Due Diligence


By Barbara Mende

You spent hours with Writers’ Market and sent book proposals to twenty publishers and fourteen agents. Now a publisher has written back, offering you a contract. Whew! you say. That’s over. I’ve made it.

Not so fast. There are publishers and publishers. The one who wrote to you may be a fine company; or it may be one that will release your book late, never pay royalties on time, neglect to contact reviewers, and forget to send copies of your book to the bookstore where you’re doing a reading.

You’ll want to send the contract to advice@nwu.org to have one of our contract advisors review it. But it’s a good idea to do more than that. Check up on the publisher.

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association’s “Writer Beware” section is a good place to start investigating publishers in all genres. An even better one is just to do an online search on the publisher. “Is XYZ Press a scam?” pops up oftener than you’d think. Check the Better Business Bureau, too.

Ask on the nwu-book online discussion group (write to your editor for info on joining) what experience other members have had with the publisher. (If you’re checking on an agent, make sure the agent is listed in the Association of American Literary Agents (AALA) database.)

Look the publisher up in your public library catalog. Look at the books it has published in libraries and bookstores. Do you like their appearance? Their placement on the shelves? Write to authors who have published with this press, and ask them what they think of it. You can ask the publisher for references, but do some sleuthing on your own, too. If the publisher is the kind you want, it’ll respect you for doing your homework.