|Never assume. Always Investigate.|
1. Is the publisher asking you for money?
If the answer is yes, run. A publisher who takes a percentage of your sales while also asking for upfront money is a scam. These publishers are not to be confused with printers used by authors who self-publish. A printer will charge to print your book, and may offer editorial services for additional fees, but once the book is printed, it is yours. A scam publisher will charge you money and take a percentage of your sales.
2. Does the publisher produce quality material?
I never submit to a publisher without looking at books they've published. Sometimes a quick preview on Amazon is all I need to tell me a publisher is not one I want to work with. Other times, if the work appears professional, I buy at least one book to read. If the writing and editing are well done, I will submit.
3. Is the publisher a recognized publisher by a writer's association?
I am a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and illustrators (SCBWI) and the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). Both have lists of recognized publishers that have met certain criteria. The ACFW list is very reliable, as they monitor it closely. The SCBWI list, not so much, but it's a place to start. There are many other writer's organizations out there. Being able to check with them in regards to who is a legitimate publisher and who is not is one of the huge advantages of being a member.
4. How long has the publisher been in operation?
Everyone is new at one point, and even established publishers have gone out of business, but as a rule of thumb, I like to see that a publisher has been in operation for at least five years.
5. What do other authors published by this house have to say about it?
Okay, you probably wouldn't want to contact authors about their house while you're submitting, but before you sign a publishing contract, it's probably a good idea. A legitimate house will not be offended that you spoke with one of their authors about them.
6. Check out the Predators & Editors website. While no website can possibly expose every scammer, they have done a pretty good job of compiling the worst serial offenders.
Are you published with a small press? Are you happy with them?