No, not the authors, the series. Recently we were asked the following:
What about your series books? I see you do several. Any insights on those and what kind of authors they are looking for? I met a Dummies Guide author and he said the people who author these types of books must be special because it is really difficult. He would never do it again. He was not represented by you, by the way. I can’t believe that. What’s the scoop?
You are right. We have represented well over a hundred books in the Dummies Guide series (Wiley Publishing) and the Complete Idiot’s Guide series (Alpha), and they are a very different animal than traditional publishing.
There are two things editors of these books look for when seeking out an author. The first is the author’s credentials. Obviously, like all publishers, they want to know that the author writing the book has the credentials to back what she is saying. The second, and almost equal in importance, is the ability to write to their format and style. Surprisingly to most, these books are not written by Dummies or Idiots. In fact, the guidelines are fairly complex and difficult to follow. While some authors seem to get it without any problems, others have really struggled and many bring on coauthors or ghostwriters to help them through.
In addition to mastering the tone required for each series (and it’s very different for each series), the author needs to be able to write in a way that’s simple, without talking down and yet still being interesting. The material needs to be modular. In other words, you should be able to jump around and read each chapter separately, and you need to fit the exact page count required by the editors.
I suspect that some authors of these books get a lot of flack for not writing a “real” book, but I have to say, it’s a lot more difficult to write what someone else is telling you than it is to write the book of your heart. I also have to add that if you’ve never read a book from either of these series, go pick one up. I can guarantee there is at least one on a subject that interests you and you might actually enjoy it . . . and learn a thing or two.