Tag Archives: publishers

Checking Out Publishers, Part 2

I’ve narrowed down the pool–it’s pretty shallow at this point, which is the way it should be. Now, beyond checking out sales rank, I’m into the next stage–checking out editors.

At this point, I’m eternally grateful for Amazon’s ‘Look Inside’ feature, because it saves me a pile of money. (Blatant plug here –> 😀 )51QId7+dWeL__BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_

Find a bunch of recent books by a publisher under consideration–recent because editors move around a lot and you want to get an idea of what the current editorial staff is like. It’s best if you can find books that are in your genre. If you write contemporary romance, then you want to look at the contemporary romance editors; scifi, you look at scifi editors.

Then, look them up on Amazon.

Within a couple of pages, you should be able to tell if the editor is going to be able to catch things that you don’t notice when self-editing. Or you may be aghast at the quality of the work and wonder how it got out there. Or, if you’re lucky, you may end up making some purchases.

Things I look for, that I notice in other people’s work but don’t always catch in my own, are things like prepositional phrases, or too-quick changes of motivation on the part of a character. I look for a lot of telling, which isn’t something I do frequently, but does occasionally get past me. I look for clarity and ease of reading, because these are basic editorial skills. I look at the line editing, because a good publisher will have more than one editor work on your story.

You’ll likely look for other things, because every writer has their own Achilles’ heel.

If enough books get past this test, I’ll buy a few that seem closely related to my own. If I can finish them with few or no reservations, then I’ll check out the page that lists the editor. If there’s no editor listed (and some pubs don’t list editors), that moves the pub a notch down in my ranking. I will have to look at a much wider range of books from them, because that implies a certain turnover of editors, which means that I might have just caught a few good books, and that editor might now be gone. If I can’t be sure that an editor I like is still with the company, then I need to know that the standard is high across the board, which is something one of the pubs I was considering failed recently.

Once I have a list of editors that I think would mesh well with me, my hang-ups, and my weaknesses, I’ll look them up online, see what they like, what they’ve edited, what they’re looking for. I’ll check out their social media, because I’ve been turned off one seemingly capable editor after a Twitter episode that revealed a pretty unpleasant and unrealistic side to her personality. Which then made me realize this is someone I would probably avoid if we lived in the same city–no matter how good an editor she was. (The lesson here, boys and girls, is be careful on social media.) You spend too much time with your editor to have to worry if they’re suddenly going to go off on you about something. (This goes beyond normal kvetching on the internet–everyone has to vent. And some people need to be vented about. 🙂 But you know the saying: The best index to a person’s character is (a) how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and (b) how he treats people who can’t fight back.)

Now, I know I may not have a choice in who my editor is, but the more you know, the less you’re surprised. And the likelihood is that an editor who has previously edited books like yours and is still looking for more will pick yours up out of the slushpile. It’s what happened to me at Loose Id, essentially, and I’m very happy with The Editor in Question. And I knew to send to Loose Id because I’d done my homework, right up to and including speaking with authors at the pub and asking how they liked dealing with them.

Doing the research may not guarantee me the kind of editor I want, but it sure does improve the odds of putting the manuscript where the right editor can stumble over it.

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Checking Out Publishers

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I’m getting to the point in my career where I think I need to branch out in terms of publishers. Don’t get me wrong–I’ve very happy with Loose Id, and I have no plans to leave them. I’ve got several stories lined up to be written, or to finish editing, that should take me well into 2015. These plans have been in the works for a while, but the events of the past year and half have pushed everything off by about six months or more.

There are a few reasons for having more than one publisher.

One is to gain experience with different editors and pick up new skills. Every pub and every editor has their things they do well and things they don’t cover quite as well. They’ll point out different things in your writing, push you in different directions. Some market better than others, while others have a stronger editing department.

Readerships tend to be like a Venn diagram–there’s some overlap between pubs, but there will always be some readers that visit one website, and never go to the other. However, if they like the book you put out at your new pub, they might be encouraged to pop over to your old one and try some of those too.

Myself and several other writers I know are currently debating the issue of multiple genres and whether going to a second or third publisher to handle other genres is a smart thing to do, or just makes it harder for readers to find you. Would it make sense to have contemporary and fantasy at one pub, paranormal and scifi at another, and then a third for anything that doesn’t fit in those categories? In essence, using the publisher’s name as a branding tool for that genre? Or should an author make the effort to keep everything at one publisher for ease of purchase by a reader? (That being said, there are some pubs that seem to be more open to odd categories of fiction, like erotic romance in a fantasy setting, or erotic horror, or steampunk.)

So I’m probably going to test the waters on this. I have something that I’ve been holding onto, that needs some revision, then I’m going to try sending it out again. We’ll see how it goes. If it doesn’t work out the way I’m hoping, then no harm, no foul, right?

What have I been doing to figure out which publishers I want to try? Some of it is personal experience. There are a couple I wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole, after either having dealings with them (or attempting to), or reading things that came out from them.

Word of mouth. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to get involved in the community somewhere, so you hear things that might not be said in an official capacity. Very often, writers are reluctant to discuss concerns they have with a publisher, because they’re afraid of being blacklisted, or graylisted. It’s also the place where you’ll hear about the really good stuff too. About times when publishers went above and beyond their responsibility to an author and sorted something out, or even just made a change to a release schedule to help someone having a rough time.

Check their sales rankings for books in the genre that your manuscript would be placed in, and look to see how, and if, they promote themselves. Check Novelrank sales, check ARe rankings, check Goodreads for reviews of the books. Because some publishers are very good at the “Rah, rah, we’re a fantastic publisher!”, but the proof is in the numbers, and sometimes the hype and numbers don’t line up.

Last, but not least, read books from the publishers you’re considering. Especially, read books in your genre. Even if all you can get to is the ‘Look Inside’ from Amazon, read the books. Because that will tell you what their editing is like, if there’s a general trend in the types of characters they prefer in that genre, and it will tell you a little bit about house style.

There’s one pub I’m considering, because their sales are great, but I keep hesitating because their editing is less than stellar. There’s another with great sales, and better editing, but when I read the stuff in my genre, I DNF the books more often than I finish them, which tells me that I might not be writing the kind of stuff that they like. There’s a third with sales that aren’t quite as good, but they seem to be working on their marketing, and the style of their books lines up better with mine. And a fourth that seems to be a bit of a powerhouse, but I’m afraid I’d get lost in the number of books they put out.

These are all things that need to be considered. Each one will have a different weight, depending on where a specific author’s strengths are. Me, I don’t want to have to do much promo. I don’t feel particularly comfortable with it, and I’d prefer to spend time in my imaginary worlds than researching blogs and trying to figure out what, exactly, is the optimal schedule and number of guest posts for a blog tour. I also look at this as a chance to learn something new, so I want a place with editors that will challenge me, but also know how to show me where the path is when I get so all I can see is the trees.

And the last thing I want is a crystal ball, so I can just look ahead and see which is the right choice to make. 😛 Because, really, the only way to find out the truth is to make a choice, and jump. So, that’s what I’ll be doing, once I’ve got Loose Id looked after. A little experiment, if you will. Should be fun. 🙂

Funny things you learn wandering around the publishers’ websites

I signed up to take this course by Angela James of Carina. It’s called Before You Hit Send. And this evening, I’ve been sitting around avoiding writing, because I got off my schedule and I’m a little messed up, when I decided to have a bit more of a peek around the Carina blog. And it was really interesting…

Like any author, I zoom in on the submissions page. For the first time, however, I went all the way down to the bottom of the page. And now I’m kicking myself, because there is a wealth of information in there.

I’ve been following their blog for a couple of months and mostly because I came up with the steampunk story and thought it sounded like it would suit their line. Many of the posts linked to at the bottom of the page are from early in their inception, so I wasn’t ‘around’ when they were posted. In terms of transparency of process, Carina just shot to the top of the list.

Each post covers a specific topic. You can read about their acquisition process, find out what gets you accepted, what gets you rejected (with quotes of editorial comments!),query do’s and don’t and a host of other Really Useful Information. There’s even one on how to respectfully withdraw your manuscript from a publisher without burning your bridges.

Being slightly Type A, slightly OCD and a nervous newbie, finding this was like waking up and having Christmas arrive–again! YMMV, but it was Tesla mileage to me.

Put 1000 words on the werewolves today. I love it when Levi turns things on their head and Glyn doesn’t get to be the boss. Now, to go add another 500 to The Boyler Room. Gideon’s buying some fans. 😀