I've had a few curious experiences with publishers as I've been shopping around my novel, Mute.
One publisher, I ain't naming names, asked me for $1,000 up front and then he would kick in $5,000 to publish the book. He says he's asking only the best authors to pay and it's because it's so tough to sell a book. So what do I get? A print-on-demand book with art and a "media kit." What, is that like one of those do-it-yourself plane kits?
I know it's hard to sell a book, but I could put it on Amazon or make it available on the iPad for virtually no investment on my part. I want a publisher for credibility (it can get reviewed by journals and newspapers) and for their expertise in marketing and product placement. Besides, how do I know this publisher would really spend $5,000 on my book? I saw a lot of negative blog posts about this publisher, so I declined.
Several publishers have responded by saying that they aren't accepting any novel submissions now (although Writer's Market clearly says they are), but they'd love for me to enter my novel in their contest - for a fee. Must credible publishers don't charge a "reading fee" for submissions. Making contests the only way to submit is basically the same thing.
Writing fiction is a tough business, as a recent Wall Street Journal story said that even moderately successful authors can barely scrap out a living. (My wife thinks we're getting a mansion after I sell my first book LOL.) I'm still pursuing it. If I wanted to be rich, I wouldn't have gotten into journalism.
So I have four books written and I just started working on another one. A preview of two novels are on Authonomy.com. Just search for "Mute" or "The Centauri Generation."
Coming to a bookstore near you...one day.