(image from NY Mag. It is a very attractive (but wrinkled!) book.)
The best reason to pick a publisher is because you like the books they publish.
So the process should go like this:
1. Read lots of books. Read as many of them as you can get your hands on! Read them even if you don’t think you’re going to like them. The best way to get a sense of the creative identity of a publisher is to read all the books they publish. Luckily, there are libraries (and inter-library loans) to help you with this project.
2. Note who the publisher is on the books that you like. You can find this out by looking at the spine, which will typically have a publisher logo on it. Or you can look at the copyright page, which will say something along the lines of ‘this book is published by THE BEST OF ALL PUBLISHERS, NAME HERE.’
3. Take a look at the lists you’ve been making of publishers. Do you have a clear top three/five? Those are probably who you should submit your books to!
4. But wait: before you submit your project: is your book the kind of book that the publishers you like are publishing? If you’re reading romance comics but are actually writing a noir murder mystery, you need to readjust your thinking here and just consider publishers who would be interested in the type of comics you’re writing.
5. Wait some more: are the books that you like published relatively recently? If you’re saying, ‘Man, I really like what DC is doing with this Vertigo imprint’ but only reading books from the 1990s, you should probably check to make sure that the things you like about Vertigo match up with their current output of graphic novels. What First Second is publishing now, in 2014, is pretty different from what we were publishing back when we first started in 2006.
Then submit your book proposal!
And just think, with all this reading you’ve been doing, you’re going to have a great explanation for why you want to be published by this publisher: you really like their books.