J. Mark Bertrand raised an interesting point in his comment last night. Thank you, Mark. “Core content developers” are the actual authors, whereas spokespeople are not. General editors make great spokespeople because they don’t actually do anything except lend their name and credibility to a book (okay, they might write an intro now and then if they’re really geared up), and the publisher doesn’t have to deal with them beyond getting their marketing support once the editorial is complete.
Ghosting is common in these situations. In my house, there’s a lot of internally-generated material that gets billed under someone else’s book. You’d be flabbergasted, flummoxed and no doubt somewhat chagrinned to learn just how many of your favorite Christian books were actually ghost-written. It’s fairly standard practice for publishers to assign a writer with a real writer. Anytime you see a book by Dr. O’Blivious “with” Joe Neverheardofya, you can bet ol’ Joe did the lion’s share of the writing and got the mouse’s share of the money. Do I sound bitter? I don’t mean to.
Now in case you weren’t sure, agents will affect the outcomes of your book project for good or bad, depending on their relationship with the editors and executives at the publishing house.
The contract will be a very detailed and confusing document, a little shorter than a phone book, but no longer than the U.S. Constitution. It will typically include specific information about author’s advances, when they are to be paid (invariably in 3 installments these days: before writing, after first draft, and after completed final), and then the starting and ending royalty rate. Starting rate for a new author will not often be above 13-14% of net, and rising to 15-16% in subsequent printings. And of course, no royalties are earned until the publisher recoups the advance.