Avoid any publisher if:
1) A publisher appears on watchdog sites like Predators and editors, Absolute Write – water cooler, Writer beware, or has a less than stellar rating on the Better business Bureau. Those sites exist to warn you against using publishing companies or services. Take their advice and keep looking for one that would do well by you. Or, better yet, manage your own affairs.
2) A publisher charges reading and/or submission fees. This is usually a red flag, especially in a smaller publisher. Charging reading fees could easily be a sign of the company’s lack of ability to manage their money, if they have to take it from you for reading scripts or accepting submissions.
3) If a publisher charges ANY fees. In publishing,money flows TO the author, not FROM. These fees include up front fees, like for reading or submissions. But they also present as questionable separation fees. If a company’s contract includes a clause that says that if the contract terminates before the natural duration (a year, two years, three books, whatever), you have to cough up, say, $125 to be released and/or get your work back, it’s a trap. That means that the publisher can terminate your contract, blame you for it, and hit you up for the money.
4) You see a publisher with a history of names a mile long, like Mystic press, Phoenix Fire publishing, Silver Fang publishing (briefly), Dark Storm Publications, and Demons and Deities. All the same company, with the same people in charge. No, my friend, You don’t need to deal with a company that changes names more often than a strip club whore drops her panties, if she’s wearing any at all. At best, such a company is inept and needs to keep changing names to avoid the reputation of doing a poor job. At worst, such a company has a history of scamming and defrauding authors. An upstanding company stands by its name proudly. They don’t keep switching it up to dodge a bad reputation (or maybe even taxes). If you see a publisher with a list of names a mile long, don’t even pause. Keep looking.
5) A publishing company can’t provide proof that they exist as a legal entity. Search your publisher’s state for public records proving that they are a taxable entity. While it’s true that some sole proprietorships don’t have to register for taxes. But that means that only one person can own it and work for it. That’s fine for an artist that sells artwork online, but ask yourself this: Can only one person run a publishing company? Can only one person do all of the editing, promotion and marketing, from accepting the author’s submission, production, publication, marketing and promotion? Can one person arrange for all of that, plus book signings, interviews and everything else it takes to make a book successful? Doubtful. As an author, you need a whole team of professionals doing their best to represent you and your work. Not one slob, sitting at their kitchen table at 2 in the morning, doing nothing but slapping your book on Createspace and expecting to keep up to half of your royalties. No marketing, no promotion. You can do better yourself, and keep all of your royalties while you’re at it.
6) A publishing company’s only contact information is an email. There’s something fishy going on if you can’t even pick up the phone and talk to a real person about your work. You don’t just deserve to know who you’re dealing with, you NEED to know.
7) A publishing company’s web page is a weebly, or some other hosting site rather than a dot com. If a publishing company won’t pony up for a dedicated domain, it means one of three things:
They’re too cheap to pony up the money
They don’t have anybody skilled enough to run it.
They don’t expect to exist long enough to bother. (See number 3)
8) Your contract carries over. If a company’s contract contains the stipulation that if the company is sold, given away, or changes hands for any reason, your contract will “carry over” to the new owner, or to the new company’s new name. That’s not only dubious, legally, as contracts don’t just “Carry over” like that. It’s also a sure sign that the company expects to change names, or hands. (see number 3)
9) A publishing company’s owner can’t or won’t answer all of your questions. Don’t be shy. Ask as many questions as you can think of. A small company, especially, should be able to answer each and every one of your questions with professionalism, easily and patiently.
Does the company exist legally? (See number 5)
Who owns the company? (See number 4)
Who, exactly, works for the company? (See number 4, in case they’re being dodgy about ownership.)
Who, exactly, will be doing the editing, formatting and artwork for your book? And don’t accept the answer that “someone within the company: will be assigned to do it. The reason it’s important is that some smaller companies inbreed editing work by getting other authors to do it for the promise of increased royalties. This is highly improper. Authors sign with a publishing company to write and get published. Not to work for the other company in any capacity. And, many times, other authors aren’t trained or experienced enough to do the job. If your editor isn’t going to be a trained, experienced professional, you don’t want them working on your book.
How will you get paid?
How much will you get paid?
When will you get paid?
Will your publisher grant you access to examine their financial affairs? Many, most publishing companies don’t mind granting an author and their accountant or lawyer access to their financial records because they have nothing to hide. If the company you’re looking at refuses, you’ve got to ask yourself what they’ve got to hide.
When will they send your 1099 form? Your publisher is legally obligated to send you a 1099 form for taxation purposes, both yours and theirs. If you’ve stumbled upon a publishing company that doesn’t send authors this form, they’re not only keeping you from properly filing your taxes. You know they aren’t properly filing theirs, either. They can’t be, if they haven’t allowed you to file yours. That’s Tax fraud, and you want no part of it.
These are but a few questions that I can think of off the top of my head. There are likely more that you’ll think of. like I said before, don’t be shy about asking them. A proper publisher will be happy to answer them.
10) The owners of a publishing company involve you in their personal affairs. If, during the course of your first few conversations with a publisher, you hear anything about the owner’s personal life rather than business, hang up and keep looking. As an author, you want to hear about how you and your work will be represented to the literary world. Not who the owner is fighting with, who’s sick, who’s dating whom, the dog, the cat, drinking, clubbing, their religious beliefs or anything else. If a company owner thinks it’s okay to talk to a client bout anything but business, you don’t want them handling your book. Sure, a publisher and client need to have a good professional relationship, even a comfortable one. But the emphasis in that statement is PROFESSIONAL. You want them working on your book, not sucking you into their personal drama. Walk away. With haste.
11) A publishing company focuses heavily on “Anthologies” or collections of short stories or poetry. Some smaller companies are notorious for publishing a ton of anthologies, going so far as to say that the company doesn’t even take royalties for the book. How generous! The book comes out with contributions by, say. 10 authors. And the royalties are supposed to be divided evenly between all authors. Sounds good, until you realize that (at least) half of the authors are aliases of the owner. Not only are they keeping royalties, they’re taking HALF of the royalties earned by the book. And you’re getting, what? 1/10th? Do they seem so generous now? Exactly. No.
12) Either Tabetha (Hoover, Saulter, Willis, Farmer, Olejnik) Jones or Nick Pacione are anywhere near them. If you see either of those names involved with a publisher, you need know nothing more.
Any one of these is a good enough reason to keep looking for a different publisher. If you find one with two, three, or more, run the other way as fast as your literary little legs will carry you.