Ask a Publisher: How Do I Choose The Right Publisher?

Congratulations! You’ve finished your manuscript, it’s been through multiple rounds of self-edits and reviews by editorial professionals, and now you’re ready to begin submitting your manuscript to agents and publishers! But wait…how do you know if a publisher is the right house for your book? Is it possible to know if they’re right for your manuscript, even before you’ve received a contractual offer—or even before you’ve submitted it? Or what if they’re interested in your manuscript, but you have a few qualms about their company?

To help you navigate these waters, we’ve broken the question down into three checkpoints: before you query, submitting your work, and reviewing an offer. Each checkpoint is meant to help you narrow the potential publishing houses to a small group of the best candidates, eventually to the point that you feel confident in the power you hold on your journey to publish your book.

Before You Query

Before you query a publisher, it’s crucial to assess if they’re a reputable company (as opposed to a vanity press or hybrid publisher). If so, there are a few other questions to address, such as how many books they’ve previously published in your intended genre. Did those books sell well? Do you like the covers designed for those books? Are there any authors who have published multiple books, whether as a part of a series or not, through that company? It might even be worth a quick visit to those authors’ social media accounts and/or websites to see how much self-marketing they did versus the publisher’s online presence.

If you’re pleased with the answers to those questions, the next step is to verify if they are currently accepting submissions in your intended genre. If they aren’t, check back in a few months to see if things have changed; it won’t help your chances at future acceptance to go ahead and submit to them if they aren’t reviewing your genre. However, if they are currently reviewing submissions in your genre, go ahead and send your query in.

Submitting Your Work

Once you’ve sent your query, the next step is to simply wait.

While each publisher should have expected wait times posted on their website, and while we encourage every writer to be respectful of the publisher’s guidelines, there is one thing you can do during this time: celebrate. After all, you’ve written and edited a manuscript, and that’s no small feat. By taking some time to commend yourself for all you’ve done, you can remind yourself that you have put in a tremendous amount of effort to reach this point. For that matter, just because you aren’t already reviewing contractual offers doesn’t mean work has ground to a halt on your manuscript. In fact, if the publisher is a possible right fit for your manuscript, then they are now the ones working hard while you take a break.

During the publisher’s review process, they will carefully consider multiple aspects of your manuscript: any developmental issues they see, how much of a copy and/or line edit it may need, and if the story you’ve written is one they can personally invest themselves in. Simply put, while it would be incredible if entertainment or inspirational value alone were enough to land a contract, the truth of the publishing world is that the people who review your query must also assess if they’ll be able to passionately advocate for your book upward through the company’s hierarchy, if your book stands out compared to any similar ones they may also be reviewing or have already published, and how much further editorial work still needs to go into your manuscript from their staff (or if they’re going to encourage you to make some revisions and resubmit your manuscript to them at a later date).

As difficult as it may be, it’s worth asking yourself if a publisher who truly cares about your story—rather than the financial bottom line—is who you want to work with. Additionally, is it more important to you to work with a company who wants to publish your book, or to simply have your book published? Depending on your answers to these questions, the waiting period may pass a little more easily for you.

If a publisher is interested in your manuscript, they may request a full copy of it for their review…and then you may receive a contractual offer from their company.

Reviewing an Offer

When you receive an offer from a publisher, we strongly recommend having a lawyer review the rights, terms, and conditions of the contract. A lawyer will be able to explain the parameters the publisher wants to set with you in terms that are much easier to comprehend and may advise you on questions you should ask, too. They’ll also be able to explain if the distribution of profits from your book’s sales are fair, considering the manuscript wouldn’t exist without you having created it, but the publisher will also need to earn back their investment in the book’s production.

From the submissions stage to the offer review process, choosing the right publisher for your manuscript can take a tremendous amount of time. However, if in the end you have a contract that’s fair to all parties involved, a publishing process that has clear deadlines and options for both parties if the deadlines aren’t met, and, eventually, a professional and well-bound book, you’ll be able to look back and know that it was time well spent. Choosing the right publisher is, on paper, a professional decision, but it’s also inherently personal: your manuscript is yours, and the hours you spent writing and editing it are a portion of your life you’ll want to be able to look back on with pride. As much as you may want a publisher to be impressed by and, eventually, proud of your efforts, what’s most important is to make a decision you, too, can be proud of.

Josha Publishing, LLC is a woman-founded, woman-owned, and woman-run company that is passionate about booksstories, and the power of words to change lives. Learn more about us here and remember to sign up for our newsletter to find out about new content, new books, and submissions update.

Ask a Publisher:
How do I choose the right publisher?

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