This comes up because I just ran across International Thriller Writers and their requirements to be a recognized publisher. They’ve got a nice set of criteria (downloadable as a DOC file – yeah, I know) from the above page. The questions there really get to the essence of what makes a publisher a publisher. The SFWA criteria isn’t bad, and it’s certainly impartial. But these questions really reflect more than just whether or not someone’s established and has a bunch of cash.
Self published writers are not automatically excluded from being a qualified publisher, but they bear a higher burden to demonstrate their status.
I think that’s cool. It gets to the idea that being a publisher is less about what you pay, and more about how you behave. It’s a good checklist for authors as well. Is the publisher (large or small) behaving in a way that they could answer these questions well?
It’s not about getting a perfect score – as ITW’s website says:
Again, no one factor is determinative, nor would the lack of one be fatal. Recognizing that good judgment and reasonableness should always govern, any and all determinations of whether a publisher is qualified will be made on a case-by-case basis.
That said, this may help illuminate whether or not your publisher is actually doing right by you … and your story.