Sunday, February 13, 2011

“Hey! I have a great idea for a children’s book!” Part 2: Know your Publishers!

This is Part 2 of my blog series on publishing a children's book. 
If you missed the first article, read “Hey! I have a great idea for a children’s book!”: Part 1!

If you’re a brave and patient soul willing to submit your book to the judges and juries of the publishing world, you probably already know from your internet research that there are thousands of small and large presses out there. But did you know that not every publisher works the same way? Before you start contacting those companies, it’s important to know exactly what type of publisher you are dealing with and what they do and do not do for their authors.

• Traditional Publisher- A traditional or “commercial” publisher screens and chooses the books the company publishes and compensates authors with the royalties from the book sales. The contract usually includes an advance on the royalties. They will never ask the author for any money to produce the book. (Remember if you used an agent, she will expect to receive a percentage of the contract’s compensation when you sign with your publisher.)  The majority of the book production once a manuscript is accepted is handled by the publishing house’s editors and book designers. Traditional publishers assume all responsibilities for marketing and distribution of the book as well. Small presses may publish only a few children’s books each year. Larger publishers often have imprints (publisher’s trade names) which are like companies-within-the-company that specialize in specific types of books.

• Subsidy Publisher- A type of publisher that requires a total or partial investment from the author. Usually authors receive some royalties from sales, but the publisher owns some or all of the copyrights and usually retains ownership of the ISBN (International Standard Book Number). Subsidy publishers are usually but not always selective: they screen and choose books using submission processes similar to those used by traditional publishers. And like a traditional publisher, once the manuscript is accepted, the author has little to no input on the book’s final editing, design and marketing. Be very wary of subsidy publishers that are not straight-forward about their practices.

• Self-Publisher- A publisher paid by an author to prepare, print and sometimes distribute the author’s book. The author assumes 100% of cost of publishing, retains all copyright ownership and remains in total control of the project both artistically and financially. These companies usually do not screen projects but might vet them for potential copyright conflicts. Authors have complete creative control over the entire book production, and can often choose what services the publisher will provide based on what their needs are for their projects. Print-on-demand (POD) services (which are used by almost all of the self-publishing companies you’ll find online) allow for books to printed on an as-needed basis, saving huge up-front printing investments, storage space and trees. The publisher makes money on set-up fees, book printing and additional packages such as marketing services and promo materials.

Book Packager- A middle-man for publishers and free-lancers, often used for producing book series and text books. A good explanation can be found here on The Purple Crayon:  Book Packaging: Under-explored Terrain For Freelancers by Jenna Glatzer.

• Vanity Publisher- This derogatory term refers to a less reputable type of self-publishing company. More shady operations are known for poor design, low quality work, and misleading contracts.  The costs are often more expensive for authors than other self-publishing options, and often the vanity publisher limits the author’s publishing rights and owns the ISBN and merchandise. Sometimes writers don’t realize they are being courted by a vanity press. The publisher says they’ve “chosen” your work when they don’t actually have a screening and acceptance policy, then later mention you’ll actually have to pay them to publish it.  Their web sites have vague information about their submissions policies and exactly how their company works. Some less reputable publishers also create their own books and anthologies and “accept” manuscripts for inclusion with no compensation to the author (other than the “honor” of being chosen) and require a costly purchase of the volume printed. This is a scam. Beware and do your research!  The SFWA (Sci-Fi Writers Association) has some great resources on their site about the publishing world, including this “Writer Beware” article titled “Vanity and Subsidy Publishers”.

The absolute must-see web site about all publishers is Predators and Editors which includes a listing of all types of publishers and links to their web pages. The site clarifies the publishing house’s category when possible and gives candid feedback about these businesses.

Now, if you are not going the route of traditional publisher/agent shopping, you must be planning on self-publishing. That is a whole other type of venture...more on that in my next blog post...

All illustrations created for this series © Kristine Daniels 2011 and may not be used without permission.

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