to put money behind a one-trick pony.

Like I said at the start, it's always going to be a crapshoot.

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Comment by Sunny Frazier on September 7, 2013 at 2:31pm

I refuse to read the book as well--not for content, but because I heard it was badly written. The readership it attracted probably doesn't care about craft, only crap.

We can bemoan the fact that Snookie gets a publishing contract for being trashy and topical, but we can't control the industry. I love competition and I like to find ways to pull away from the crowd. Personality is the main way to get people's attention. Make them WANT to buy your book because you've intrigued them with your personality. I like to be forthright, brazen, funny, with strong opinions. Not everyone's cup of tea. Actually make friends with Face Book friends. Take an interest in other people's lives and career. Integrate yourself into theirs. 

Yes, titles fight for attention. However, many are lousy reads because nobody is playing gatekeeper. Buyer beware. That doesn't stop them from buying. Plus, a huge number just get the books on Kindle and go on to write the next one. No marketing, no sales. I think the author with a strong and economical marketing strategy can work the system to their advantage. That wasn't always the case. These are better times, despite the fact that every person with a computer can write a novel.  


Comment by Dan L. Coleman on September 7, 2013 at 1:07pm

Exactly. Epublishing offers writers something never before available, whether individually or through any number of the many new outfits, all bootstrapping. One can sit at home even and be all parties to the business, except the buyer-reader. The problem is the huge number of titles out there fighting for attention and the fact that at least 98% of them are garbage that won't get past the first sentence or paragraph for the typical literate reader.

Well, maybe in most cases. I understand E.L. James(?) made $95 million dollars last year for Fifty Shades of Grey and a couple others, but it was the titillating subject matter and not the lousy writing and poor English. Sex sells. Haven't read it, myself, but of those I know who have, all put it down after a few chapters, either bored with the story or distracted by the bad writing. But I hail the author's success in the marketing end. Goes to prove you can sell anything, especially here in the U.S.A., if you package it right.

But the reward for not publishing is obscurity.

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