Frequently Asked Questions
Whether you are a seasoned author or someone who wants to dip their toes into publishing, questions always come up about the process. We’ll try to answer some FAQ’s here.
1. What are the goals of publishers––and agents? What are they looking for?
• To make money and stay in business while fulfilling their individual company’s mission.
• To publish books they believe are worthwhile.
• To publish books that have a decade-long backlist potential (rare, but still a good goal).
• To discover the next great communicators of our time.
• Since “nothing is new under the sun,” to see fresh ideas that tell the “old, old story” in new and culturally relevant ways.
• To publish authors who know how to write, so people can’t wait to get to the next paragraph and chapter.
• To see proposals and sample chapters that answer all of the questions their marketing and sales folks will ask (questions like: unique selling hook, competition, author platform, previous sales history, etc.).
• To have authors that are willing to pay the price to promote their own books through social networking and other marketing/ PR activities. Make no mistake: the author is the primary marketer of his or her book.
• To develop career authors, not those who are “one book wonders.” (Meaning: Have more than one pretty good idea before you approach a publisher or agent).
•Authors who have good hearts and who understand that the agent/author dynamic is a partnership that can have far-reaching effects on their career far beyond simply selling that first book to a publisher.
2. What are some tips for getting started as an author?
• If you are a non-fiction author: understand that it takes two to ten years to build a strong enough platform to sell most non-fiction books.
• If you are a fiction author: study the craft, take workshops, have others read your work, and diligently try to master the art of fiction rather than shooting your first completed manuscript off to agents after typing “The End.”
• Spend a lot more time rewriting than you did writing, with the input of a critique partner or other objective reader.
• Work on creative book titles and chapter titles. Run them by several people who are avid readers.
• Go on Amazon.com and visit a local bookstore regularly to become very familiar with other books that are in your genre.
• Talk to anyone and everyone you know who is connected to publishing. Referrals to editors and agents are often the best way to get your material looked at.
• Plan to attend a high quality writer’s conference near your home.
3. I’m not sure I’m ready for the “big show” of getting my book published by a normal publisher. What are some tips for getting self-published?
• Edit or find someone who will edit ruthlessly. Don’t scrimp on doing something that is “good enough.” If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.
• Keep it under 50,000 to 60,000 words for non-fiction; 110,000 words for fiction.
• Make sure your title is a good one. Do the market research needed so it zings.
• Find a good self-publishing house who can give you good prices. Options are expanding every day; decide if you want print or just an e-book.
• Don’t go the hokey cover route. Spend some dough on a good cover.
• Make sure the title on the book spine is readable (don’t use script).
• Contact Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com yourself to sell your books on these sites. Realize you likely won’t get the book into bookstores unless a real publisher decides to take it on.
4. What if I have good content but can’t write too well?
The hardest thing for some people (mainly more “speaker-type” communicators) to do is admit they have the content, but not the skill to put the content together in a way that people will read and act upon it. The best thing to do is to find a professional writer who will either mentor your own writing development, or get to know you so well that he or she knows your heart and voice. It’s not a sin to be a good steward of your time and let someone else do the wordsmithing.
5. What should I expect from a good literary agent?
• Tells you the truth about your ideas and your writing.
• Helps you create a proposal that answers all of the publisher’s questions so there is no delay in the decision-making process.
• Advises on whether it is better to write the book yourself or use a professional collaborator.
• Saves you months of time by sending your proposal presentation to the right editor at the right publishing houses (and knows these editors well enough to call them).
• Answers publisher questions about you as the author, or the material (basically, says the truthful things about you that you shouldn’t be saying about yourself).
• Negotiates aggressively the pertinent details of the publishing agreement, representing your interests. (Publishers have teams of lawyers and accountants protecting their interests. You should have someone knowledgeable protecting yours.)
• Makes sure the contract is letter-perfect.
• Handles any potential conflicts with you and the publisher (title or cover issues, marketing promises not kept, and a thousand other details that come up along the way).
• Helps guide your writing career to ensure you’re publishing books that are right for you, written from your heart, and good for your long-term publishing potential.
• Communicates with you often; gets back with you in a reasonable amount of time when you have questions (24 hours, usually).
• Charges not more than 15% (of the author’s share for as long as the book is in print).
6. I’ve heard there are different types of literary agents and agencies. What type are you?
WordServe could best be described as an “editorial literary agency.” We care about the content, how it’s presented, if it’s got “the goods,” and if there is a need for the project in the market. We work hard on the front end to ensure that all of the questions are answered for the publisher. Oftentimes, because of the writing and book experience of all the agents, manuscripts and proposals are edited before they go out the door (as part of the service of the agency). This fact, combined with negotiating and contract expertise, long-term career guidance, and a responsive and caring advocate, makes the services of WordServe different from many other agents in the industry.
7. Is your agency accepting new authors?
It’s VERY tough these days for a new author to get published… and it won’t be getting any easier as time goes on. If you haven’t noticed, publishers are cutting their lists (some by half) and being selective about who and what they publish. Everyone wants to stay in business, so they have to make priority decisions.
That said, we are all looking for new voices who write well, are culturally relevant, and who have the ability to promote their work.
So, yes, we look for the new voices for future generations of readers. (Please see the “Submission Guidelines” link on how to best submit a proposal for consideration.)
8. Does your agency offer a written contract?
Yes, on every client.
9. What does your agency charge?
WordServe is a 15 percent agency that does not charge for any other services unless mutually agreed upon ahead of time.
If you have other questions about WordServe’s services, please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.