Thursday, 23 July 2009

WordHustler Asked If I'd Be Interested....

I do not recommend the use of automated submissions services: writers need to target their submissions, and have to check their submissions packages for errors and omissions before they send them off. And yet such services continue to appear, and some of them are extremely pushy in their approach.

On Monday I received the following email from Anne Walls of WordHustler.


Hi Jane-

I recently found your blog and have fallen completely in love with it.

I wanted to drop you a line to tell you about my company and see if it was something you were interested in mentioning on your blog, since we, like you, are dedicated to helping writers demystify the publishing industry.

My company, WordHustler (http://www.WordHustler.com), is the world's first online submission management platform for writers. My partner John Singleton and I are two writers who grew tired of the traditional method of submitting work to publications, literary agents, publishers, writing contests and more, so we invented a way to do it better and more cost-effectively.

Writers upload their manuscripts to their free WordHustler accounts, select markets from our free database of 4,500 agents, publishers, contests, and publications, then we take care of all the physical printing and shipping of manuscripts for them.

Coming in 2010 we are launching a Digital Submission System to handle email submissions as well.

Something that really may mean something to your blog readers is the fact that we solve the hassles related to International Shipping and postage. WordHustler even offers a Virtual Office service, where we receive your physical correspondence from markets (SASEs, etc), then scan and email the results to you.

Over 5,000 writers from all over the world have already used us to submit their work, saving themselves time so they can do what they're supposed to be doing: WRITING. Our goal is to make the submission process easier and more organized for writers AND the markets who receive their work. In fact, Bnet.com called us "The Match.com for the publishing industry."

I'd love to chat more with you about WordHustler and hope it's something that interests you and your readers. We've also got a blog with lots of interviews with writers, agents, editors, etc as well as tips on writing query letters, etc that you can find here: http://wordhustlerink.wordhustler.com/

Thanks for taking the time to read this and I hope to speak with you soon!

Best,
Anne

Anne Walls
Founder Creative Director WordHustler.com - One Click to Destiny
http://www.wordhustler.com

It's good of her to say such kind words about this blog but it's odd that she claims to have only recently discovered it, as she left comment-spam here early in September 2008; crowbarred a link to Wordhustler into the comments to my Essential Reading post on the same day; and left similar links on various other blogs, which all now appear to have been deleted.

So irritated was I by her actions that I began a thread about Wordhustler over at Absolute Write and everyone there came to pretty much the same conclusion: WordHustler is probably not something the serious writer should even consider, because it just doesn't do anything that writers can't do perfectly well for themselves.

WordHustler offers a publishing directory and a print-and-post service. The writer decides who to send a query, partial or manuscript to, and downloads it all to WordHustler; and then WordHustler prints out the work, and sticks it in the mail. And it charges a premium to do so. I cannot see the value in that.

Sorry, Anne. I'm sure you're well-intentioned, but next time you start a writing-related business you might consider offering a service which offers real worth to writers, and promoting it in less intrusive ways than you've used here.

36 comments:

Nicola Morgan said...

Jane, that was really interesting. As I was reading it I was thnking, "Hang on, has Jane Smith finally gone batty? Is this April 1st all over again?" And then I realised you hadn't. And it wasn't.

Another point, if you were an agent or editor, would you really want to receive anything from a company called Wordhustler? It gives all the wrong vibes. If you're receiving an MS, you want it personally from the author, you want to smell their sweat (or maybe not literally), feel their passion through an individual response, not read an impersonally scanned and internationally mailed multi-submission that's gone to loads of other people too. Writers should think really carefully before doing this. It doesn't demystify the business, anyway, does it??

Megan said...

Jane,
I just spent ages reading through everything on this - checking the website, your post, the AW debates...

Yep, I agree with you - she won't be too happy now!

I think that although her heart was *probably* in the right place, I don't think she thought it through properly.

As many people mentioned before, agents and editors can see right through templates.

And I whole-heartly agree with Nicola Morgan, "If you're receiving an MS, you want it personally from the author, you want to smell their sweat (or maybe not literally), feel their passion through an individual response"

In re to comment spam, that's what the pitch parties are for! Let's have more! We have want to advertise our blogs/books but commenting about them in the comments isn't cool.

And when Anne said that everyone has a tag of their book/blog under their name? Yeah maybe, but did you read her comments?! The whole thing was about her site! Not one line at the end!

I'm behind you, Jane!

Jarred said...

I had the same reaction as Nicola. I wondered why this spam was posted here. May I suggest putting your reaction first or a quick health warning before her letter to frame the post.

keep fighting the good fight,

Jarred

P.S. I don't think it's words they hustle.

catdownunder said...

I kept reading and thinking, "But I can do all this myself and I do not have to pay myself to do it. I will also know exactly what I have done with my ms. All it takes is a little organisation - and courage.
If I cannot speak for myself why am I trying to write?"

emmadarwin said...

Most writing forums get someone jumping in and promoting this kind of site every six months or so - I've lost count of how many I've seen. Some are well-intentioned frustrated writers, some are just a way of squeezing some money out of aspiring writers. It all makes quite good sense, if you know nothing about what makes agents and editors tick.

The point that these people don't get is that the system may look broken from the aspiring writer point of view, but it isn't from the agents'. It's not ideal, it has its glitches - what system doesn't - but generally speaking they do find the books they want.

green_knight said...

I won't say that hiring a secretary to manage one's submissions isn't tempting for a writer: someone who gets things in the mail, logs rejections without feeling discouraged, sniffs out new markets and sends off the appropriate package - if I had the funds, I'd outsorce that part of the submission process.

To someone who will manage the task intelligently. With my own query letter. (I know agents don't want to be queried by third parties, but really, where's the difference between me cutting and pasting my query letter and my hypothetical secretary doing so?)

What you don't want is an automated service that sends the same template to all five thousand potential markets, and does the same for every mss they submit.

I've got my own submissions database for Fantasy/SF novels, and it took a lot of research to make sure they're legitimate and suitable for my particular needs, and I've been sending out query letter, 1, 2, 5, 10 pages, and 1-page and 2-3 page synopses. If the author provides all those in their own words, I don't see the evil in someone else sticking stamps on envelopes. If the author doesn't, then 'dear agent, here's a novel' will self-select against users of that service.

ChrisH said...

Hmm, interesting stuff. Thanks for telling us, Jane. I won't be doing the wordhustle.

Dan Holloway said...

I'm not going to comment on the clear dialectic of this post. I will comment on the content, though. I enter competitions, and I submit to journals. I write my pieces for each with care and consideration (sorry, Jane - I know I made a hash of the first piece I sent you a coupl of weeks ago, but I really had considered the structure and purpose of your blog - my bad for being dim, not my bad for being lazy) for the requirements of the place to which I am submitting. If I do write a general piece I rather like, I will look around for the most suitable outlet. Any other approach would be lazy and discourteous. To me a submission platform that removes the element of personal selection (filtered directories sure, but what's wrong with duotrope?) is only one step away from a spam generator.

If you DO want a widget that's great for writers, can I recommend Bookbuzzr, which I've just discovered at www.freado.com It has elements of overlap with google books buyt the way the widget is cuistomisable seems to me to have been designed with authors rather than a company in mind.

Dan Holloway said...

I've looked through the comments now. Nicola, yes - it doesn't demystify the business, just keeps authors ignorant. For a newbie like me, the way to demystify is to do lots of research and ask lots of questions and have as much and as close contact with people on the inside as possible. Something whose purpose is to place me at arm's length does the opposite.

Disagree about the name, though. I'm sure David Sullivan would be impressed to receive a submission.

Emma, I make no secret of the fact I do think the system is broken, although I admit that's only from my perspective. I have to say, though, there are people within it I would give my eye teeth to work with, so I do still make a submission or two with my novels (that said, I have only found 6 names I would like to handle my literary novels, and all for very specific reasons - I wouldn't dream of spamming any of the other already busy agents out there). If I were to try and do something about said broken system, though, it would hardly be to play it badly, which is what this seems to amount to.

And a general point. Sending something like this (that even uses the same words as the comment in your link) to you, is rather like saying to a giant panda, "here, can you look after my bamboo shoot bouquet whilst I powder my nose". The one thing it demonstrates is that your blog hasn't been fully read (which isn't a very good advert for an intermediary).

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

I second Green Knight. The idea is certainly intriguing and it would be nice to have someone else go to the post office for me. But it would have to be totally personal. Agents don't even like getting a BCC email, they can tell if it's not personal to them. The company would have to mask itself so that the agent doesn't know it's coming from a third person.

Eric said...

Thanks for letting us newer writers about this. I might have considered it (probably not, but maybe) if I had been contacted, and that probably would have been a mistake.

Vanessa said...

Interesting. Being my usual naive self, I suspect it is well-intentioned at base, with an overlay of 'I may have spotted a gap ing the market'.
I would not use something like this, though. I have no idea of the standard of their final submissions.

Would it be cheeky to ask for a breakdown of the numbers of sumbissions they have made in the last 12 months, on behalf of writer - and then the numbers of successful ones that have led to someone's work being picked up?

Would they give such stats anyway?

Oh the world is full of questions!

TOM J VOWLER said...

I'm amazed that writers have been published at all without this 'online submission management platform'. It sounds great.

Personally, I can't wait for 2010 and the launch of the 'Digital Submission System' (caps?).

(Can anyone enlighten me on what the 'hassles related to International Shipping' (caps?) are? Thanks.)

Hmmm.

Jane Smith said...

Just to avoid confusion I've edited in a little para at the top of my original post, to make it clear that I don't support these services. Thanks for that suggestion, Jarred.

Dan Holloway said...

Jane, in a wonderful case of timing, could I point you and other readers to the latest post at BookEnds:

http://bookendslitagency.blogspot.com/

where the blogger makes it clear that the hint of multiple submissions is the very first thing to spark an instant rejection. I think anyone thinking of spending on this service would do well to read what an agent says on the matter, which offers a ringing endorsement of your post.

DanielB said...

'Hustler' isn't a great start as a name, is it? Makes me think of those scammers on BBC3 who pinch people's wallets from bars and so on.

[word ver: 'prighep' - someone who is simultaneously uptight and a cool cat.]

Nicola Morgan said...

Vanessa - I don't think you're naive, just kind-hearted.

But I happen to think there's nothing advantageous to authors about the hustlers business model at all. It simply does not provide a service which would be more likely to get an author picked up - in fact, I strongly suspect it would make the author less likely to be taken on. To be honest, it's a version of spam - so the agents and publishers all get bombarded with submissions from a digital intermediary? Wow, that's really going to help.

I have no problem at all with people coming up with money-making ideas, or with people helping authors get properly published, but this doesn't do the latter.

Ironically, while claiming to demystify the publishing process, the wordhustlers have only succeeded in displaying their lack of understanding of the crucial part of it: how to get a publisher or agent.

Lauri Kubuitsile said...

You did right by pointing out the scam of this prospect besides the fact, as others have said, it will likely not be successful for the writer.

Teresa Ashby said...

Great post, Jane. Glad you took up her suggestion to mention her company on your blog - but I bet she isn't!

Stephanie said...

I don't think I could ever trust my work and submissions to a stranger.

miss pitch said...

Agents are in business (the one that makes money). They want a professional letter, addressed to them personally, in the appropriate form. How much mail do you bin per day because it is addressed to 'The Occupier', 'The Homeowner', or the previous tenant? Even if WordHustler isn't doing this, they cannot possibly match each agent with a writer's work. It isn't what they are about. Unfortunately, as a writer, you need to seek out the right agent (usually by knowing their preferences from the writers they represent), scrub your submission and slick its hair down properly before sending it in, on clean white paper.

Maggie Dana said...

Megan said she thought WordHustler's heart was *probably* in the right place. I'm sure it was.

In her wallet.

A word about 'Hustler.' In the U.S., that's the name of a porn magazine.

'nuff said.

behlerblog said...

Like Nicola, I thought you'd lost your marbles or were trying for an April Fool's repeat.

The sad thing about these "services" is that agents and editors can smell them a mile away. So now not only do we hold our nose at companies such as WordHustler, but we do the same toward the author.

As much as authors detest writing their query and synopsis, it's a fact that no one can do it better than the author. This is just another scheme to separate authors from their wallets. The pox on all of them.

Kathryn Magendie said...

I'd never use a service like that, ever. And, as Co-Editor/Publisher of the Rose & Thorn zine, if I received something from a service instead of from the writer, chances are I wouldn't consider it.

annettefix said...

I received a nearly identical email asking me to recommend the service to the students in my agent workshop.

I guess there are more than words being hustled.

Donna Hosie said...

At the end of the day, if a writer can devote time to the actual hard graft of writing a novel, then they can find the time to write their own query and synopsis. Researching agents and finding out about their own particular requirements is all part of the learning curve.

No one should feel tempted to cut corners because an agent will spot it a mile off and you'll be rejected before you are even out of the blocks - and all that hard grafting in the first place has just gone down the toilet!

Fran Walker said...

I can see that there could well be a market for a service that prints and mails hard-copy manuscripts within the USA for overseas writers. I live in New Zealand, and it costs me about a hundred dollars in postage to ship a full manuscript to the US. If someone would print out my exact documents and post them with a SASE for the agent's/publisher's response (with airmail stamp) in a box bearing my name and address -- yeah, I'd pay a fee for that, because it'd be bound to work out cheaper than paying international postage.

But it doesn't look like that's what WordHustler is about, unfortunately.

Fran Walker

catdownunder said...

Living in Australia the postage is also an issue. It is not always possible to work through an Australian agent - and, in the end, you pay anyway. I still do not think that is an excuse to use something like Wordhustler.

Philip S said...

Manuscript postage can, of course, get very expensive. Especially if you live in Australia, but increasingly agents are now quite happy to accept full manuscripts electronically. Although I always give my agent a proper print-out, I've discovered that subsequent submissions, especially to potential foreign publishers, are almost always done via e-mail. Apparently hand-held readers (blackberries?) are now a standard. That said, full unsolicited manuscripts should never be sent to agents of publishers. The personal inquiry must be done first, usually by letter. So I have to agree that a 'submission service' is likely to be worse than useless where most writers are concerned.

BuffySquirrel said...

I had no idea who Bnet.com, who apparently endorsed this service, were, so I looked them up. Ah, we sqrls!

They're a site for business professionals all about getting it done better, faster, more efficiently etc. So this would probably get their approval cos it looks efficient...and cos they know nothing about publishing.

Anonymous said...

Jane,

I am new to the literary world and have done a lot of blog reading and research to familiarize myself with the subculture and your latest post sadly solidifies what I have found.
The mean-spirited snobbery associated with what is supposed to be a creative, open-minded community is ridiculous. Here is a woman trying spread the word about her business (are people really that uptight that WordHustler is an obscenity?)and you are going out of your way to gossip about her. Are you a professional or still stuck in high school? And for the record I used their services to send out my first submissions ever and guess what IT WAS GREAT. I'M GETTING PUBLISHED. So I'll stick with Anne and let her continue to hustle my words for me. Kimberly Gyatso

Jane Smith said...

Congratulations on your publishing deal, Kimberly. Who is your publisher, and/or agent? When is your book due to hit the shelves? Did your deal come about as a direct result of your use of WordHustler? And how much did using WordHustler cost you?

I'm interested to know because your answers might well help disprove some of my scepticism about WordHustler; and because despite my valiant attempts I can find no record of a writer called Kimberly Gyatso with a publication pending.

BuffySquirrel said...

Jane, did you check PublishAmerica?

Jane Smith said...

Buffy, I think we might be twins. Or something.

I tried PA, and Amazon (UK and USA), and Google. I found no record of Kimberly but according to Sitemeter someone from Wordhustler was visiting this blog at the same time as she left her comment. I'm sure that's just a coincidence.

BuffySquirrel said...

Maybe you should try searching on Kimberly Sockpuppet.

Kiskadee said...

Very Mean Grin....

Word verication:

nosilit

Lit for nosey people