I’ve been disgusted lately with how some small presses are conducting themselves — basically tricking people who they’ve pissed off in the past into submitting to them under a different imprint. So, I’ve decided to talk about some things you should watch for when you’re considering submitting to a small press you aren’t familiar with or that seems suspicious.
Things to check and/or watch for:
1) If a press doesn’t have a website or forum, or somewhere else that’s established for you to learn what they’re about and openly provides a way to contact them, then they’re probably not real. A real business should want to be recognized as one. (Presses that are LLCs, etc, are good presses because they’re a registered business. Nothing is a 100% guarantee, though, so don’t go by that alone.)
2) The press has multiple imprints that are publishing the same types of books.
NOTE: Having various imprints is okay, especially if they’re for different types of books or genres, but if they’re all exactly the same, that means someone is having trouble somewhere and trying to salvage themselves by pretending to be someone/something else.
3) You hear bad things from other writers you know.
NOTE: If you hear something minor from one or two people, you shouldn’t worry. Not everyone is going to have a good experience with every press they sub to. But, if you hear there have been issues from a lot of people, or there are any websites dedicated to hating the press or the owner, beware!
4) Check the Preditors & Editors site, and others like it to see if there have been reported problems.
5) Check online retailers to see if the books the press has put out have any reviews. If there are low numbers (or no) reviews for books that have been out for a long time, they aren’t marketing them, and they won’t market you. Also, the quality of the reviews should be taken into account. If you have five people giving bad reviews for poor editing, etc, then you’ll probably want to steer clear of them.
6) If their are a lot of canceled projects, or if there is a big, fast turnover in projects.
If they’re cancelling projects all the time, then you don’t want to waste your time with them because you never know when something might be dropped.
Also, if there is a big turn over in projects, then they’re not giving each one the time it deserves. It takes time to edit and format, and make sure that everything is the best quality it can be.
NOTE: Project delays are to be expected once in a while. Editors and press owners are human beings and have families and lives too, so sometimes things might get delayed for a couple weeks to a month if there are minor issues. This is not something to panic over, especially if the press has a good track record.
7) Editors being snotty or not responding to submission with acceptances or rejections. Unless it’s stated in the press’ submission guidelines that no response within a certain time period is a ‘no’, then they should get back to you. If they haven’t, it’s okay to query and see if they’ve received your submission (Email submissions sometimes don’t make it through, and even paper ones can get lost.). This is usually best done when they’ve announced that they’ve made a TOC or accepted all stories they will be using, or before. Don’t bug an editor — I can even get snippy with people that do that. I don’t mind an occasional email asking about the project though, if it has been a while since I’ve contacted everyone.
These are just a few things to look for before you submit. Keep in mind you might have success with presses others didn’t, and that you’re eventually going to have a bad experience with a press; it’s inevitable. How you choose to deal with that when it happens is up to you.
When I get disappointed or have a break with a press that I’ve previously worked well with, I move on and warn people I know privately if I know they’re thinking of submitting there. It looks very unprofessional when you’re on Facebook or Twitter ranting about things. Mostly, I think it makes the people reading the comments think: “If they acted like that with the publisher, that explains why they had issues.” In essence, you’re often times drawing more negative attention to yourself than you are to the press that you’re pissed at.
Personally, I choose not to give things more importance than they have. It’s like with writing… You don’t drag someone’s attention to something unless it’s important and will play a part in the later parts of the tale. Otherwise it’s worthless info that makes you look bad.
Besides, they say all publicity is good publicity. Don’t give them your time when you can spend it wisely elsewhere, and don’t be their angry billboard!
Find out some things for yourself before you submit your work anywhere. Ultimately it’s up to you what you do with your writing and where you want it to be published. Just watch for warning signs and go in with your eyes open so you have less of a chance of getting burned in the long run.
©Rebecca Besser, 2012. All rights reserved.