This is certainly a process, and is not done lightly.
However, I did not chose my publisher based on hearsay. I made sure that the publisher I had found was the publisher that I really wanted. There are a few specific things that I made sure to look for when I checked out their website.
Content: I am a writer of LGBTQ fiction and romance. I wanted to make sure that the publisher that I chose was aligned with my views on that. I’ve heard horror stories of other publishers that straight-washed good queer stories, or rejected stories based on queer content. Luckily, LT3 is actually an LGBT romance publisher, and is actively trying to expand their repertoire to include many different minority groups including trans and genderqueer stories, asexual and aromantic stories, and bisexual stories, not just gay and lesbian. LT3 also accepts many different sub-genres, which makes it easy for me to write fantasy and science fiction works with LGBTQ characters.
Royalties: I checked to make sure the publisher has a good royalty system in place. This makes certain that I am paid properly for my works. Make sure that you know the market before you decide on a publisher. Are they paying the standard royalties? How are they paying? Based on percentage, by the word, on a one-time payment/lump sum deal? Don’t settle on a publisher if you’re unsure of what you will be paid and how. Make sure you know how they mean to pay you as well.
Contract: A contract protects both the author and the publisher by ensuring that all the bases are covered. That includes making sure that there is a promise to publish your work, that you will do all the work required to have it published, and that your rights will revert to you after a certain period of time. This will include the royalty rates, deadlines, when your work will be published, when you will be paid (ie quarterly, monthly, etc). Read this very carefully, as you will have to ensure that you are protected in all circumstances. If you are unsure for any reason, get someone with a legal background to check it over for you.
Marketing: I always check to see how publishers are marketing their books. The one thing that I always check is to see how their website is run. If it’s accessible, easy to use, if I like how they’ve presented their books. How easy it is to make a purchase, if it’s easy to contact them. If they have any promotions or sales on, how interesting I find their collection and anthology calls. I also check to see which social media sites they use for marketing. Are they going to events, conventions or conferences? Check all these things out, because if you sign a contract with them and you want to be successful, you will have to be able to market efficiently, and it’s easier if your publisher also knows how to market their work.
Those are the main reasons that I went with my publisher, and I intend to stick by them. Not all small publishers are built the same, so choose wisely.