Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Quick Look At

I took a look at WordHustler recently, to see what it has to offer children's book writers. WordHustler is a web-based service that provides a set of tools to writers (in all genres) to help them manage their manuscript submissions. For a fee, WordHustler will package and submit your manuscripts to the markets you've chosen, complete with SASE, thus freeing up more of your time so that you can focus on your writing.

Fees: Fees appear to be based on a per-project (manuscript) submission. I did not see any indication of monthly fees. A submission under four pages in length will cost you 99 cents to have WordHustler send out for you. Ten pages goes for $3.99, twenty for $5.99, thirty pages for $6.99, fifty for $8.99 and anything longer goes for ten cents a page. The fees include having WordHustler print out your cover letter, your manuscript, attach a SASE and put the whole package into a stamped mailing envelope to send off to the publisher you've chosen, either from their market database or to a publisher you've found elsewhere. Once your manuscript is uploaded to the WordHustler site, it looks like they store it for you. You have password-protected access to your projects area.

I ran a couple of scenarios to see how cost-effective WordHustler might be for me. My average picture book or early-reader submission might run six pages. Add a cover letter and I have seven pages total. WordHustler would charge me $3.99 to submit my manuscript for me. What would it cost to submit myself? Here's how my costs break down:

.084 cents - paper for manuscript plus cover letter
.32 cents - HP printer ink for 7 pages
.18 cents - one 9x12 white envelope, pull-and-seal, heavy duty
.055 cents - one #10 envelope for SASE
.59 cents - SASE postage (assuming 2 ounces)
.01 cent - paperclip (decorative)
1.00 - postage to mail packaged manuscript,2 ounces, First class, coast-to-coast

Total: $2.24 to submit a picture book manuscript on my own, or I could pay WordHustler $3.99 to do it for me. They would also use mailing labels, making the submission look neater than what I would normally be able to achieve on my own.

Next, I looked at a middle-grade manuscript, and assumed the editor wanted to see the first 3 chapters, a 2 page synopsis, and a cover letter, or 28 pages total. Here are my costs:

.34 - paper
1.28 - ink
.18 - one 9x12 envelope
.055 - one #10 envelope for SASE
.42 - SASE postage (for reply only, assume manuscript can be recycled.)
.14 - small binder clip
1.68 - postage to mail packaged manuscript, 6 oz, First class, coast-to-coast

Total: $4.10 for this submission if mailed on my own. Wordhustler would charge $6.99 to send this for me.

Aside from handling the submission of your manuscript, what else do you get for your money? Some immediate things come to mind:

- Off-site data storage: I don't know about you, but I've been evacuated twice from my home because of wildfires. I took the computer with me the first time, not the second. What would you do if you lost all your work? Even if you have it backed up, where is your back-up stored? Once your work is uploaded onto WordHustler's site, you've got off-site storage of your stuff. (You should of course continue to keep copies of your work on your own computer.) If WordHustler really doesn't charge a monthly fee, just a per-project fee, you're getting a great deal. I don't know of any cheaper way to get off-site data storage.
- Project management: Wordhustler gives you a handy way of keeping track of what you sent to which publisher, what got rejected, when it was rejected, and all that good stuff. You can see your submissions history and (hopefully) use that history to make some good decisions about future submissions. If you don't already have a system that you use, WordHustler provides a good one for you.
- Protected storage: I'm always leary about putting up my work on a site where I don't have a lot of control. WordHustler appears to use protected storage so that your work can't be crawled by search engines. It uses authentication methods to keep your work secure from unauthorized access.
- Extended Office: WordHustler calls this their VirtualOffice. You can set up your service so that they receive your SASE replies, and they update your project status for you. You can check your project status wherever you happen to be. I'm not clear on all the details on how this works - do they fat-finger in the editor's reply? Do they scan it in? Is there an additional charge for this service? I find the VirtualOffice concept to be very intriguing.

About the only really frustrating thing I noticed about their site was the search capability when I was trying to view their market listings. (Anyone can search for free.) The search didn't seem to search the tags or the body of the text - only the main headings. For example, I tried searching on the word "children" in the agents listings, and got no hits, even though there were several agents listed who handled children's books in their "Interested In" descriptions. I suspect that this is something that will improve over time, or perhaps registered users are provided a better search feature.

I didn't spend enough time looking at WordHustler. I definitely think it is worth a closer look, particularly for the data storage and project management benefits. If WordHustler does not charge monthly fees for storing your manuscripts, this is definitely something that I would be interested in using. I recommend that you take a look for yourself and decide if the services offered by WordHustler are something that might work for you.

1 comment:

Anne Walls said...

Thanks so much for the great write-up! I wanted to let you know that WordHustler does not charge a fee for project storage or anything like that. The only thing we charge for is the printing and shipping of manuscripts. We also offer the VirtualOffice service, which you mentioned, as well as price-effective, optional Reply Cards to include in your submissions.

We are in the process of developing a monthly membership system which would offer email access to all of our markets, especially the markets that require email submissions. That way for a low monthly fee, you can keep all of your projects organized in the same sophisticated tracking system WordHustler provides.

Thanks so much for exploring WordHustler and please feel free to try us out. Everyone's first submission is free!

Good luck writing!

Anne Walls
WordHustler Co-Founder