Recently an author emailed me to find out if I’d heard anything about a publisher called knowonder! – she planned to submit a story I had declined though I really loved her work. I’d never heard of knowonder! but poked around the Internet a bit to get a feel for them. After researching and giving the author feedback, I decided my process was worth a blog post. Here’s my vetting approach and something any author looking for a publisher can do to get a feel for a company before submitting.
Google the company name. In this day and age they should have a website as well as links to their social networking sites like Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, and a blog. How do those sites look? Have they been around long? Are they active? They should give a solid and consistent impression across platforms.
Next look for a submissions page, and read every line closely. Knowonder! has a very concise submissions page, explicitly outlining what they seek. Their focus is read-aloud stories for 20 minutes a day as a literacy tool for children, so if you were submitting a story to them, you would be sure to read your story aloud first, and then have someone else read it to you as you critically listen to what you have written. How does your story sound? Would it pass muster with this company?
Now make sure all their other requirements are met by your particular manuscript. If not, revise and submit, or skip this company. With a publisher who is this clear about his needs, don’t waste time sending something you think might get noticed. No matter how good, they are building a book collection, and if you’re too much off-topic, you’ll be wasting your time and worse, risk alienating them because you can’t read instructions or are too dumb to follow them.
If you still think you might have a good story fit, do some more research in their About section and especially make note of what and how they will compensate you (should they state those terms online). Don’t be afraid of new publishing models that extend beyond the bounds of a normal royalty situation, and be sure to note digital products (including apps) and what the publisher is offering in the way of products. (At this point in the process, terms will be fairly superficial. Don’t expect otherwise.) You can research and review further with your lawyer and negotiate later if you are offered a contract. But at least have an idea of what to expect.
Also note how long the company has been in business, how large their collection, and if they are expanding their offerings (age groups or genres) which indicates growth for a young company.
Then search online for any kudos or complaints. I found a great review from Hip Homeschool Moms and only one comment at the Absolute Write Water Cooler which is generally positive.
Finally, find out how to order a book from them. If they ship their own orders, this will test how easy their order process is and how quickly they can deliver. Poor fulfillment can kill the success of a company – and author success – so get a sense of this before you submit. It’s a very small cost upfront, and as an added benefit, you get to see the quality of the publisher’s books first-hand. Knowonder! sales are processed through Amazon so that tells you a great deal about order-processing. However, if you don’t like Amazon, you might have a problem with this arrangement.
Have I missed anything? How do you approach the task of finding and vetting potential publishers for your manuscript?
Dani Greer is founding member of this blog. She spends her summer days with new writing and editing projects, waters acres of gardens, and often can be seen knitting yet another pair of socks. Visit her at News From Nowhere, Facebook, and Twitter.