As ebooks and ereaders become more and more popular, we're seeing a lot of new ebook publishers pop up. Ebook publishers are generally independent publishers (unconnected with "the Big Six") who deal primarily with ebooks, though some publishers will have a POD option for novels. In this day and age, how is an author to know that an ebook publisher is trustworthy? Try these handy tips if you found a new ebook publisher you're not sure about.
Look at the website
When you find an ebook publisher's website, ask yourself:
-- Is this website professional? If the website looks sloppy and has lots of errors, how will they treat your cover design or your editing?
-- Can I find all the information I need easily, or does it seem like they're hiding some things? Some information should be easily seen, and you shouldn't have to hunt it down.
-- Is this a website I would mind sending friends, family, and fans to? Your publisher should not embarrass you, you should be proud of them!
--This is an important one: Is the ebook publisher's website targeting readers or writers? If they're brand new, they may need to target writers in order to get submissions and build their catalog. But if they have been around for a while and have some books out, they should be marketing those books! A publisher is for readers, not writers. They shouldn't be trying to make money off of writers, for sure. If you're asked to pay anything, run the other way. That's vanity publishing, and if you truly want to follow that route, at least go with an established vanity publisher instead of someone brand new.
Look at the staff
There should be bios for the staff members somewhere on the website. You should know who you will be submitting your work to and who you'd be working with should they choose to publish your book. Check out:
-- Positions: how many editors do they have? What kind? Do they have any publicists or marketing associates? Do they hire a cover artists or do they go freelance?
-- Experience: what kind of experience does the staff have? Experience in publishing? In writing? Are they just authors who thought it would be fun to start a publisher?
-- Google those names if you feel like you don't have enough information about them. See if you can find them on social networks and see how they act in the public sphere. What kinds of books do they read? Are they authors themselves?
Look at the terms
It's rare that the publisher will have a contract online, but they should at least have something on their website about what formats they publish in (print or ebook, for example) and how royalties will be divided (how much the author earns and how much the publisher keeps). If this isn't available on the website, don't hesitate to e-mail someone and ask. I'd also ask why it wasn't available.
If you submit a book and you're offered a contract, comb through that thing with a fine-tooth comb! Here is an extremely condensed list of things to look for:
-- Rights. What rights/license are you granting the publisher and for how long? What is the geographic scope?
-- Copyright. Who will register it and when?
-- Manuscript delivery. When are you expected to deliver the manuscript? What editing do they provide?
-- Payment. Is there an advance? Royalties? How are these royalties calculated? For example, net and gross and cover are all different prices and thus will give you different royalties. How often are you paid royalties? Is the publisher required to send you accounting statements?
-- Publication itself. Look for a duty to publish, advertising/promotion, galleys, method of publication.
-- Termination. What are the terms for reversion of rights?
Ebook publishers should be willing to answer questions you have and possibly negotiate the contract. Do your research and know what you're signing because that is a legally binding document and if doesn't matter if "you didn't know", you signed it and you have to stick to it.
For more information, check out Writer Beware's post on contracts or this checklist written by attorney Lloyd J. Jassin (for publishers).
Look at any existing books in the catalog
Obviously, since there are new publishers all the time, some publishers don't have books released yet. But for those who do, find those books and be ruthlessly brutal and honest in regards to those books.
-- Genre: is the publisher accepting all books (and possibly spreading themselves too thin) or are they targeting a niche where they can be more effective?
-- Cover art: do these covers match up with other books in the genre? Does it look like they were made with paint or have they invested in the marketing package of their books?
-- Blurb and sample: are there errors? Do the blurbs and samples snag you? Have they carefully edited and proofread their work or do they throw books up in the hopes of making some money?
-- Distribution: are the books available on a variety of e-retailers, or only a few? Where will they distribute your book?
-- Reviews: search for reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, blogs. What do readers think of these books? Have any readers read these books?
-- Marketing: A simple Google search with the title and author will tell you how much marketing work the publisher has done. If only a couple of the results are for this book, reconsider what this publisher will be willing to do to publicize your book.
The important thing to remember is not to rush into something. This is your hard work and it should be presented in the best way possible. Take your time with publishers and make sure it's what you want.
Personally, I'm a content editor with a new ebook publisher called Entranced Publishing, and of course I fully endorse them. I believe Entranced is dedicated to producing quality books for readers and that they'll use honesty and professionalism in their dealings. Drop by the website if you want and see if we might be a good fit for your novel. Oh, and a small disclaimer: this post does not represent Entranced view's, only my own.
Here are some places to check up on publishers:
Absolute Write's Bewards, Recommendations & Background Checks
Preditors & Editors