Epubs… wondering where to start?

Left Behind and Loving It-Lynn Viehl
Left Behind and Loving It-Lynn Viehl

Had an open door post the other day and Edie asked what authors should know about epubs.  I can’t answer for authors in general, however, I can tell you what info I’d look for, and what would stand out as a red flag to me.  Since it’s time for PBW’s annual Left Behind and Loving It, I figured I’d use this as a mini-workshop.  Or rather… MY version of a mini-workshop.

Please note-I am out of town~in Washington DC for Nationals.  Internet access may be sporadic, but if you have questions, ask away…I’ll answer when I’m back home.  Just might take a few days.

Now I’m not looking for any new epubs, I’ve got my hands overly full already, however if I was looking, one thing I first look at is their website.


  • Is it professional?  Or does it look like a freebie site somebody slapped together?
  • The covers.  Are they the kind of covers that made me cringe and cover my eyes?
  • Is there contact info?  Is there submission info?  Is there a customer service contact?

If a site doesn’t look professional, I’m not interested.

If the covers are crappy, it’s going to give me pause about whether or not I’d want to submit.  Now sometimes, you just get a lousy cover.  But if all of them look…well…. shudder…. then I’m not going to be as inclined to submit.

There needs to certain info posted-if the site isn’t live, the customer service contact isn’t AS important for me at this point, but after a site goes live, there had better be some contact info for customer issues.  If there isn’t a general contact page, then it’s going to make me wonder.  If there isn’t a decent amount of submission info posted, I’m not going to bother asking.

The books

  • Are they publishing the sort of stuff you want to read?  IE:  You can’t submit a sweet insprirational to Ellora’s Cave.  So make sure you understand what kind of books they put out.
  • Do you like their books?  Not all, of course, but have you read some that appeal to you?  A publisher can call itself an erotic romance publisher all it wants, but if I read a number  excerpt or books (although me buying the book is not likely-if the blurb and the excerpt don’t hook me, I’m not buying)  that reads more like a porn scene script, then I’m not giving them my work.
  • What’s their publishing schedule?  Do they stick to it?  If they claim they’ll have books released on this day and this day every week, a book a day, ten titles a week, three titles a week, whatever, and then they frequently DON’T have the books out when they claimed, that’s going to have me questioning their business model, and I’ll probably pass.

Business plans

Okay, for me, this isn’t as crucial if a publisher has been in business for several years and showing signs of growth-that tells me they have a biz plan that works.  But I’ll still want to know if they actively pursue new avenues-working to get their titles more widely available, if they have print program, etc, etc.

But for a new epub?  Before I’d even consider submitting, I’d want some idea of their business plan.

  • Do they have a realistic release schedule? And are they consistent?
  • Do they have a focus?  If they say they publish only erotic romance, but some of their titles read more like erotica, or just spicy romance, etc, etc, etc, I’m going to question their focus.
  • Do they have a set business plan for the next two years, five years, ten years?  I don’t really understand business plans, per se, but publishers need to.  If they don’t have a formal business plan, not happening, not for me.

Lets say I was looking and found a new publisher I want to try out.  I submit, then get a letter offering a contract.  There are a few details I’ll look at, questions I’ll ask.

  • Can they give me an idea when my title will be available for purchase?
  • How often can I expect to have a new title released with them?
  • Do I get to offer input on the cover?  (for epubs, this is a big one with me)
  • Do they have any plan to offer their ebook titles in print format?
  • What is the editing process?  If I’m pretty much flying solo, then I’m gone.  I want and need an editor.
  • Do they have distribution outside their website?  Books available at Amazon, or the Sony store, or Fictionwise, ARe?


  • length of contract-some places do ask for length of copyright-the author has to decide if they want to do that.
  • are the contracts negotiable?  If the answer is no, then I’m looking elsewhere.
  • Royalty rate.  Anything under 35% for direct website sales, I’m not reading any more of the contract and I’ll look elsewhere

General stuff

  • I’m impatient. The submission process is time-consuming.  But after that, I’m not as likely to wait.  If an epub has my title and I ask questions and go weeks without answers, I’m probably not resubmitting.
  • I’m lousy at self-editing.  I do have readers that go thru my titles, but I also want reliable editors.  If I read titles at publisher XYZ and they are riddled with errors and typos, I’m not submitting.  It makes me think their editing process is somewhat lacking.
  • Publisher’s presence.  If those speaking for their publisher can’t do it without being professional, I’m not interested.
  • Do they understand the genre they claim to publish?  As I mentioned, a publisher can call themselves an erotic romance publisher all they want, but if their idea of erotic romance doesn’t jive with what many people view as erotic romance, then I think they don’t understand the genre, and if they don’t get it, they can’t represent my work very well.
  • Is there a lot of smoke?  Every publisher is going to have authors that are less than happy.  There’s no way around that.  A big publisher is likely to have more of those than a small publisher.  But if it seems a publisher has more UNHAPPY authors than happy ones, I’m going to have concerns.  Although I will admit, the only concerns I pay attention to are those that are voiced with some semblance of professionalism.  Example-a publisher has twenty unhappy authors.  The twenty voice their concerns in a calm, rational manner, explaining why they aren’t happy.  I’m going to give their opinions some serious thought and do some thinking of my own about whether or not I’d submit.  If a publisher has twenty unhappy authors who feel the best way to address their concerns are by ranting and railing and weeping….well, I’m not going to give their issues-legit or not-much attention.  I’d either look for the calmer authors or just start asking around on my own.  Actually, I’ll probably ask around on my own anyway.
  • Do they use that ‘family’ line?  I have a family-thanks.    I don’t need my publisher to be a family.  I need them to be my publisher, and I want them to act in a professional manner.  Many of the places that claim to be a ‘a big family’ don’t give off the professional vibes I’d look for in a publisher.

There are all sorts of things I’d look for, but I guess the key points are:

  • Does the publisher put out books you like?
  • Do you feel your book will fit in with their other books?  (genre-wise)
  • Are the contracts negotiable?
  • Are you comfortable with the contract terms?

Red flags

  • Non-negotiable contracts.  Most pubs have a ‘boilerplate’ contract-it’s their basic contract but they’ll negotiate with the author to some extent.  Contract non-negotiable? Red flag.
  • Inconsistent releases.  Release dates frequently missed?  Red flag.
  • Lousy website?  Red flag.
  • Every single cover is utterly hideous?  (This is personal for me, but it’s a red flag)
  • Apparent lack of understanding of the genre it claims to publish.  HUGE red flag.
  • Royalties less than 35%.  HUGE, HUGE red flag.