These days new epublishers are popping up like daisies on the lawn. Over at Absolute Write, someone starts a thread inquiring about a press’s bona fides almost daily.
Before you sign a contract, or for that matter, submit a manuscript to a publisher, you should always do some research. But before you bother to Google, post a question in a newsgroup, etc., there’s one simple way to gauge whether a pub is worth the mouse clicks.
Look at their web page, especially their home page.
A publisher’s page should do one thing and do it well. Sell books.
So what do you see? I see books for sale, front and center. With just a click or two, I can read a blurb and a sample of the writing. (I don’t buy books without reading a sample. Do you?) The covers are attractive and professionally designed. A listing of books by genre is available and easy to use. And buying is easy.
What don’t I want to see on a publisher’s web page? First and foremost, no begging for authors.
At Happy Shiny Books, it is our goal to nurture writers. We know how hard it is to get published with the big publishers and we know great books often get overlooked. Our writers are family….
Blah, blah, blahbitty, blah. Look. I’ve got a family. They’re all I can handle. I don’t need to be nurtured (that’s my mom’s job). A publisher’s job is to acquire the best books possible, and edit and sell those books to the reading public.
Publishers who sell books don’t need to sell themselves to authors. If they do their job, authors will swarm like flies. Remember that scene from the first Harry Potter movie/book? The one where hundreds of Harry’s Hogwarts acceptance letters flooded the Dursley’s house; they spewed from the mail slot, under the door, from the fireplace.
All a good publisher has to do is squirrel a little “Submission” link somewhere on their page, and voila, a deluge of biblical proportions.
There shouldn’t be any big blocks of text on the page, including those that explain the pub’s mission.
At Shiny Happy Books we strive to provide the best books to the reading public at the best prices. Literature is our passion. Shiny Happy Books was established in 2008 by Mary Smith, a multi-published author who….
Blah, blah, blahbitty, blah. Show me da books. If it’s a niche market, like Dreamspinner, then their genre can be easily explained in a tag line. Sell me books, not the publisher.
It goes without saying that the web page should load easily, and look professional and up-to-date. No pages that look like they were designed by the owner’s twelve-year-old kid using a 2000 version of MS Frontpage. No using a free web pages service. If you can’t afford to buy a your own URL and your own little chunk of the Internet, you shouldn’t be in the business of publishing books. (I can afford it and I’m the quintessential starving artist.)
In summary, what should you demand of a publisher’s web page? Sells books. Professionally-designed, easily navigated site. Attractive, professionally-designed covers.
Otherwise, move on, there’s nothing to see there.
*I linked to Samhain’s bookstore, because they recently revamped their site to feature a blog first. Not my idea of a great plan, because blogs really don’t sell [many] books. But Samhain has the clout to do whatever they want. And their bookstore sells books and sells them well. But It’s a Dry Heat