More than once I have been in the position of having multiple publishing offers. Believe me when I say, I know that is a wonderful problem to have. But each time I wonder how I am supposed to choose one publisher over another.
I start in the obvious place—considering the pros and cons of each publisher. For each person reading this post, the importance placed on the headings below will be different, and you may have more things to add to the mix. But, in no particular order, here are some of the things I think about when choosing a publisher.
First and foremost, when I receive an offer, I ask to speak to the editor. I want to understand their thoughts on, and vision for, my manuscript. I like them to ask for my thoughts (that means they care about my vision for the book). More than anything, I want to chat to my potential editor and make sure we have a connection. Being able to talk easily and even share a joke with your editor is a big deal. Editing can be a brutal, gruelling process—someone is criticising your work! In those times, it is helpful to be able to laugh and remember that both you and your editor want the book to be something you can be proud of.
Format and platforms
Will the book be available in digital format only? Will there be a POD paperback? Will there be a traditional paperback arrangement? If the offer is for digital first, what do you need to do to get that paperback deal? On what platforms will the book be available?
Does the publisher actively promote foreign translation and audio rights, for example?
Where is the publisher based (e.g. USA/UK/AUS) and in what geographical locations will the book be available? This is perhaps less important for digital, where the ebook is likely to be available globally, but it is definitely an important consideration for paperback deals.
Of course, you need to compare the advances and/or royalties on offer from the publishers. This can be tricky if you are comparing an advance against a royalty only deal. There will usually be a break point of book sales you can work out to compare models. You may also be able to ask the royalty only publishers to offer an advance.
This feeds into your discussion with your editor about their vision for your book and/or series. Where your book is pitched (e.g. contemporary romance, romantic comedy, romantic suspense, erotic romance) may change during the marketing process, but if you have a strong feeling on how your book should be categorised, discuss that with your potential editor to see if you are on the same page.
When will the book(s) be released? If you are writing a series, when will unwritten titles need to be submitted? Life happens but if you can start with a timetable that is realistic for you and your publisher, that is going to be helpful (and less stressful) further down the line.
Although not strictly relevant to the deal in hand, I think it is important to discuss your career projection with the publisher. If you aim to work with the same publisher on future deals, discuss with your editor how you want to develop as an author.
Every author, publisher, agent and deal is different. There is definitely no 'one size fits all' answer to choosing the right publisher. Hopefully, these pointers give you something to think about, whether you are a working alone or with an agent.
Remember, among all the chaos, to pat yourself on the back. You have publishing offers…bloody well done you!