Monday, March 11, 2019


Listen, I know seeing your name in print is awesome, but who publishes your work is as important as getting published. I see too many authors eager to get their name out there who end up getting into bad contracts or working with publishers who shouldn't be allowed to be in the business. If you ever have doubts, here are some things you should remember and some you can do to make sure you protect yourself and your work.

1. Ask around

Any writer who's had an awful experience with a publisher is probably willing to share their experience. If you see a submission call but you aren't familiar with the press, ask around. If someone drops you a line saying they want to work with you and you don't know them, ask around. Asking around is normal. It's also a great way to get information that can inform your decisions.

2. Take a look at their platform 

Using Facebook and Twitter is not an art form. That said, some people are better at it than others. Make sure that the folks you work with at least try to have a presence. Trying to sell books is already hard enough. Trying to do so with a publisher with no platform who won't spend a couple of seconds plugging your book on social media only adds to the difficulty.

3. Writing is a job and you should get paid 

Some authors will put up with almost everything, except not getting paid. If a publisher has a history of not paying its authors, you shouldn't become another unpaid author on their roster. Remember: not being published is better than being published by the wrong press.

4. Covers matter 

I'm not here to argue with you. If you don't think covers matter, good for you. If you look at a publisher's catalog and instead of professional covers you see crap that looks like it was put together by an 8-year old trying Photoshop for the first time, it's time to say no and move on. Professional covers speak volumes about the care, time, and money a publisher is willing to invest in putting out a product that attracts readers and makes you look like a professional. Anything less than that is unacceptable.

5. Editing and interior design also matter 

When I open a book and find ten typos in the first four pages, I immediately know I'm dealing with an unprofessional publisher. If you work with them, you look bad. They should care about publishing clean work that's been edited by a professional. They should also care that the interior of your book looks amazing. If they don't care about those things, they don't care about your work...and they are publishing in a way that will ensure readers don't care about your words.

6. Who's on the team? 

This one is pretty personal. I'm talking about those publishers who work with people who are racists or have a history of sexual harassment. In the barrio we say "Tell me who you hang out with and I'll tell you who you are." That also applies to publishing. If the folks putting your work out look like assholes, you will look like one by association. It's not worth it. Look for better people to work with.

7. You're not the only one who should behave like a professional 

Are people answering your emails in a reasonable amount of time? Do they act like someone you'd like to be in an office with? Are they prone to stupid outbursts online? Do they insult potential readers? Do they share bullshit articles without reading them? Do they fail to send writers their money on time? Do they forget to send writers books before events and signings? Do they ignore your calls? You are are pro and deserve to work with pros. Ignore everyone else.

8. Trust your gut 

You know that feeling you get when something is definitely wrong? Don't let your desire to see your name in print silence that instinct. Protect yourself and your work at all times. I've seen dozens on presses fold in the last half decade. The aftermath is always ugly. Pay attention to trends. Look into their sales a bit if you can. Check out their website. Google them. Again, ask around. If something feels off, wait. It could be the difference between a nice publishing experience and a lot of headaches and hassle.


Gabino Iglesias is a writer, professor, and book reviewer living in Austin. He is the author of ZERO SAINTS and COYOTE SONGS. His work has been translated into three languages, optioned for film, and nominated for the Bram Stoker Award and the Wonderland Book Award. His nonfiction and reviews have appeared in NPR, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Electric Literature, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, The Collagist, Los Angeles Review of Books, The Rumpus, and many other print and online venues. Find him on Twitter at @Gabino_Iglesias.


Kimberly G. Giarratano said...

When I published with a small press, I asked for references. I spoke to authors who were also published under the same press and asked about their experiences. In doing so, I felt very confident about my decision to accept their contract.

Cheryl Oreglia said...

Good advice to those of us still seeking representation. Thanks for your thoughts on this issue, food for writers, highly nutritious. Might have to pin it to my bulletin board. C

Carrie Beckort said...

Great tips! Thanks for the post.

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