There may be as many answers to the above question as there are published authors, but a fairly major one today would be, “I do.”  Whether through frustration over a long drawn-out submission process, the simple wish to be in control of one’s own publishing destiny, or another reason, that’s certainly a valid answer.  Good self-published authors understand the need for critical, independent editing, for a willingness to do massive promotion, and careful keeping of business records. Then it’s “go for broke.”

However, for many years the center of book publishing was in New York.   A number of mostly successful companies controlled the destiny of writers, most often benevolently.  Companies worked through agents who represented a “stable” of authors whose work they saw as promising, and sold to company editors who agreed.  Though there were certainly disappointments a-plenty on both sides, for the most part, the system worked.

Then things began to change rather rapidly.  Publishing companies themselves were gathered into stables under the umbrella of a massive investor, often outside the United States. The theme became “sell-sell-bestseller,” and many felt that new quality work was being overlooked in deference to books displaying big names,  maybe revealing meaty facts (or gossip),  or for novel number umpteen in a top-selling author’s output.

The advent and popularity of e-books added to the mix, and we ended up with a multitude of frustrated authors and a need for something to fill the gap.  The answer?  A ballooning number of smaller publishing companies.

There have always been small publishing companies, but in the void left by New York business decisions and an expanding number of people who write,  smaller companies “out here in any state not named New York” have been a growing, many of them successfully.

Most of these small-to-mid-size publishers do take chances on new and promising authors. Many know well how to evaluate the talent and promotion possibilities of an applying author.  Sure, there are still rejections (which maybe tells the applying author something?)  but a large number of writers are chosen by one smaller company or another, and make it, often very successfully, into print and also into the e-book field.

So, the question now becomes, what makes a good book publisher?  If you are one who will settle for nothing but New York, go for it!  Though advantages there are diminishing almost daily, it’s still a big deal to be published by a big name house, and many organizations and reviewers pay attention to those big names.

What are your ideas about a good publisher?  I can only tell you mine.

My first (non-fiction) book, DEAR EARTH: A Love Letter from Spring Hollow, was published by one of the smaller New York houses.  I was as green as they come, so, back then, it was lucky that publishers took care of book promotion for the most part.  Publicist and publisher did the work.  I followed instructions.  But, observing, I learned.   (Un-agented, I had sent my book out to many publishers listed in WRITERS’ MARKET, accumulated rejections, and eventually sold the manuscript to Brett Books, a publisher I found written up in one of the writers’ magazines. Brett gave a significant advance and generous royalties.)

After I decided to try writing mystery novels, I began the submission process all over again, but this time I acquired an agent I had pitched to at a writers’ conference.  She seemed enthusiastic about my work and, for a couple of years, submitted it to New York publishers, acquiring nice words leading to rejections. We parted company, and I decided to try submitting on my own.

I eventually read about a promising publisher in Kansas that was written about in the Mystery Writers of  America magazine.  St Kitts in Kansas bought my first mystery novel, A VALLEY TO DIE FOR, and ended up publishing five books in the series.  I got a small advance and very generous royalties.  Then the two women running the company decided to devote full-time to family demands and the company closed.  (Always a hazard with small companies.)

Publisher number three was met on-line through list discussions about a cause we both believed in.  He was also recommended by friends.  This was a one-man company, but many things about it appealed to me.  Again, there was a standard contract and royalties. Things went well for a while, but then he bowed to financial pressures and quit the royalty part of publishing.  I decided to move on.

I am now with my fourth publisher,  Oak Tree Press, headquartered in Illinois.  Larger than any of the others, with more employees and, wonderfully,  more terrific ideas, we are on our way with book number seven in the mystery series, just released.  Every sign is good.

All these publishers helped in some degree with promotion, with numbers one, two, and four being outstanding.  But one other BIG thing stands out with all of them.  I can call every single employee of every publisher I worked with my friend.  In all cases, they are people I admire.  In all cases, they are people who have earned my gratitude for many reasons. And, in all cases, they are life-long friends.

(In fact, publisher number one and I exchanged conversational e-mails yesterday.)

How about your experiences?   Are you published?   If so, are you happy with how things are going?

Comments?   Questions?                      (http://www.RadinesBooks.com)


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  1. terrysthoughtsandthreads Says:

    I’m self-published, first year author with four non-fiction and two poetry titles. My sales records are slender … I showed a loss in my first half year of self-publishing, and am showing weaker numbers for the first half of this year. One of my books found a niche through Facebook, and has sold about 25 copies in four months. (I’ve given away about 35 copies in print and half again as many in ebook formats. The other books have sold fewer than ten each.

    I’m switching to fiction for this next six month period. I have a title begun, and see it as the first of a series of four. I’ll self-publish again to get the series started. If I can generate any interest in the title, I’ll look for a small press publisher for #2, 3, and 4.

    I had grand dreams of supplemented my limited by diagnosis teacher pension (which led to the sixth book) but realize now that isn’t going to happen through selling books. I’m offering editing and proofreading services now, and have made a small beginning there, again through Facebook.

    I know I’m all over the map in genres, and now in goals. I’m beginning to lose faith in what i thought was the right way to go about this.I have a blog (http://terrysthoughtsandthreads.blogspot.com)
    where, for most of the winter and early spring, I read and reviewed dozens of books for others, thinking it would help my own books via reciprocity, but that didn’t happen.

    I’m open for any constructive criticism.


  2. madisonjohns Says:

    Radine you’re just like a timex watch and keep on ticking!

    I have been rejected too many times, lol. I decided to self publish and it’s rough going, the most I could hope for would be to one day find a publisher to pick up the series. Upon research, I found that many won’t even consider a series started by self publishing. I hope that changes, if not I’ll continue to self publish the Armed and Outrageous series myself. I have moved on to other things. I’m working with a new editor for a thriller. I’m writing a series of three romance novellas that I hope to submit somewhere.

    Terry, you are such a good person and non-fiction is a tough market. You certainly have the writing skills to write fiction well. I wish you luck and I’m happy to call you friend.

    Radine, you need a little color around here. 🙂

    • radine Says:

      Madison, I think by needing color you mean more color on my blog. I wish. However, our Internet service is very weak (we live in a rural area in a forest) and any doo-dads, decorations, or photos add so much to the download time for anything that I avoid whenever I can. (As it is, I spend twice as much time on the Internet as those with fast service. Maybe someday…!) Thanks for noticing and caring.

      I think your publishing experience echoes that of many writers today. Don’t worry — the cream rises to the top, doesn’t it!

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