Every once in a while I give writing advice on my blog. Someone asked me if they should publish with a certain publisher. Here are my thoughts on the subject.
Smaller publishers come and go every year, and some stick around for decades (and some go out of business quickly and don’t ever pay their authors royalties.) The questions you need to ask before choosing any publisher are:
1) How much do they pay in advances? Specifically, how much will they pay you? If they don’t pay anything, avoid them. If they pay under 10k, consider them carefully. Generally, if a publisher doesn’t pay much of an advance, they won’t do a lot to market your book. If they don’t market it, it won’t sell well and bookstores might not even carry it.
If you’re unsure about a publisher or agent, you can get a trial subscription to Publishers Weekly and check to see their recent deals.
(The exception to this rule may be Kindle Scout. They pay 1,500 advances but you have Amazon’s expertise helping to sell your book, so the lower advance may be worth it.)
2) What is their marketing plan? Are they well connected to bookstores? Do their reps go to conferences and give out ARCs? How many ARCS will they be distributing?
3) What is their contract like? Make sure you have either an agent or a literary lawyer look over it and see if the publisher is grabbing rights they shouldn’t. Some contracts are so bad that they will literally enslave an author’s career. You want to make sure you can get your rights back after a few years when the print book is no longer selling. (Ebooks and print-on-demand copies shouldn’t constitute the book being in print.) The publisher shouldn’t ask for more than first rights of refusal on your next book in the same genre. You also want to make sure you can self-publish anything you want. There’s a lot more to look for in contracts, which again is why you need a professional to read it over.
4) Look at the list of books they’ve published and contact some of the authors. Ask them about their experience and if they’re happy with the publisher. I published one book with a small publisher and it was a disaster, but that doesn’t mean all small publishers are bad.