I have touched on this before, but previously skirted the issue because of friends of mine that had fallen into this trap. I always felt very guilty about not telling you the complete truth, I after all, prefer to always be honest even if it’s not easy.
Well I am not friends with those people anymore so now it’s entirely too easy.
How To: Spot a Dead Beat *Indie* Publisher
I use the term indie loosely because loosely is all it’s ever used these days. This of course does not mean all indie publishers are bad, but I am going to tell you how to spot the really smelly ones, and show you how people wind up falling into these traps.
Indie publishers are any publishers independent of the big time publishers and their imprints. Sometimes you don’t even realize you are reading a book by the main guys because they have so many names, so many aliases that oddly often do the same things and the same genres.
But I digress…
If you really wanted too, and trust me, you don’t. BUT IF YOU DID you could find a crappy little e-book only (or mostly) publisher to ‘publish’ your book no matter how bad it is. WHY? Because it’s almost impossible to lose money on an e-book if they aren’t going to invest any money to begin with. This to me, is more of a vanity publishing than going your own on Amazon ever could be. You want to be able to say you have a publisher (even if they suck) you want to have that validation.
Oh trust me, I do too, but not at this kind of cost!
Red Flag #1: Publisher Website. Does their website look like something I could have designed in 1994 with remedial html skills in under five minutes? Are their broken links? Could your mother do a better job? Professional publishers need to have a professional website. End. Of. Story. NO EXCEPTIONS!! If they don’t care enough to put their best cyber foot forward, how are they going to treat your book?
Red Flag #2: Fill in the blank contracts, or contracts with unspecified terms. I will preface this by saying, everything I learned about publishing contracts I learned from people on Twitter, but a little common sense in this industry can go a long long way. A professional contract is NOT fill in the blank. All terms and lengths of time should be clearly defined, nothing should be left hanging. The contract should clearly state how long it is good for, I have actually seen fill in the blank contracts that state they are good until basically the ‘publisher’ decides otherwise. I have seen contracts that state they basically own your next book(s). Sure, that would be great (maybe) if you are with random house, but your crappy little e-book publisher could go under tomorrow and then you are in a mess of trouble.
Red Flag #3: You do all the work they still get half the money. If they are taking 30-50% (or God more) of your book sales ask yourself WHY. Most bad indie publishers will require you provide your own cover art, all of your own marketing. (Yes I know even the big six publishers don’t do much marketing these days BUT ask yourself why a small press can’t even have a Twitter account to tweet about new releases) You will have to pay for any review copies. They do not offer any editing services, or worse make you pay them for the services, or they will even claim that your book is good enough with out being professionally edited. YES! I have had friends who believed their publishers when they said they did not need to be edited! AHHHH!!! If all a publisher offers you is to put your book on their crappy little website (see red flag #1) and format your e-book run away! These things are not worth their price tag of never ending profit splits.
Any questions? Really, I could go on all day.