Category Archives: Publishing

Are publishers the enemy?

More than ever, you can say that publishing a book is easy. You need to write it and find a publisher that makes a proposal. The problem is… the said proposal.

As a writer, you would expect them to work with you as a team. However, the reality may be slightly different, and often publishers seem like the enemy.

Do publishers respect you and your work?

What writers sometimes fail to understand is that publishers are not artists and are not doing their job for the sake of art and beauty. Instead, a publisher is a business whose goal is to make money.

I know you don’t truly like it, but you must keep this in mind when negotiating with a publisher. Unfortunately, sometimes you are so desperate to put your work out there that you miss the red flags. So let’s go through them.

When to take a step back

If it is true that all publishers had the ultimate goal of making money, it is also true that they aren’t all the same. Some are more committed to their writers, while others are really your enemy.

I’ve been there. I had terrible experiences with publishers, so I’m writing down some red flags that you should be paying attention to.

They take money from you to publish

They don’t invest in anything except, perhaps, their time negotiating with the printing company. You pay for everything, and you don’t even realize it. This is the most common mistake. You are paying, and they still want you to buy a considerable amount of your own books. Run for your life.

This kind of publisher will not do anything for you or your book. It will be gaining dust somewhere because they already had their profit.

You should always avoid publishers that ask you for money to publish. This is especially valid if they grant you fast and easy success.

20 years contract

Take a step back if the publisher offers a contract where you are stuck with them for many years. Unless you’re already a successful writer, this is unlikely to be good.

You can end up tied to them for years, and they simply ignore you and your work. You must be sure they are really on your side and working with you and for you before such a big commitment.

They have a star author, and it’s not you.

Of course, you’ll not be the star when you start working. And, of course, they’ll have a star author, that, and let’s speak frankly, is who makes most of their money. This is natural and expected. The problem begins when they ignore other authors and don’t make a single effort to sell their books.

They already have their share of money and don’t bet too high on your book. So it will probably end up on some shelf, and if you want to do anything at all, you must do it at your responsibility and… at your own expense.

When was the last time you heard about them?

This was a huge mistake I made with my first book. I was so eager to publish and to have an opportunity that I accepted the first yes. As you imagine, it was from a tiny publisher I knew nothing about.

They had a website, a single bookstore on the opposite side of the country, and they wouldn’t provide anything except (they said) publicity on their website. Oh, and let’s not forget that they were specialized in poetry (I learned this way too late.), and I wrote a novel… Are you predicting the result yet?

Yes, it was terrible. Everything was treated by mail. I paid a lot. The books had hard covers but very low quality. I had to find a place for the launch and take care of everything myself. It was a disaster, and I don’t think I sold any book to anyone except family and friends. But hey! We learn from experience, right?

So, learn from mine, and investigate the publisher and their market (or its absence) before you say yes.

They are silent about the commercial opportunities they intend to explore

Will they launch an e-book? What kind of marketing plan do they have? Do they have any? If they don’t give you this information, it is a red flag, and you should advance cautiously. Yet, please, do a favor to yourself and ask!

They are evaluating you, just like you are evaluating them. They are expecting you to show interest, so ask. You may want to rethink your options if there is no answer or if it is too vague.

Make sure they are constantly evolving and adapting to the market. Some publishers are not ignoring you and your work. They simply don’t do enough to make a difference. You deserve (and need) more than that.

It is NOT all bad

While many publishers are bad news for your book, they aren’t always your enemy. Here are some signs they are indeed invested in helping you:

  • they provide you with an advance;
  • they invest in quality marketers, designers, and editors for your book;
  • they work with a good PR, or at least have a plan to try to get you a Book Tour, appearance in shows, or any other activity that can give it a push;
  • they have more than one successful book or author (if they only have one, they will invest in that person, not you);
  • they are open to discussing impactful things such as the cover or title (and yes, your readers will judge the book by its cover, so it better be good).

Publishers: the writer’s stress at work

Publishers and editors can be a source of distress and anguish. Yet, unless you feel brave enough to do all the publishing procedures yourself, you need them.

The best course of action is to acknowledge the red flags. Be aware of the best practices and never sign a contract without discussing it exhaustively. A good publisher is the dream. You need to learn how to differentiate them.


It’s time to publish!

After studying all the possibilities within your reach, you probably still feel like you have no idea what to do with your manuscript. You are not sure how to choose the publishing method that really fits you and your work.

That’s completely normal and you are not alone. It’s a tough decision with no right answer but there are some topics you should think about that might help you make that choice.


When you are an author, you’d like other people to recognize you as such. It’s actually your right, but that doesn’t always happen.

Writing is not the kind of job that makes it easy for you, and the way you publish might help or harm your image. The truth is, there are still many people who will not consider you a “real author” if you go with self-publishing.

Sometimes, even the authors themselves have these kinds of thoughts. So you must think about how each option would make you feel about yourself. You need to feel confident in order to give it your best while writing. From where I’m standing, this is crucial.


Let’s face it: self-publishing is hard. You must have the kind of personality, full of willpower and entrepreneurial spirit in order to succeed at it. You’ll probably need to hire some professionals to help you, and still do a lot of the work yourself. If you are not that kind of person, you should consider having a publisher to see your work forward.


Pressure might be good or bad depending on the circumstances and the way you deal with it. Having a publisher that gives you deadlines might help avoid procrastination. On the other hand, you may feel blocked by the pressure that builds up.

If you like to have more control over your schedule, the design of the book, etc, a big publisher might not be the best option for you.

The rhythm of production

How productive are you? How many books do you write in a year? How regularly do you want to publish?

These are very important questions. Self-publishing authors recommend that you publish at least 3 or 4 books a year. However, in the case of traditional publishers, they will not let you do that. According to them, you’d be adding unnecessary competition to your work, since you’d be competing with yourself.


Again, with self-publishing, you have a lot of work and most writers “just want to write”.

Well, let me start by telling you this: those are unrealistic expectations. You’ll never be just writing since there is a lot of work to do other than the writing itself. It will, however, be significantly reduced, if you choose the option of a traditional publisher.


You know yourself better than anyone else. Follow what feels best for you.

Marketing Issues

This might be a major problem for any author and raises bigger questions. So, first of all, let’s face it: you’re gonna be doing it anyway, so it’s better to be thinking about it from the very beginning. The publisher will help you when your book is doing well already, but in the beginning, marketing will mostly be your responsibility.

The Indie author has more profits from each book, so this is probably an advantage. This sounds weird, right? The publishing business is never to help the author. There are many valid reasons to find a good publisher, but if you go there for the money, then you’ll be disappointed.

Royalties are paid every 6 months (sometimes once a year), and most of the time you don’t have any. Publisher expenses cut the check and usually, a publisher just pays you when you reach a certain threshold. This way, probably, all you spend in marketing is gone.

Self-published authors lose a lot of money too, but if you sell a single book, you’ll receive the value for it.

In any case, marketing is always the worst part of the process, you really need to believe in yourself, your work and its quality. A little bit of luck will likely prove critical as well.

Publishing: what a nightmare


We had talked before about how difficult the “publishing step” might be, the problems with the publishers, the doubts… should I choose self-publishing? Online? Should it be a physical book or just an ebook? Perhaps both?

When our story is done, the worst part of being an author begins. And many times, you don’t even know all the options or even understand them and all their nuances. So I researched a little and tried to make some sort of summary of each option together with its pros and cons.

Traditional Publishers

When I started writing, this seemed to be the safest course of action, but is it really? Let’s see.

We all probably understand that it’s a huge step to get published by a big company, one that everyone knows. That will be good on your resume, maybe change your life as a writer (trust me, not exactly), but it’ll definitely make you feel great about yourself! Yes, you are allowed to feel that. Competition is hard and you still got it. It’s amazing. So the pros are probably easy to understand, right?

So now, let’s focus on the cons. You’ll face many problems with them. First of all the great amount of rejections that seem, so very often, to come down to a very unfair decision, especially in the giant publishers, where you’ll probably receive a rejection form which just goes to show you that they don’t read more than a couple pages or perhaps even the synopsis (if they read anything at all, you’ll never quite be sure).

They still rely on you for the marketing of your own book. Yes, it’s true. If you are as naive as I was, you’ll probably be thinking that it’s their job to promote the book, right? It’s the best part of having a big publisher on your back, you’ll have more visibility. Unfortunately, that’s not necessarily true. I mean, they will promote your book, IF, it’s already going well…

And, let’s talk about those contracts… You usually receive an advance for them to publish your book (they are smaller and smaller nowadays), you are the one in charge of the marketing, as we have seen in the previous paragraph, and there is, almost always, a clause to the contract that stops you from publishing with another publisher form a certain amount of time or that all but forces you to give them your next book. You probably don’t want this…

In any case, I still think that they can make a real difference in your career, especially with a little bit of luck to dodge any of the worse contracts. So, if that’s what you want, you probably need to put yourself out there. One of the best things you can do, conferences, also have a downside to them. They are amazing opportunities to connect with other writers and publishers, but they tend to be expensive, so it’s something to think about carefully.



Self-publishing has been growing in the last decades, mostly because of all the problems and difficulties I mentioned above with traditional publishers and especially the lack of opportunities.
What most authors say is that they have more control over their work and they receive more for each book they manage to sell. Even if they sell fewer books, sometimes it’s financially better anyway and thus an appealing choice.

Obviously, it also has plenty of cons too. First of all, the prejudice: for many people, if you go for self-publishing, this automatically means you just weren’t good enough to make it in the traditional environment. Promotion is also a problem, but it is a problem in any case…
With all the evolution surrounding it, you have now so many different options and platforms that can help you do this online (Amazon, B&N, Apple, Kobo, Google Play, etc…)


Vanity Publishing

There was a time that vanity publishing was considered self-publishing, but there is a huge difference between them. In vanity publishing, you pay someone to publish your book. You take all the financial risk, the other person has the work and, obviously, a cut of your profits.

As you might imagine this is an amazing open ground for abuse of the system, in a myriad of ways. First of all, because of the way the profits are split and some other details such as not caring about the costs, they never end up conducting a good market study to prevent spending unnecessary and frankly absurd amounts of money.

Many people have tried this kind of publishing, but almost every author will tell you: it’s a terrible idea.


Hybrid Authors

This kind of publishing choice is very simple to understand, the same author has some books traditionally published and others self-published. Technically it’s the best of both worlds, but sometimes, you might face problems due to the publishers’ demands for exclusivity.


Small Publishers

This must sound the same as traditional publishing, but I decided to separate them because there are some significant differences between publishing with a small publisher or publishing with a big company.

Small publishers have few employees and usually give more attention to new authors. Besides, most of the time, they give you better royalties on e-books than bigger publishers.

However, there are fewer and fewer of these small publishers, they seem to be disappearing as more and more authors go for the self-publishing.


E-books and Print-on-Demand

They are two different things, but I put them in the same category because they both have no costs for you and most of the authors that go for these options, decided to do both of them.

The e-books, as you probably know, are sold and delivered electronically. Despite the fact that many writers still prefer the physical paper book, for some fiction categories, most of the sold books are e-books.

Many times, the author gives the readers the opportunity to get the paper book, through the print-on-demand option, meaning that the book will be printed only after an order is placed, which makes each book costs a higher amount than it would otherwise have to, but there are zero risks involved.

The publishing world is changing fast and the options tend to grow with all the technological advancements in our society. Keep updated and choose what best suits you and your work.