The emails expressing interest in the first two books of my mystery series raised a number of emotions. First, I was quite surprised by the timing, about five weeks after submission. Second, I was thrilled with their enthusiastic comments indicating that the team had clearly read both manuscripts. Third, I was cautiously optimistic given my experience with a previous publisher. Fourth, I was skeptical since the particular publisher, Zimbell House Publishing, requires an author’s investment.
I’ll go right to the heart of my dilemma. In the 1990s when I set out to be a published author, I was told that I should not have to pay anything to reach that goal. Furthermore, the vanity press was not used by real writers and real writers groups did not recognize a self-published individual as a legitimate author.
I don’t believe that such a stigma continues today. Furthermore, what ZHP offers is not self-publishing services but a partnership between the publisher and author. I knew about this requirement when I allowed my manuscripts to be matched with ZHP on the Authors.me website and put the issue in the cross-that-bridge-when-we-get-there category. ZHP’s emails brought me to the bridge.
The process I went through is not important. I considered many things that any writer would when evaluating a publisher’s offer. In the end it came down to these questions:
- What will ZHP provide in ancillary services, such as marketing tools?
- Does the organization/team seem up to the task based on what is known about ZHP?
- Is the investment amount reasonable and feasible?
- If not ZHP, what am I waiting for?
My research was limited to reviewing the author list and product catalog via the ZHP website and asking process and contractual questions of the acquisition manager. I also took a look at ZHP’s footprint on Amazon and the internet in general.
An unfortunate reality stuck in my brain: The 2016 publisher that went out of business while working on my book was known to me personally as were writers published by the company. I was also familiar with the publisher’s personal work ethic. None of that knowledge or familiarity helped me get my book published by that publisher.
Clearly limited information and a leap of faith would play an important part in my decision about ZHP. The most important question – What am I waiting for? Do I think there’s a publisher out there who will take on a first-time author free of charge or even give me an advance? Will that publisher provide all the support and the higher royalty rate that ZHP promises? How many more months or years will it take to find that theoretical publisher?
With some nervousness, but mostly confidence, I signed the contract two weeks later. Much progress has been made on both books in the intervening months. Check out my Books tab for info about the Kate Starling Mysteries series and an opportunity to review the first book, Mistaken Identity.
The partnership has worked for me in my particular circumstances. It may not be for everyone. But it is an option available in this 21st century and I am delighted.