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Question
Cathy, I am a teenage author who has recently published three books with Wordclay.com.  I know that it is a good start for publishing and I know my series might have a shot in the real world.  But I am lost on how to do this.  I know my grammar is not the best in the world, so I am afraid that a literary agent will shoot me down, and every time I think about going back to the first book and rewriting, I'm told that the book is good enough as is.  What should I do?  Will an agent deny my manuscript if my editing isn't top notch?

Answer
Hi, Thomas!

Sorry for the delay in responding, but I've been doing a little reading up about Wordclay. I didn't know much about the company so I couldn't decide how to answer your question until I did. Unfortunately, I'm not sure who told you "it is a good start for publishing." It's not. It's a way to see your book in print form, which is something I suppose. But a "shot?" I fear not. Author Solutions is the company which owns Wordclay, and also owns AuthorHouse, iUniverse Exlibris and several other companys which are known subsidy publishers. While they don't charge the author, they charge a higher than average price to the buyer, limiting sales. Several I looked at on Amazon showed a price from $11.95 to $21.95, for books of 88 pages and 150 pages. Considering the list price for a typical trade softcover (which is the format they use to print on POD presses) is $14.95 for 250-300 pages, the chances are low the general public will purchase the book unless it's a VERY unique book.

Another of the primary problems with books produced by subsidy publishers. Once they're available for sale in the marketplace, the potential sales can be seen as "diluted" by a mainstream publisher. A publisher might feel that all of the potential buyers have already purchased it from the other company and there isn't enough interest left to buy from them. Sending it to an agent at this point is much like taking a book off the shelf of the store and sending it to an agent to sell again. It's already out there. It already IS published, so there's nothing left to sell.

That said, however, if there haven't been many sales, and you haven't offered the book for free to a bunch of people on blogs or such, then there's a chance an agent might consider there's still sales potential. In order to interest an agent, you're going to have to go back to square one. You don't say whether you paid for the editing option by Wordclay, but you're not allowed to use their changes. Their Terms of Use specifically state:

"You acknowledge that you may not utilize the formatted Work and cover with any other publisher, if we cease publication of the Work."

So, to submit the book to an agent to sell again, you'll have to start with your original manuscript. If your grammer isn't very good, then that could be a problem. Yes, there are agents out there who will work with you to correct issues with the book if they really like the story. But a lot depends on what's wrong. It might be a good idea to seek a few beta readers who AREN'T family or friends who are known readers of your genre of book. There are a lot of writer websites out there that have a section to ask for beta readers (NOT display sites, where people vote on the book--which is a whole different thing.) You might want to join one. A few I frequent are:

AbsoluteWrite (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums)
WritersNet (http://www.writers.net/forum
Writers BBS (http://www.writersbbs.com/forums/#chat)
WritersWeekly (http://forums.writersweekly.com/)

You'll get both good advice and good suggestions on writing queries, synopses and bringing your grammar and composition up to snuff for mainstream publishers.

Hope that helps a little. I'm sorry the news isn't better, but there's still hope for your series. It'll take a little work, but that's the case with any of us! :D

Good luck!

Cathy

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Cathy Clamp

Expertise

I'm happy to answer questions about any aspect of writing novels, from the beginning kernel of an idea through completion. I can help with writing a query letter and synopsis to an agent or editor. I can explain publishing terminology and acronyms. I can also assist with questions about verifying the credentials of agents/publishers and how to proceed once you've been accepted for publication. I can teach the rules of formatting a manuscript, creating viable plots, characterization and flow in the following genres: romance, science fiction, fantasy, thrillers, suspense, horror, women's fiction, mainstream and mystery.

Experience

I'm a USA Today bestselling author of urban fantasy and paranormal romance for Tor/Forge Books. Along with a co-author, I've published fifteen novels (combination of mass market and trade softcover) since 2003, and have contracts for four more books through 2011.

Organizations
Romance Writers of America, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Western Outdoor Writers, Horror Writers of America.

Publications
Tor/Forge Books, Western Reflections Publishing, BenBella Books, Running Press, Wild Child Publishing. Many others.

Education/Credentials
My educational background is limited to real life experience of publishing novels commercially for the past five years.

Awards and Honors
USA Today bestseller, Waldenbooks Mass Market Paperback Top 20 bestseller, Nielsen BookScan Top 20 bestseller, RT BOOKreviews Career Achievement Award winner, 2009, Book Buyers Best Award for Paranormal, Romantic Times Best Werewolf Novel, Write Touch Readers Award, EVVY Best Historical Chronicle Award, The Lories Best Paranormal. Many others.

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