Thursday, March 11, 2010

How do I know a Publisher is Ethical?

This is a very prudent question and one I've often heard voiced by nervous authors ready to take the step of entrusting their newborn literary baby to an adoptive parent (publisher) who promises to transform their precious offspring into a rock star (bestseller).

Or at least something close.

Can we believe all those payment clauses in the contract? Will hidden fees show up later and threaten to break the bank? Is this just a fly-by-night company out to make a buck and leave me stranded?

Although the majority are aboveboard, sadly, there are a few book publishers out there that cast fear and negativity on the rest - the legitimate businesses who treat the author fairly - and the bad guys are not all self-publishing and subsidy publishing companies (albeit the most notorious).

As savvy business people, we authors must take it upon ourselves to do our homework before signing our life's work away on the dotted line.

Besides first thoroughly revieiwing the track records of your prospective publsher (I recommend contacting a few authors listed on their website and politely request their candid opinions of the company), here are some research suggestions:

1. Peruse www.PredatorsandEditors (a list of those in the publishing industry with complaints lodged against them).
2. Contact the Authors Guild (an author advocate group).
3. Check the website of your genre's national support organization - many have a "writers beware" section. Also, talk to experienced writers in your genre via conferences, blogs and online support groups; authors are usually willing to share their negative or positive publishing experiences.
4. Contact the Publisher Standards Board (supports ethical publishing standards).
5. Look for websites warning potential authors (victims). Example: Airleaf, before disappearing, scammed unsuspecting authors out of tens of thousands of dollars. A proactive website has been established with details and contact sources.