What to Look For in an Ebook Publisher

by : Kathryn Lively

For authors considering an alternative to print publication for any reason - be it a desire for more creative control, faster turnaround on production, or a desire to experiment with a new medium - it is important to research an eBook publisher as closely as one would a print house.

Despite the stigmas placed on the industry, most eBook publishers are legitmate businesses interested in producing quality literature for sale. If an eBook publisher gains a reputation for poor editing and formatting, the books will simply not sell. Authors, in turn, will not want to risk being associated with a dubious company, and the house will ultimately fail.

In approaching an eBook publisher, an author should make note of a number of factors before deciding to send a manuscript. One thing to remember, if you do decide upon a house to contact, is to make sure all contact is conducted as professionally as possible. That said, here are a few things to look for in a reputable eBook publisher:

Website: Because an eBook publisher must rely primarily on the Internet to market and sell books, the publisher's website is probably the most important element in their marketing campaign. Carefully study the publisher's website. Does it look professionally designed and structured? Is is simple to navigate, or are books buried underneath useless pages of code? Does the website appear to be hosted on a good server, or is it built off a third-party free host with obligatory banner advertising? Are there any broken links? Can you order a book with ease? How much do the books cost? These are important things to note. If you have difficulty ordering or finding a book on the site, chances are readers may have a hard time finding your books, too.

Customer Service: To get the full effect of an eBook publisher in action, purchase a book. This is good practice, too, to determine the types of fiction or non-fiction they want.

Contact the publisher's customer service department with questions or concerns about the book. How quickly do they respond? Do the response e-mails seem friendly or curt? Are your answers succinctly delivered? Remember, this is the customer service your readers will receive, so one thing you will want to determine is whether or not you want this voice to represent you. A non-responsive customer service department should be regarded as a warning for prospective authors.

Formatting: When you buy a book from the prospective publisher, take note of how it is formatted? Does it look professional, or slapped together? How many formats does the publisher offer? Is print an option? Does each book have an ISBN number? With regards to most eBook publishers, books are largely offered in at least three formats: HTML, Adobe Acrobat, and Microsoft Reader. Other publishers may offer additional formats for specific eBook readers, like Gemstar and the defunct Hiebook.

Depending upon the publisher, print versions of certain books may be offered, either as print runs or in Print On Demand (POD) format. This is a good indication of whether or not the publisher requires print rights to contracted works. If so, it is important to note that the publisher may not exercise that right to every work in its catalog.

Guidelines: Looking at the eBook publisher's website, can you find a page for submission guidelines? What genres are accepted? What lengths are accepted? Does the publisher offer special calls, themed stories or anthology pieces? For the aspiring author, such calls may be a good foot in the door. One can build a strong portfolio and build toward a more prolific career in writing. Study each publisher's guidelines and choose the one that best suits your style and genre.

Contract: Does the publisher offer a sample contract online? What rights are exploited, and for how long? What percentage of net royalties go to the author? Look around the Internet, and you will find such percentages range from 30% to 50% for eBook sales.

What rights does the author retain? Will the publisher provide an ISBN and cover art? To what extent will the publisher promote your work? While many eBook publishers have low budgets for author promotion, some may offer to subsidize costs of banner and print advertising. Regardless of where you will publish, you will be expected to pull your own weight where PR is concerned. Make sure, however, your rights are well protected in a fair contract.

Distributorship: Where are the eBooks sold? Are they made available only through the publisher, or through third-party retailers like Fictionwise and Amazon.com? If print editions are available, are they available through a major distributor like Ingrams. Are the books registered with Books in Print? Given the nature of eBooks, publishers are limited with regards to marketing, so it would be wise to research how well a publisher takes advantage of every possible avenue, for the exposure of their books.

Track Record: How long has the publisher been in business? Has any Internet research turned up negative reports on the publisher with regards to editorial and customer issues? If you are interested in a particular publisher, contact some authors associated with them and inquire if they have been pleased with them. Check the Preditors and Editors website and other watchdog sites for any warnings. As the industry grows, so does the need to protect writers from being swindled. Past years have seen authors lose thousands of dollars to dubious vanity presses which promised much and delivered little. With the simplicity of eBook production, this could open the doors to a number of "fly by night" operations designed to take advantage of the naive. Do your research!

With thorough investigation of each eBook publisher, an author can make an educated decision about novel submission. The right match can make for great success for the author and publisher.