Questions to Ask Your Publisher | Publish Your Purpose

Questions to Ask
Your Publisher


Our mission at Publish Your Purpose Press (PYP) is to discover and publish authors who are striving to make a difference in the world. We give underrepresented voices power and a stage to share their stories, speak their truth, and impact their communities. Our purpose and mission is to elevate and amplify the voices of others.


Protecting Yourself from Predatory Publishers:
Questions to ask when reviewing your book publisher

Unfortunately, the publishing industry is crowded, noisy, and filled with predatory service providers. This makes it very hard for you, the author, to understand and avoid those publishers with bad practices.

There are many solid, reputable, and high-quality publishers out there, but finding them among the sea of predatory publishers can be tricky.

When you are comparing publishers, make sure you are comparing a high-quality reputable publisher against another one, and not against a predatory publisher. This is the equivalent of comparing apples and zucchinis.

Below you will find the top questions you should ask when reviewing any book publisher. Whether they are a high-quality, reputable publisher, or you believe there might be something shady happening, ask these questions to get a better sense of the right publisher for you.

PYP was founded to be an anti-predatory publisher. Having seen several friends be taken advantage of in the publishing process, founder, Jenn T. Grace, set out to create a publishing company that puts the author first. Protecting our authors is at the forefront of every decision we make as an organization.

During the publishing process, we carry this on with our authors as we review “opportunities” they are presented with and advise them if it’s a known scam. This ranges from awards someone suggested they should submit for, to an Amazon Ad service provider, and beyond. We work with you to put forth a solid book that aligns with you, your business, and your brand, with no predatory behaviors in the process.


Before We Begin…

Before picking up the phone, sending that first email, or otherwise engaging with that prospective publisher, first visit the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) and view their Watchdog List.

ALLi is a non-profit organization for self-publishing authors. Their mission is ethics and excellence in self-publishing. ALLi’s Watchdog List monitors the self-publishing industry using a code of standards and vetting process to determine services that overcharge, over-promise, under-deliver, or in any way exploit authors. Their Watchdog List ranks publishers based on their predatory practices with a simple coding system of green, yellow, or red. Important to note is that not all publishers are listed on this list, however, the majority of the predatory ones are as a result of the need to prevent others from being taken advantage of.

Green means this is a solid, reputable, and high-quality publisher.
Yellow means proceed with caution. It is worth looking to see why they are getting yellow. What are the top complaints of this company? What else might they be doing to counteract any of the negativity they’ve received that could be positive?
Red is a hard stop. Do not proceed. If they are listed in red they are likely the epitome of a predatory company and you are better off steering clear.
Once you’ve narrowed down that the company is in green (or even yellow), you can proceed with your inquiry. If you are still unclear from your ALLi research, you can also do the following:

Head over to Google:

Google “publisher name + scam” and review the results. Take what you find with a grain of salt, but if there are pages of complaints from others, use that as a warning sign that this might not be the best publisher for you.
Google their phone number listed on their website and review the results. Do they come up on fraud or scam phone number lists? Pay attention to their sales practices. There are many publishers who will call you daily once they have your phone number after you provided it to them to offer more information on their publishing packages.
Once you’ve eliminated the publishers that are not worth your time speaking with and you now have a short list of publishers who you do want to speak with, ask them these questions to help identify if they are the right fit for you.


Process Questions

  • Ask them about their customer service process. Working with a publisher who is collaborative with you will make a huge difference in your experience in getting your book published. The following questions will help you understand how collaboratively they approach the process.
  • How many people will be working on your book?
  • Do all of those people know what the other person does?
  • How many staff members will be touching your book within the process?
  • Are they accessible by phone (or email) when you have questions?
  • Do you have regularly scheduled calls to help guide you in the process

Depending on your needs as an author, evaluate their answers against your desired level of collaboration.


Provider Questions

  • Ask them what kind of publisher they are.
  • Are they a self-publishing service provider?
  • A vanity press?
  • A hybrid publisher?

Something to understand at the start of your evaluation is that not all publishers are created equal. You want to ensure what you are looking for is what you are actually getting. It is important to know the differences between these types of providers.

  1. A self-publishing service provider is a company that handles the review, edit, revision, proofreading, layout, cover, promotion, distribution, and management of a book at the author’s expense.
  2. A vanity press should be avoided as they exist in order to make money by printing books that no one else will publish. They do not have a selection criteria or quality control, and the author foots the bill for publication.
  3. A hybrid publisher will have a firm set of commitments and values that they adhere to in accordance with the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA). Hybrid publishers use an author-subsidized business model, as opposed to financing all costs themselves, and in exchange return a higher-than-industry-standard share of sales proceeds to the author. In other words, a hybrid publisher makes income from a combination of publishing services and book sales.

Visit the publisher’s website and see if it is clear what their commitments, values, and standards are for manuscripts that they will publish.


Author Questions

  • Ask to speak to a recent (within the last 3-6-months) satisfied author.
  • Will they readily connect you with a recent author?
  • Are there current testimonials on their website from happy authors?

If they will provide the name of someone, follow up with that person. It’ll be worth your time to do so.


Company Values Questions

  • Ask them to explain their company values to you.
  • What does their publishing house stand for?
  • Are they author focused?
  • Are they committed to environmental sustainability?
  • Are they committed to diversity, either within their author base or their supply chain, or both?
  • Do they partner with and strive to uplift the communities and groups you care about?

Whatever their known public commitments are, verify that they match with your personal beliefs and values. If you and your publisher are coming from the same place with your vision and mission for this world, it’ll make the process even more seamless.


Contract Questions

  • Ask what format will your book be published in. Don’t make any assumptions that because you are speaking to a book publisher that you will end up with a finished paperback book to show for it.
  • Read the fine print to ensure they are not publishing just an ebook, which is unfortunately common.
  • Review to ensure you will also get a paperback and have an opportunity for hardcover or audio edition if you so choose.
  • Ask what happens if you want to get out of your contract? If you were to have a bad experience and want to move your book to another publisher, how do they handle that process?
  • Do you have any recourse? Are you able to move your work elsewhere? If you can move it, how many days notice do you need to provide?
  • Will they charge you a fee to obtain your files? This is pretty common that if you break your contract that you will be charged upwards of thousands of dollars to obtain your files to move your book elsewhere.

PYP has a 30-day policy and there are no fees associated with returning your files. To date we’ve never been asked (knock on wood!)


Rights Questions

  • Ask who owns the “rights” to your work?
  • Read the contract in fine detail to see who is listed as the copyright holder of your book. You, as the author, should be listed as the copyright holder. If you are paying someone to publish your book, they should never be listed as the copyright holder.
  • Additionally, in regards to rights, ask them what rights they will obtain? Will they have the rights to your book in all languages worldwide? Or are they more narrowed and specific. Each publisher does things a bit differently, so just be sure you know what rights you are assigning to your publisher before signing on the dotted line.

PYP holds the rights of our author’s work for non-exclusive English speaking countries worldwide, which is our standard approach and a standard approach in the industry. If an author has a request for the rights in another country, we will work with our authors to help them negotiate the best deal for that new country or language interested in their book.


Financial Questions

  • Ask them what the minimum book order requirement is?
  • Look for hidden fees. Not all publishers and contracts are created equal. If a price looks too good to be true, it probably is. Many publishers make their money by selling your books to you, not necessarily selling your books to the end reader.
  • Look in your contract for minimum quantity requirements. When a publisher’s business model is making money off of print runs, you will often see a minimum quantity of 1,000 or more books at a time.

The industry standard is to sell you your book for 50% of its retail cost. If your book retails for $19.95, you will buy your book from the publisher at $9.98. If you are required to purchase a minimum of 1,000 at a time, you are looking at inventory totaling $9,980. Additionally, you may have to figure out where to store those 1,000 books. Every time you need to order books coming up with $10k can be a stressor. Another component to this is the shipping costs. When you are housing 1,000 books in inventory you are now responsible for sending quantities of your books, which can be a drain on your time. If you are speaking at a conference and need to send 50 books in advance, you will now fulfill that from your supply of 1,000 books.

At PYP we do not have any minimum book order requirement. We are committed to helping you sell your book to your readers. As a hybrid book publisher we make our money from the services we provide, not from selling your book back to you in large quantities.

We handle the fulfillment of our author’s bulk orders. By simply placing your order with us, we will have your books delivered anywhere in the world, which eliminates you having to make multiple trips to the post office.

Additionally, we suggest to our authors that they should buy the least amount that they need on their first print run, so should there be a missed typo in the final product, we can correct it immediately. Then, we suggest purchasing the larger amount you may be looking for. This prevents you from having 1,000 books sitting in a garage or hallway that has a known typo in it, which you are now embarrassed to be selling.


Manuscript Questions

  • Ask your prospective publisher how they handle typos after the book is in production? Many will charge a fee to do this. Look closely at that cost. PYP does not charge to correct any typos, provided they are submitted to us up to 60 days after launch.
  • Are they focused on the number of words in your manuscript? If so, ask them why?
  • During the editing process will they charge you extra for every word over the amount you agreed to? Is there a cushion with the overage? PYP has a 5,000-word over/under cushion so you don’t need to stress about adding a few hundred extra words here or there.
  • Additionally, ask if there are restrictions on how much you can move your content around? Is there a % defined of how much your content must stay the same from when you provided it? For example, if you want to change the order of two chapters, will they flat out tell you no because it shifts the majority of the original content? Or, if they say yes, at what cost is that to you? PYP does not have any restrictions around this.

Royalty Questions

  • Ask them if they pay their author royalties on time? This is a common grievance within the publishing industry, where a publisher commits to paying every 3-months, 6-months, or annually, and is consistently late in those royalty payments. PYP pays royalties every 3-months and has never been delayed in making payments to our authors.

***Bonus Tip

  • Review their marketing language on their websites, in emails, etc. Pay close attention to how they spell certain words. A tell tale sign of a fly by night publisher is if they can spell words like copyright and foreword correctly. If they are spelling these words as either as copywrite or forward, it is a good sign they are not a legitimate publisher.

Helpful Related Links

The Economics of Your Publishing Options

Which Publishing Path Should I Choose?

What is a Hybrid Publisher?

What is Self-Publishing?

What is a Traditional Publisher?

Why PYP is LGBTQ Owned and Why it Matters

Why PYP is Women Owned and Why it Matters

9 Questions to Ask a Publisher

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