Last time, I talked a little about how to find a reputable publisher. In a world where it seems like a new publishing company crops up every other day, and companies go out of business nearly as often, it's becoming especially important to know who you're working with before you get in too far.
Other authors can be your best allies in the publisher search. You're on social networking sites, right? And you follow/friend/whatever other authors, as well as readers? If not, get thee hence to Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr at the very least. Start forming connections with other authors as well as with potential readers. Don't annoy them, but see what they have to say. And see who their publishers are.
Many times when a publisher isn't what they say they are, or when a company starts going under, there are whispers about it online before anything official is announced. I recently learned that a romance publisher I was considering--who also has a YA imprint--is nearly bankrupt and doing some shady things with authors' royalties. I found this out on the Absolute Write forum and because I follow three authors who are with that company who were forthcoming about the difficulties. Needless to say, I won't be submitting to the company now. But had I not found out what was going on, I would have.
That's why it's so, so very important to make sure you do your research before you submit. Authors sometimes mention things on social media, or at least hint at problems. They blog about them, so if you know an author who's with a publisher you're considering, it might be worthwhile to find that author's blog and see if they're talking about their publisher at all.
Authors also sometimes give information in venues like Absolute Write's Bewares and Background Checks forum, http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=22. They send information to Preditors and Editors, http://pred-ed.com/. The Writer Beware blog is another great resource, http://www.sfwa.org/for-authors/writer-beware/.
As you make your list of potential publishers to submit your work to, make use of these resources to help you navigate to the best possible companies.
By the way, I'm aware that I'm focusing on publishers in these posts, while many of you probably have or are seeking agents. I have no experience with agents, other than having submitted to one who never responded, which is why I'm being a bit publisher-centric at the moment. However, the resources I've listed above discuss agents and agencies as well as publishers, authors sometimes talk about their agents, and many agents use social media to connect with readers and authors, so they're still good resources whichever path you're following. I'll blog more about agents in coming posts, but I have to do a little more homework first.