Important Questions to Ask a Potential Book Publisher

by | Oct 12, 2015 | Book Marketing Basics

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When it comes to publishing, you thankfully have more options than ever to get your book out there. By definition however, self-publishing means that you are your own publisher whether or not you use an ISBN from a self-publishing house.

The reason I mention that is because you retain all control over the book, creative, digital and international. Some publishers, however, don’t seem to agree with many of the standards that are out there and create systems that make it difficult for authors to sell books.

We’ve recently had an influx of authors who have gotten saddled with bad deals from publishers. Everything from not having access or control of their eBook, to being forced to buy marketing programs that not only don’t move the needle, but have also negatively impacted their book. Serious stuff!

If you aren’t sure what to look for with regards to your publisher, here are a few things that are, in my view, musts for a book to be successful:

Pricing: You must always be able to control pricing. Bottom line. If your publisher is telling you that you need to price your book at X because of their print costs, that’s one thing but you should fully understand what their internal costs are before you make your decision. We had an author recently who was told by her publisher that she had to price her eBook at $20. In most cases a digital book will sell better than the print book but at $20, you’ll be lucky to get one sale. You need to ask, before signing with a publisher, how pricing is determined. Even with companies like Createspace, they suggest a price to you and if you want to go lower than that suggested price they’ll tell you why that’s a bad idea, but it’s generally your choice if you want to limit your book profit. As I said, most publishers will offer guidance but publishers who insist on a certain price or, even worse, set it for you, could really negatively impact your books success.

eBook Flexibility: If your publisher is creating your eBook file for you, it’s always good to get a copy of it. You’ll want to ask for it in different formats (so: ePub, Mobi) and if they won’t release it to you, ask them why. In one case we had an author who had an eBook that she had no access to. She could not gift the eBook file, give it away to reviewers (which would save her a lot of money instead of shipping books each time). She literally had her hands tied. They also didn’t allow her to change her eBook pricing which is a big part of a successful launch strategy. eBook price points, sales and free days are fantastic ways to gain more traction for your book.

Publisher Discounts: Before you sign with a publisher, be sure to ask them how much author copies will cost you. Most reputable self-publishing companies have this outlined so there is no guessing and those that don’t have this at the ready are questionable.

Book Updates: If you need to update your book, what happens? Maybe you don’t fall into this category but I sure do. My books Red Hot Internet Publicity and How to Sell Books by the Truckload need constant updates. Do you know how your publisher handles this?  We had an author who had actually updated her book, sent it to the publisher with an updated copyright date. They loaded it onto Amazon with the old date and when she asked why, she was told that they could not update the Amazon information to match the new book copyright date until she sold X number of books. I was floored and told her it was a scam and to contact Amazon and tell them what was happening. If you have a book that requires frequent updates, ask them before you sign and get it in writing.

eBook Promotions: While to some degree this falls under the eBook pricing and flexibility it’s still worth mentioning that some publishers will not let you do discounts or freebie book promotions on Amazon. Trust me when I say you will want to do this so ask them what their policy is in regards to this and again, get it in writing.

Amazon Listing: Who has access to your Amazon listing? Unless you’re with a traditional publishing house you should have access to this, bottom line. Not having access to this listing can be really problematic if you’re trying to update your book description with a blurb, or change it up somehow.

Marketing: First let me say that this isn’t a sales pitch to hire us – at all – but if you’re going to outsource your marketing to anyone, critically consider the value of the marketing programs an indie publisher is offering you. Yes, some can be good, but many are not. We recently worked with an author who bought $15,000 worth of social media marketing, which amounted to a few Facebook updates, a Twitter background, a few tweets, and that was about it. Don’t fall for the hype – ask for details. The other thing we’ve seen are lists of journalists and bloggers that would get “blasted with your message.” So let’s say they promise 250,000 journalists and 500 bloggers, sounds impressive, right? From that type of pitching, which is essentially just bccing everyone on an email, with no custom pitch, and no email personalization, guess what kind of response they get? Yes, crickets.

Websites: Many publishers will offer to do websites for you, and while you can find great deals, you want to be sure that you can actually access these sites after they are done. Often the publisher retains all control over these websites and has to do all of your updates, so while the site itself may have only cost you $300, the updates are very costly. We actually had an author who walked away from her site because the publisher never kept it up to date and never returned her calls. If you’re going to do this, find out what their cost is for updates and what your access is to the website. You’ll need access to the control panel at a minimum.

Much of the responsibility of finding a good publisher is on you, the author, to ask good questions. If you don’t know or aren’t sure, don’t assume. Finding a good indie publisher can really help your book succeed but finding a bad one could kill any chance for your book’s success. After working so long on it, and putting so much energy and effort into it, why would you intentionally do something to kill it before it even had a chance to soar?

BONUS: Check out my Social Media Tulsa 2016 presentation on this!



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