Over the last year, I’m seeing a lot of small press book companies set up shop, accept work for publication, and then close without communicating with the authors / artists, let alone paying royalties. In June, 2007, Triskelion Publishing Company filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy. And sometime in 2011, Aspen Mountain Press folded after five years of publishing. Operations formally suspended in April, 2012, but the breakdown in communications and payments happened way before that. Other names have come up; the list runs long, including Dorchester Publishing, and self-publishing companies like Publish America (aka AmErica House).
Do these publishers open up their company with the intention of cheating authors? I doubt it in the majority of cases. Generally, the company is headed by one person who develops serious health problems. Perhaps the publisher began without adequate knowledge of formatting or distribution. Perhaps he took on too many projects too soon. No doubt the economy had a lot to do with it, especially if the publisher worked a day job that provided the capital for his venue. Mostly I contemplate Night to Dawn and conclude, there by the grace of God go I.
In the end, the authors / artists are left stranded. Folks, your works are important. You’re sharing part of you on the printed page. Whether you sketch or write about soldiers, monsters, priests, families, a part of you will show, and that’s priceless. You owe it to yourself to research your company before submitting, reading the contract carefully before nodding your okay, and promoting the book once it goes to press. With that in mind, I’m happy to list several watchdog sites that will give you the skinny on your prospective company. Keep in mind as you visit these sites that the bad boy companies have a way of changing their names to cover tracks.
Preditors & Editors: an oldie but goodie company, P&E will list most companies and will give a thumbs up or down. You won’t get much detail, but you’ll have a ballpark idea of where your company stands.
Piers Anthony gives a concrete explanation for his opinion on given publishers. He focuses on e-publishers, and that’s a great thing since eBooks are now outdoing print books. To get his ratings, click on the “publish on web” link.
Absolute Write gives a thorough rundown on recommended sites, bewares, and advice to the newbie writer. That also includes advice on what to do if your publisher goes incommunicado. They discuss agents who charge fees (a no-no), and recommend publishers (yeah!).
Victoria Strauss works with a watchdog group, Writer Beware, a service mark of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. When it comes to publishers who change their names, she doesn’t miss a trick, and she will edit her blog accordingly. However, her blog can be used by anyone, regardless of genre. She will also refer you to other sites that might make the submission process go smoother.
The alternative is self-publishing, which means you do your own editing, art, formatting, distributing, and marketing, or pay to get these services. The upside is that if you get a generous royalty per sale, especially with CreateSpace and Smashwords. The downside is that some reviewers and bookstores shy away from self-published books. A lot more authors are turning toward self-publishing.