One in an occasional series
I am one of those editors who likes to support my clients even if what they need help with is beyond the range of editing. Because of this, I’ve now started such services as offering help writing book descriptions, a While You Write service where you cough up cash and I’m available seven days a week for brainstorming plot wrinkles and other problems, and more. I’ve even brought some e-book formatters into the fold, but more about that another day.
The Book Description and While You Write services are available only to my editing clients.
One other thing I like to do is talk about your options for publication. A number of you like to explore your options, and that’s great. I’m totally supportive of that. And… a lot of you have found small presses who’ve been interested in publishing your books. Sometimes, that makes me sad because it means you’re moving on to a new editor (and when that editor’s not as good as me, well, double sad!) — but that sadness is also tempered with excitement for you. I want only the best for my clients.
But sometimes, you find yourself someone who is well intentioned but … maybe isn’t ready for a writer of my clients’ caliber (do I think highly of you guys, or what?). And you ask me about this publisher.
I came across one of these small presses the other day. When I find them, I crawl all over their website, looking for certain criteria:
1. Is the site well written? Seems like a silly thing to look for, but if a publisher’s website is riddled with grammar errors, what will your book look like? (and yes, I do wish I had the cojones to send them a letter, offering my non-fiction department’s services!)
2. What can you offer my author that s/he can’t do by him/herself? The latest was a publisher who said they were working on a relationship that would get them into brick-and-mortar stores. Sounds great, but … they weren’t there yet. What could they offer my client NOW?
3. What do they publish, and how does your book fit into their list? One publisher I came across had both erotic lit and a book about Jesus on their front page. I’d be surprised if people aren’t offended by that one!
There’s a reason niche publishers do well, folks: they break into one market and do it well.
4. What’s the background of the principals involved? Even if it’s not a publishing background, I’m sorry, but someone with an MFA in painting and a partner with a PhD in history just doesn’t make me confident that you know how to run a business — even though I’ve learned that running a business isn’t rocket science. But I want to see that you’ve got a clue what you’re doing before I’ll express confidence in your business.
(Before you ask about my lack of business background, I spent 2013 enrolled in a year-long business class and worked with a fabulous mentor. Like I said, running a business isn’t rocket science.)
5. How excited by your book is this publisher? I thought this was a no-brainer, but when a client forwarded a mail that said, “I skimmed your book and think it’d be a good fit…” I realized that the siren’s song of “it’d be a good fit” drowned out the red flag. This acquiring editor SKIMMED the book? The book he’s worked on for years and years? Sweat, blood, tears, marriage, friends, and an editor are all in that book and this acquiring editor admitted to SKIMMING it?
To paraphrase uber agent Janet Reid: You want someone behind your book who’s as passionate as you are.
Yes, we all want to have a publisher’s name behind us (okay, not all of us anymore!) but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t let desire overrule your natural caution. I’ve seen too many small presses go under, heard too many stories about authors who have to go to court to have their rights reversed, seen what happens when expectations are crushed.
Don’t be that author.
But do be the author who is smart enough to reach out to people who can look past the emotional high of the offer and help you weigh your options with a clear mind. This is your business. It’s not rocket science, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be smart in the choices you make.