Beware of Slum “Publishers”

For the umpteenth time, an agent has rejected your manuscript. Your heart skipped a beat when you saw the email, but the excitement the agent led with is gone by the fourth word. You exhale, sinking into yourself like a deflated ballon. What’s the purpose of writing all of this if you can’t get a book deal? You think, instead of shooting for Penguin or other Big Five Publishers, I’ll settle for a small indie press. Though this is a smart move after repeated failure, you must be weary of slum publishers.

In 2018, I checked my Submittable author account and almost exploded with happiness, seeing a small publishing house had accepted my book Operation Soul Cast for publishing. Over the time between the company accepting my manuscript and its publishing it, I got bad vibes from the company. For instance, after agreeing to publish my book at a certain date in order to give me time to promote, the company published the story without my knowledge. After challenging who I believe was the current COO, she defended the actions of the company. It made me uncomfortable, but there was nothing I could do.

Don’t choose a publisher because they’re “easy” to get with…

Since publishing my book, the publisher has put no effort into promoting it. Though I tried setting up a marketing plan with the company, they did not give me that opportunity. I’m not sure how many work for the company, but it doesn’t seem to be a bunch. Other than having my manuscript edited, Solstice did very little in the way of preparing my book for selling. Without an effective marketing plan, my book basically sat untouched on the shelf.

I say that to say this, do not choose a publisher because they’re “easy” to get a contract with. There are other things that come with book deals, such as proper marketing of your work and being able to count on your publisher in a time of need. Recently, a college offered me a professor position, and part of the reason was because of the book I had published with Solstice. On behalf of the college, an employment background check company reached out to my publisher to confirm verbally it had published my work but got no response. The reason is, my publisher uses its submissions email as a contact email as well, but it seems to be unmonitored. Their site doesn’t have any clear contact information, outside of the submissions and newsletter email addresses. So, to an outsider looking in, they may wonder about the legitimacy of a company like the one I signed with, especially when no one will confirm it even exists outside of a webpage.

Are the people [of your publisher] friendly and approachable?

When the employment background check company could not reach the company, I did through Facebook. I asked for them to confirm verbally my publisher had published my work, but they refused. After back-and-forth Facebook messages between myself and a representative of my publisher, I got an email in which it continually denied the employment history check company had tried reaching out to them. Further, the my publisher’s representative explained that they can email, but they do not do verbal confirmations for any author because of time constraints. The phone call she would have had to take would have been less than 5 minutes, and the background company had been trying to reach my publisher for about two weeks by the time I finally made contact with someone from Solstice. The representative effectively told me, no, we don’t help our authors advance their careers. This was after she agreed to speak with the other company. So, she reneged on her word. This put me in a bind with the college that wanted to hire me, because the publisher would not verbally confirm working with me.

When search for a book deal, consider more than seeing your name on a book. Will this company promote your work? Are the people approachable and friendly? How long has this press been around, and what books has it published? What do other authors say about this company? There are small presses and big presses, but small doesn’t always mean bad. My publisher is a small publisher, but so is Tor, yet Tor is more successful because of its dedication to both its writers and readers. The last publisher you signed a deal with could determine your next career move. Just make sure you choose the right one.

*Jermaine Reed, MFA is a writer from Chicago who writes fiction, nonfiction, local news stories and national news stories. For self-publishers, authors and other writers and creatives, Jermaine provides proofreading on Fivver. Please join Jermaine’s email list to get notifications on new blog posts, writing advice and free books. Get his recently released Science Fiction novel A Glitch in Humanity by clicking here. Operation Soul Cast is now available for purchase by following this link. Thank you for your support.

Published by J Reed

J Reed is a Chicago-based fiction writer. When he isn't making a pretense of writing, he's making a pretense of working.

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