That's the question that I think a lot of people do ask themselves, but how many of us really, truly think about it, or talk about it amongst ourselves or with fellow authors? To those who look to a publisher to release their work(s), what do you look for in a publisher?
I'll admit, I didn't always ask myself this in the past, but now, I do, and for now on, I will.
For myself, it's not simply about me submitting to just any publisher with the hopes that just anyone will take it. The first thing that I do is research that publisher. I think as authors we take for granted that we do matter, and that it's not only publishers that are judging us for our work, but that we should also be judging them on how they represent their brand, authors, and all other things (like editing, promotion, cover art, etc.) involved in this mad whirlwind world we call publishing. In no particular order, these are the few things that I always look for (or ask myself while doing the research) before writing/submitting for an anthology call or sending off a novel or novella manuscript:
DOES THE PUBLISHER TRULY TAKE PRIDE IN BEING A PUBLISHER?
Or in other words, does the publisher show how much they want their authors to succeed?
Does the publisher and/or editors go out of their way to once in a while express how much they LOVE their job, and also give a shout out to one, two, three, more, or all their authors?
This is very easy to not only see, but feel, when a post on their blog, page, or site shows that pride and joy on FB, Twitter, wherever. Publishing is a team effort. It's never a lone star sport. It's not only that author or that editor that's the star. Everyone involved in producing that book is the star. And we all deserve that shine. The publisher doesn't necessarily need to show off their pride constantly. They just need to sound genuine when they do, no matter if they do it a little, or a lot. When/if they do, it makes me smile, and definitely gets me interested in possibly subbing to them.
DOES THE PUBLISHER CARE ABOUT THEIR AUTHORS?
This might sound similar to what I just said, but in my mind anyway, there's a difference here.
It's no secret that there are some publishers out there that treat their authors like crap, and really don't care about their feelings, concerns, etc., and don't do their part as a publisher. Most authors don't express how some publishers out there don't care about their authors, in fear that it may come back to haunt them if they say too much if anything at all. I'm by no means saying that authors need to put those particular publisher(s) on blast. If one wants to keep it to themselves, that's their prerogative. But should an author just allow publishers to fuck them over? Of course not! Unfortunately, one can't usually really tell how a publisher treats their author(s) until they already signed that dotted line, and by then, it's too late (sometimes, usually) to back out. But one way you can maybe be given a hint about whether or not a publisher cares about their author is when they give a shout out or spotlight to an author, and not just because their new book is released or because they just got a positive review on that book. Whenever a publisher consistently glows about their authors, it usually speaks volumes, and tells me that they do care. That's what I love to see. A publisher that hardly if ever gives a shout out and comes off as cold or just too silent with readers/authors, that's always a red flag to me. What's the point in being with a publisher who doesn't promote positivity, self-worth, respect, and care?
DOES THE PUBLISHER ACTUALLY COMMUNICATE?
Do they use social networking to their and their author's advantage? Do they consistently respond to emails on a timely fashion? Do they answer all questions asked with no stone unturned? Are they professional, or does the publisher run their business in such a poor fashion? This might seem common sense that any business would actually do their job, a "given" if you will, but you'd be surprised how some publishers don't put effort into that. And that's bothersome. RED FLAG. Always.
WHO WILL I POSSIBLY BE WORKING WITH?
I think most publishers, you can look up their editors and see their credentials and what they can do to make your work go from being a rock to a diamond. Doing research on the editors not only gives a glimpse of what the press/editor wants from submissions, but who you just might be working with if/when they acquire your manuscript. If you see that the editor really knows their stuff and comes off as positive, firm, and fair, and they express how much they want to see their author/client shine and do well with their book and career(s), I'd say that's a good sign. Don't stalk the editor(s) of course, but there's never any harm to look him or her up. If I get the sense that the editor is cold, negative, rude, or belittling, that just doesn't bode well for me, and usually, I cross that press out of my sub list.
WILL THE PUBLISHER DO THEIR BEST IN GETTING MY BOOK IN READER'S HANDS (OR KINDLES)?
What I mean by this of course is promotion. I think in this day and age, most publishers usually don't do all the promotion like they used to. Sign of the times. Authors these days, be they self-pub or traditional, have to be their own promoter. There's nothing wrong with that. If done well and strategically (which that in and of itself takes research too), it can really work and do wonders. But what I look for is seeing if the publisher will be working with me a little instead of intentionally working against me when it comes to promotion/exposure. Does that publisher announce ALL their releases on release day, or do they...say nothing and post nothing, as if there's no release at all. If they do the latter, I'd say...not good. A publisher not doing much to promote their own books is not only a disservice to the author, but to the press itself. What's the sense in everyone doing so much work in putting a book together only to not let their audience---the readers---know about it? The readers depend on the author and publisher to spread the word; they won't know unless we do it first. Obviously, the more promotion/exposure, the better sales for the author and publisher, and the more readers will know, buy, and hopefully enjoy the book. It's a win-win when it's a team effort, right?
I won't ramble any more about this topic. Obviously there's more to look for in a publisher than this, but it's some of the few things that I look at pretty closely before submitting my work somewhere. In a day and age where there are so many publishers, but where not all of them have the best standards, interest, and care at heart, more than ever, it's important for authors to really think, research, and consider these things first before submitting a book anywhere. So, what do you look for, and why?
Lastly, this must be said:
As authors, we matter too, lovelies. Don't forget that. Know thy self, and thy publisher. :)