Question: What do you look for in a publisher?

Hi all,

I have some exciting news to share — I’m in the process of setting up an e-publishing company that specializes in M/M erotic romance and M/M erotica!

Yes, there are a lot of these companies already in existence, but I think this is a great time to enter the market. A number of small presses have closed down for one reason or another, but what it essentially comes down to, I believe, is that these companies (a) weren’t able to keep up with evolving trends and technology in e-publishing, and/or (b) set up their businesses in an unsustainable way, which led to financial difficulties, and/or (c) emphasized quantity over quality in acquiring books, leading to poorly-produced books.

My new publishing company, which is still without a finalized name, will operate on a profit-sharing model. This means that no one gets paid until the books sell — the editors and the company get a share of royalties, rather than being paid up-front. This means there is no financial overhead on a title and the risk is minimized. Author royalties would be set at 40%, which is competitive within the industry.

While I’m still a ways away from establishing the publishing company — though I hope to do it by the end of the year — I do have some questions for you.

If you’re an author: What do you look for in a publishing company? What would make you submit to one company versus another?

If you’re a reader: What draws you to a publishing company’s selection? (Or do you even notice a publisher when you purchase M/M books, and are rather focussed on the book itself?)



Filed under Publishing, Reading, Writing

6 responses to “Question: What do you look for in a publisher?

  1. I can’t stress enough the power of the book cover. If you want a successful publishing house, you’re going to need access to some great cover artists. You’ll also need a good marketing budget for blog tours, etc.

    • Thank you for the feedback — and I agree completely! Although we’re not supposed to judge a book by a cover, we all know that we do just that! I’ve bought a book solely based on the cover more than once. And I totally agree that the publisher should have a major role in marketing — after all, they’re just as invested in the success of the book as the author is!

  2. F.J.

    I don’t mean to bring you down, but to give you my honest opinion as an author, I can’t think of anything a small press could offer me that could be competitive with self-publishing. Amazon offers 70% royalty, B&N offers 65%, and there are so many great freelance cover artists and editors out there that it’s not hard to get a professional-quality book published these days. If you look at the current top 10 best selling gay romances on Amazon, it looks like 8 of them are self-published.

    Please understand that this comment in no way reflects on your skills as either an author or publisher (I really appreciate you sharing your other blog entry on self-doubt, because I’ve been there too). I just think that the market is moving so quickly that, especially in the area of gay romance, the indie authors have a big advantage.

    It might be a good idea and think about what your goals are for starting a publishing company. Is it mainly to help encourage new authors, and expand the market? There may be other ways of doing that, through different types of promotional platforms and services. If you’re mainly looking to boost your own revenue, there is a self-publishing community that focuses on romance and erotica that I bet could help. I won’t spam your comment section by linking to it, but if you are interested, let me know.

    • Hi F.J.,

      Thank you for your reply and your honesty. When I started this topic, it was with the intention of receiving both positive and negative feedback — a parade of positive comments with no critical analysis of the situation is not helpful at all. So, I do really appreciate you taking the time to type this out.

      It’s also not the first time I’ve had to wrestle with this question. A bestselling M/M romance author asked the same of me, and I’ve also questioned myself on this very topic.

      I’ve come to a few conclusions:

      – As a self-published author, Amazon is actually not my biggest market. I typically make 20% to 100% more on All Romance eBooks. The bestseller list on ARE, as it stands right now, has a number of books with publishers listed — some of which I know to be actual publishers while others may be just a company name for an individual. Either way, ARE seems to be a bit more of a thriving place for publishers. Amazon’s KDP system attracts a lot of self-published authors who are determined to do it themselves and generally do well, whereas from what I’ve seen online in the discussion forums I frequent, these authors who excel on Amazon often struggle on other platforms like ARE.

      – I have a supporting position with an editing company that markets itself toward self-published authors. While I don’t do editing, I do some other work for the company, and when authors have self-publishing questions, they send the authors my way. I’ve helped a few authors with formatting and layout and prepping their documents for self-publishing. What I learned is that self-publishing might be easy for you or I, but it is immensely difficult for a number of other people. They either don’t have the technical know-how or don’t have the time/patience to learn the process. For me, from final formatting, to publishing, to updating my website takes maybe half an hour, but for other authors, that seems like an insurmountable task. There are many authors who want to just write and leave all of the other work up to someone else. For these authors, the prospect of higher royalties by self-publishing often isn’t enough of a siren call.

      – The market does evolve fast — I totally agree. I’ve seen a few publishers falter lately and I personally believe it’s because these publishers have not kept up with the evolving marketplace. Too often they’re stuck in the ways they’ve always done things and can’t see outside of that box. While I don’t pretend to be an expert on the market, I do my best to keep up-to-date. In speaking with my prospective senior editor, the plan is to have a fast turnaround time with our publisher, allowing us to be more responsive to the market. (Some small publishers operate on a year’s lead-time, which makes for very slow responsiveness.)

      – I find I enjoy publishing a little more than I actually enjoy writing. I love doing the formatting, converting, uploading, promoting, and so on. This venture isn’t just about creating a revenue stream, it’s about doing something I love.

      Thanks again for your comments! I hope my reply came through as I intended it to sound — like a thoughtful response to the feedback you raised.


      • Whoops — forgot to add that there is at least one online vendor that is only open to publishing companies. (And with their publisher application guidelines, things like author coalitions would not qualify — they are only open to publishers that have an open submission policy, multiple authors, and multiple books.) From what I’ve seen of a certain author’s royalty statement, this vendor is actually a sizeable market — and it’s not one that self-published authors (or groups of authors) can access.

  3. F.J.

    Thank you for your thoughtful reply! I’ll certainly be rooting for your success – I think the more visible and “legitimate” gay romance becomes, the more it helps all authors, indie and traditionally published both. Who know, I may end up submitting something to your company for consideration after all, if only to test it out. 🙂

    To answer your original question, if I were to go with a publisher, what I’d most look for is promotion Good covers and editing are a given, but promotion is where I feel there is the biggest opportunity for value added. A lot of the romance promotion opportunities are either formally or informally barred to LGBT works – not necessarily out of deliberate discrimination, but rather because of their audience. It would be great to work with a publisher that knows how to reach the right audience.

    Also, paperback production. I haven’t braved the waters of using the print-on-demand services that independent authors can use to produce paperbacks, but I’ve heard they can be tricky to navigate. A publisher who can help with paperback production would definitely provide an advantage, even if it is just to get copies for book signings and to assure relatives that yes, you are actually an author. 🙂

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