In my real life career, I spend a lot of time trying to make online technology work for people. There are a lot of problems with good solutions out there. In my professional life, I just want things to work for the people who use what I work on. In my normal day to day experiences as a user of technology, I just want things to work! Not just things, but processes. I want to form relationships that give me a sense of warm and fuzziness. That make me feel like when I work with this person/company, we will both find mutual success by working together. That’s the kind of person I am–I have very high standards.
That said, I’ve been thinking about what qualities the perfect small publishers would have for me as an author. I’ve been trying to find that perfect author/publisher relationship where I feel comfortable and confident that there will be much success. I know this perfect publisher is a fantasy, but a girl can dream.
Disclaimer: This list is not the result of my experience with any one publisher. The basics are standard best practices in e-commerce. Most of the items beyond basics are just me thinking about how wonderful the world would be if. I’ve worked with several publishers and they each have their own process that works for them, and I respect that (it’s also really neat to see the different ways different people accomplish similar tasks). Successful relationships are about meeting each other with the tools you have and using them as best you can. I have had many wonderful and successful experiences with the publishers I’ve worked with and look forward to continuing to work with them.
The basic things my perfect ebook/print publisher would have are things that I want as a reader and an author. I want them as the author because it helps the reader find and purchase my book and have a good enough experience that they return to the publisher to buy more books.
- A usable website. By this I mean a website that can be easily navigated. Books are easy to find. Books are easy to buy. All links work. All buttons work.
- An up to date catalog on their website. All new releases should appear on a new release page. All releases should be accessible from the main catalog page.
- A website that has content that targets the intended consumer audience.
- A website with good, clean design. Okay, here’s where I start asking for the moon. The publisher’s website has to look good. Pixel perfect. All of the images are crisp and appropriate. There is consistent alignment among elements. The style is modern. There is consistent branding.
- Checkout process is easy and the publisher accepts paypal.
- Well-designed covers. If there are people on the cover, they are correctly proportioned with respect to all parts of their body. The lighting for all elements of the cover in consistent. Elements of the cover look like they belong in the same plane. Book title and author name font and color have high contrast against the background.
- Ebooks with impecable typesetting and formatting. PDFs have pages that are standard book size (6″x9″ or smaller) with a serif font with appropriate whitespace and line spacing. ePubs and mobi/prc files are split into chapters for easy navigation, also use serif font. Bonus points for whimsy when appropriate (graphics in separators, drop caps, etc…)
- Bundled ebook formats for sale, ie the customer buys all formats of the book when they purchase the book
Beyond the Basics
Basics are met, and I’m happy because I am confident the publisher has the ability to market and sell ebooks. Now, my perfect publisher has a few more delights behind the scenes
- Have clear, accurate submission guidelines.
- Allow online submissions
- Has an online submission tracker that I can log into and view where my manuscript is in the submission queue.
- Accepts Scrivener manuscripts
- Uses an online document signing service (e.g. docusign) to send and receive contracts.
- Has clear contract completion expectations such that the information needed from me is obvious
- Has a contract that details exactly what I will give them as well as exactly what they will give me.
- All forms they send to get additional author information are perfectly formatted. Good alignment, good text contrast, good document design. I want to see that they can format their documents with as much class as they do their ebooks.
- Online system where I can see the progress of my book through the publication process
- I am consulted on and approve all blurbs, bios, covers
- Every time I send back information requested, they send confirmation that my feedback is received.
- They draft initial blurbs
- Content Editors (highly skilled)
- Copy & Line Editors (highly skilled)
- Proofreaders (highly skilled)
That’s it for the moment. What do you get from your perfect publisher? Pie in the sky, no limits?