I'm receiving pressure from several writing friends to submit to two different publishers. What is your opinion regarding submissions in the LDS Market for a first time author? Do you think they should start out with the top LDS publishers, or try for some of the smaller publishers, and what do you see as the benefits or disadvantages of each?
First off, submitting to the "top" publisher and working your way down the popularity list is not the smartest way to work. Look first for a good match with your book. The "top" publisher may not publish your type of book and to submit to them would be a waste of your time and money, and theirs.
Visit DB and/or Seagull—in person or on line. Find books that are on the shelf/site that are similar to yours—similar in genre, topic, etc. Make a list of those publishers. Then go to their websites and carefully read their submission guidelines, which usually include what types of books they're looking for.
You're also looking for whether they accept multiple submissions or if they require an exclusive. If they require exclusives, plan on your mss being in their hands for up to 6 months. This makes is a very slow process.
Once you've got your list of publishers that are a good match for what you've written, talk to any authors you know who publish with them. See if you can get them to give you their honest opinion on things like how easy the editors are to work with, the amount of time it takes to get from acceptance to store shelf, how much publicity and marketing they do. If you find an author who just raves about their publisher, you might consider putting that company at the top of your list.
Bigger publisher. Advantages—they have more money to promote/market your book; they generally accept a higher number of mss in a year; they have name brand recognition so your book will probably sell better. Disadvantages—you're one of many authors they're working with; if another book explodes, they'll concentrate on them and your book may be neglected if it's not selling as well.
Smaller publisher. Advantages—you generally get more personal interaction with the editor/publisher; they need your book to sell so they'll focus on it. Disadvantages—they don't have the budget or the connections of the big guys. No signing tours or other perks.
Here's some info from Evil Editor. Click this link:
Large Press, Small Press, Short Press, Tall Press
Then copy and paste the title in his search box.