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I have decided to write another post on choosing a publisher because I think it is an important step and I want to discuss a different aspect that was not included in my previous entry.
An important point commonly overlooked in discussions about academic book publishing is the importance of the publisher’s brand in promoting research. Since the publisher manages peer review and editorial processes, and as the names of reviewers are usually unknown to the public, the publisher’s logo is the main signal of quality (unless you are so well-known that you yourself are a sign of quality).
This is quite an obvious trend in the case of journal publishing. Researchers generally try to submit their work to the best-known journal in their field (those who do not know journals in their field rely on quantitative measures, such as Impact Factor). Although this problem is less present when it comes to publishing books, in my opinion there is a strong tendency to treat works published by established companies as more credible.
The problem is that almost no company has an established position in all fields of academic publishing. Moreover, due to hard competition, publishers try to be innovative and launch interesting book series, which might become well known quite quickly, especially in narrow or new fields. That is why it is always worth doing some research before you choose your publisher – to determine which one is well recognized in your field and offers the relevant publishing opportunities for you. This research has to involve at least the following three stages:
1) Take a quick look at your own bookshelf (do not forget about your digital one) to examine which company has published the books that are most important in your everyday scholarly work.
2) Ask your co-workers about the books they have read and about the books they publish. Although remember to follow the advice of Elizabeth Knoll, a senior editor at Harvard University Press: “If your adviser is over 60 or is famous, you should not listen to your adviser about publishing matters. The only people you should listen to for advice are people who are within 10 years of your own age—or me.” People who are more mature do not usually care as much about promotional issues and do not follow recent opportunities.
3) Visit and carefully read the websites of companies that seem to be the most interesting after the two first stages (pay special attention to what they write about peer-review, as well as to the list of editorial board members that are experts in your field, licensing Book Processing Charges, Abstracting & Indexing and other promotional services). Although I do not think that even one bogus company could pass the previous two steps, I would advice you to also search for some opinions on the Internet. There are a lot of scams in publishing nowadays so try to avoid companies that are listed on Jeffrey Beall’s list or those are mentioned on Internet forums as unreliable.
At the very end I have to stress that if you chose your publisher correctly, it means that the editors will reject your work if it is not good enough. Prepare yourself for further work after the submission of your manuscript. If your work is good, but could be better, the reviewers will help you to improve it.