Deciding If a Small Publisher is Legit

This post is brought to you by
the one and only, Lisha Cauthen.

Oh, man. Today we open a

this should by all rights, be a picture of a can with worms in it. i shall spare you the image.

It can be hard to decide if a small publisher is legit. Brand new publishers don’t have a track record, but may be entirely a class operation. Long-time small publishers might turn out to be a bit of a con.

How to tell?

I’ve been thinking about this problem for a while, so I’d like to start the conversation with…


  • Start with the publisher’s website. Is it professional looking? Does it work? Easily? Is it set up to showcase the authors’ books? Have any of their books won awards? Real ones, that is.
  • Google the publisher to see if there’s any general buzz in Publishers Weekly or other publications. Who are the editors and what is their experience?
  • Go to Amazon and look at the books. Is there more than one author? Importantly, are the authors’ and illustrators’ last names different from the publisher’s and editors’ last names? If the names match, then you may be looking at a vanity press masquerading as a going concern. Check the books’ rankings. Look inside, if you can, to see if the writing seems up to par.
  • Check the book covers. Are they professional? Yeah, you know what’s professional. Not a creative commons photo or a pencil drawing done by a twelve-year-old.
  • Look for reviews. Amazon and Goodreads are a start, but look for reviews in magazines and newspapers, including Kirkus.
  • Peruse the usual watchdog websites–Writer Beware, Preditors and Editors, the Blue Boards and Absolute Write Water Cooler
  • Go in a bookstore. Look for any books published by the small publisher you are considering.

This is a good start at checking out small publishers. Anybody else got some ideas?

2 thoughts on “Deciding If a Small Publisher is Legit

Add yours

  1. Yep, I have an idea. Pick a book that has been recently published by the small publisher. Call a book buyer where you want to see your book someday. This may be a bookstore, library, or school. Ask the book buyer whether they can order the book. Make it clear that you are not asking them to actually order the book, you just want to know if they CAN. If they can order the book, they should be able to let you know the publisher. Is it the publisher you are testing? Yes? Chances are that the small publisher is legit.


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