How to Find a High Quality Self-Publishing Company

SilverWood author Jon Stenhugg explains the ways in which aspiring authors should go about finding the best publishing partner.

SilverWood author Jon Stenhugg was a speaker at last year's Bristol Literature Festival. Based upon his own publishing experiences, Jon explains the ways in which aspiring authors should go about finding the best publishing partner.

Separate the wheat from the chaff...
  • A presence on the internet is important, but does not necessarily reflect reality. Dig deeper. Contact the company and speak to a member of the team. This direct approach will afford a more personale understanding of the business.
  • Open up a dialogue with current authors. Ask them if they are pleased. Do they have any outstanding issues? Can they make comparisons based on previous experience?
  • Covers ARE important. Look at the cover art for what has been previously published by the company. Ask yourself if you’d buy such book. Head to the SilverWood Books online 'bookshop’ to view covers and content for past publications. Make sure to consult books within your genre and compare these with mainstream publications. Be aware that cover quality and imagery is dependant on the individual style and taste of the author and echoes the specific content and genre of the book itself. SilverWood Books are supportive and sensitive to these key elements when helping authors throughout the cover design process as you can see from their online bookshop here.
  • Some self-publishing companies use a cheap fee to get authors started and on the hook, then charge outlandish fees to continue printing the book. A higher fee in the beginning, which includes everything you need, may be much cheaper than a piecemeal approach which will eat up your budget even before getting into print. I chose SilverWood Books because they offer comprehensive publishing packages that provide authors with a clear payment estimate from the outset.
  • Editing is very important. Copy editing and proofreading should be part of the arrangement. Also, developmental editing may be part of the offering (it was for me), and this can be invaluable.
  • Multiple members of staff with different competencies is important, but having one point of contact for your project is the most important. You want to write, not be an administrator or a team manager. I had one main contact at SilverWood, Emily, who was knowledgeable and helpful, and knew my book in detail.
  • A network of sales outlets should be a requirement. Putting your book on Amazon or Barnes & Noble is not impressive; anyone can do that. Ask them what they can offer beyond the commonly accessible outlets. Don’t listen to anyone who says no one else will be able to help you.
  • Auxiliary services are important, for example PR or film contacts. Make no mistake, you’re a writer, an expert in what you write, and you most likely know nothing about PR or the film industry. Some self-publishing companies can’t even suggest a reliable contact person for this purpose. To be a success you’ll probably need such services, so be sure to query this topic during the preliminary stages of negotiation.
  • Some publishers will accept anything that’s submitted to them, as long as the author pays for it. Don’t fall into this trap. Ask them what happens if they don’t think your book is good enough to publish. Look for honesty and advice in their answers.
  • Never sign away your copyright to a self-publishing company. Ever. If you ever find that in the fine print of a publishing agreement, don’t even send them a copy of your book to read or approve. They should be offering a non-exclusive contract.
  • Insist on realistic sales projections for your book. If a publisher brags about one of their successes to lure you in, remember that about 93% of all titles sell only 50 books or less in a year. If you’re told you that you’ll get wealthy by publishing your book, don’t believe them.
  • Write because you have to, write because you’ve never wanted to do anything else in your entire life. But don’t write to make money.
  • But you should still ask how and when they pay their authors. If the answers sound dodgy, then avoid them, they may never have distributed royalties before.
  • Ask publishers why they got into the business. If they tell you they created a publishing house to publish their own books, and then began to offer this service to others, view this as a positive aspect to the business. It is also very important that the publishing skills, training and experience of the publishing team factors into the company’s establishment, identity and ethos.
  • You can ask other writers for help while doing your research. Listen to their advice. There is also a new type of literary agent today, and they may be offering you a service fee to help you get your book into print. Some are serious, others not so much. The ones who are receiving a kick-back from a self-publishing company should probably be avoided.
  • Ask publishers to explain who owns the ISBN for your book, and how they would deal with you moving your book to another publisher. Beware if you can’t understand the answer they give you, because this subject isn’t rocket science. I chose SilverWood ISBNs, and I'm confident they will help me in the very unlikely event that I wish to move elsewhere.
  • Can they print hardbacks, or only paperbacks? There are even some self-publishing companies who only do digital (ebooks). Ask them if their digital copies use DRM, which is at least an attempt to avoid piracy.
  • Ask them what they do if you discover your work has been pirated. They should be able to provide a clear and coherent answer.

Jon’s suggestions and concerns can be used as an comprehensive check-list to help authors form personal objectives. This intuitive informative guide offers help to authors, both before and during preliminary contact with potential publishing partners.

Jon Stenhugg is pictured at The English Bookstore in Stockholm.

Find out more about Jon and his writing at

“The personal service I received was superior. No query or problem was left unanswered or unattended.”

Nicholas King