I recently had the opportunity to chat with Kristine Pratt, CEO of Written World Communications!
Hi Kristine, welcome to ICFW!
You’ve recently launched a brand new publishing company, Written World Communications. Tell us a bit about that journey and how you got to this point.
This is almost like asking me to write a book! I’ll try to be as brief as possible.
I was always a writer. From the time I was six I wrote and kept this up until marriage and five children in a ten year span halted me for a bit. Once I had time to breathe again, I started going to writer’s conferences and doing what I thought was normal – learning everything I could about the industry. Oddly enough God kept nudging me away from getting published myself and instead into situations where I found myself first working for Terry Burns as his editorial assistant, and later to Jeff Gerke as his assistant…er…at the same time.
In all of this, I attempted to absorb absolutely everything I could about every aspect of publishing without having any idea at all where I was going with it. Still, God had a plan, and most certainly his own timing. One morning as I awoke, I sat up with the knowledge that I would be a publisher. Still half asleep I contacted a writer friend who greeted me with the words, “We’re going to publish magazines.” I sat for a moment in surprise and finally said, “Yes, five. And these are their names….” From that moment Written World Communications was born.
Since that time, God has done amazing things with WWC. Every time we have had a need, someone has been brought to us that filled that void. Currently there are ten individuals in the company, all of which are volunteers. Our goal is to set the world on fire, one story at a time. We’re always seeking new book and magazine submissions that will do just that, and currently we have two books under contract for 2010!
What are you looking for in submissions at the moment?
Right now we’re going to sound like every other publisher out there and say what we’re looking for is a good, solid story. In magazine articles, we have various specific need from stories and articles for young adults, for adults in any genre, and especially stories written BY youth aged 13- 19. In books, we’re open to any genres, and even length is open to negotiation though we’d prefer manuscripts less than 90,000 words. Right in this moment we’re really interested in International Fiction, Young Adult, Romance, Suspense, and Speculative Fiction.
What are your thoughts on International Fiction, and why do you think authors sometimes have a hard time placing books that have foreign settings?
I’ve always enjoyed reading stories about faraway places, and feel strongly that I’m not the only one who is an armchair tourist. Currently there’s a general feeling in the marketplace that books in foreign settings don’t sell, so publishers really aren’t actively looking for this sort of manuscript. Sadly I think this is a case much like we see with speculative fiction readers – there are people out there looking eagerly for this sort of story and just aren’t finding it.
Will there be a place for International Fiction at WWC?
Yes! At WWC we love books that take us around the world (and occasionally outside of it) and so we’re making a special effort to make a home just for them. In fact we have a new line of International Fiction books in the works and are looking eagerly for that first manuscript that meets the criteria in order to launch it properly.
How will WWC differ from other publishers out there, what do you hope will make your company stand out from the crowd?
WWC is something of a pioneer in something I call “Gap Publishing.” Gap Publishing is quite simply…publishing those books that fall into one of two categories. The first is books that generally are considered something that for one reason or another don’t fit in CBA publishing…but are still too Christian for ABA publishing. The second is books that for books that just aren’t currently being published in the CBA. We actually embrace niche publishing! With our POD distribution and our primary target being internet sales, we can keep our overhead down to where we’re not requiring that huge return in order to make back expenses…and can therefore take on projects that the mainstream publishers might consider too risky or just not popular enough at the moment to merit their investment.
There are other small publishers out there doing the exact same thing, so we know we’re not alone in this mindset. Marcher Lord Press, Port Yonder, and Splashdown Books come to mind as just a few examples of other small presses stepping into the gap. So really we’re not looking so much at standing out from the crowd so much as finding a new crowd to stand with.
Where do you see the world of publishing heading in the future, specifically CBA publishing?
I’m seeing a lot of exciting changes in recent years. First of all, there has been a greater flexibility as to what is considered ‘publishing.’ There was a time where this referred to ink on paper and only that. Today with so many digital alternatives, be it audio books, ebooks, vooks, and online ezines you find that publishing has changed quite a bit. Every year publishers need to redefine what they’re doing. The more successful ones are the publishers who have embraced this new technology and added it to their repertoire.
As far as changes within the CBA we’ve already seen trends where edgier stories are cropping up. A few years ago you would not have seen a Christian vampire story from a major publishing house. This is no longer the case. There are fewer topics off limits, fewer subjects you just don’t talk about.
That’s not to say that there aren’t restrictions and some areas still considered ‘off limits.’ I think this will always be the case. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as there will always be an audience for these books. What’s heartening is seeing that the publishers are now paying attention to the needs of readers who don’t fit the buggies and bonnets demographic.
What are the most common mistakes you’re finding in queries or submitted manuscripts these days?
The most common thing I see is manuscripts that just aren’t ready yet. There is nothing sadder than seeing a great idea that has such basic problems such as head hopping, dialogue issues, misplaced punctuation and the like. Anytime an editor or agent sees something like this, the first thought is, “How much work would it be to take this person on as a client?” Honestly, so few people in the industry have the time to work at polishing these elements with the prospective client, that these manuscripts are shot down rather quickly.
The second biggest problem, is not being given what you ask for. If we want a proposal, then we don’t want a handful of sample chapters with a synopsis. We want a full proposal the gives us some background on you, some discussion on comparables, and marketing ideas. This information helps us to make a more educated decision about what we’re being given and so every piece is necessary. If you’re not sure what to submit, check out Terry Burns’ book “Pitch and Promote Like a Pro.” He outlines it very thoroughly so you understand why you’re sending these various items.
Any advice for the author who may be interested in submitting to WWC?
Take the time to polish your manuscript. We’re not going anywhere and we have plenty of openings for 2011 and 2012. Have an editor or crit partner look over your work because that second pair of eyes will spot what you missed. When you’re ready, send us a complete proposal along with your first three chapters. And DO follow up. We would rather talk to you about your manuscript and reassure you of where it’s at in the process than have you sitting at home and worrying about it. Lastly, do read the guidelines so you can send your work to the appropriate editor. And if there’s any doubt at all, contact me directly and I’ll help you sort it out.
For information on submission guidelines and more about Written World Communications, go to their website.