The other day, taking out the trash, I met one of my neighbors out front.
We said "hi" to each other, I asked her how her kids were doing, she asked me about mine, we chatted about the weather for a while, and then she looked at me thoughtfully and said, "Are you still writing books?"
"Yes," I replied, and told her about what I'd written in the past few months, and about the upcoming releases. I told her about my books on the shelves of our local bookstore, and how I'd won two Independent Publishers' Awards for The Distant Shore and Under the Same Sun.
Picking up her trash can, she emptied it, and said, "But you're only with a small publisher, aren't you? I mean, not a real publisher."
Yes, I answered, I'd signed with a small publisher, an indie house in New Jersey, and it was the best decision of my life. Well – maybe the second best, after saying "yes" when my hubby proposed, some thirty-five years ago.
And yes, Buddhapuss Ink is a "real" publisher, I said. Size doesn't always matter. Quality, though, always does.
I told her how from Moment One my publisher had taken care of me, how they weren't only interested in my book, but also in me, as an author, and how they gently and patiently guided me through the many pitfalls of suddenly being a public person.
I tried to tell my neighbor how being an author is more than just writing book, that it means marketing your product, giving interviews, doing book signings, and that from now on I'd have to watch what I said, and not offend anyone, and all this while staying myself.
I told her how, that day when I signed with Buddhapuss Ink, my publisher and I celebrated on twitter, how we laughed together about the serendipity that had led us to this point in our lives, and how I'd never regretted my decision for one single moment.
She grumbled something and walked away.
I called "Have a nice day" after her, but there was no response.
What a shame; I'd so have loved to explain to her what quality in a publishing house means for an author, and it certainly isn't size.
Here's my little list of important attributes for a good publisher, regardless of small or big, from an author's point of view:
A good publisher has excellent expertise. They know everything about publishing, they have experience, they follow the market sharply, and all the time.
A good publisher will know which marketing strategies are the best for their authors' books, and they'll develop them, together with their authors.
A good publisher takes care of their authors; they don't let newbie authors stand in the rain, or let them figure out their new job on their own.
A good publisher involves their authors in every step of the publishing process, including the cover design.
A good publisher encourages their authors to write more, get better, expand their skills.
A good publisher will let their authors grow, and develop their own personal and writing style, and not ask them to be someone else.
A good publisher will celebrate with their authors when things are going great, and they'll support them when things are rough. But they won't drop you.
A good publisher will be fun to work with!
A good publisher will even help you design the new header for your blog, because they want it to be perfect.
And: a good publisher (a REAL publisher!) will never, ever ask the author to pay for any services, because a good publisher is a real publisher, and not a vanity press!
My publisher is a small publishing house. My publisher is an excellent publishing house!
Take that, neighbor!