7 tips to picking great sample text for your book proposal

ImageWe’ve reviewed dozens of proposals and it’s always surprising to see what sample text our clients choose to include. Sometimes we’re happily surprised. But frequently, we find that the manuscript excerpt, while well-written, is off base for a compelling submission. Here, a few do’s and don’ts to consider when selecting sample text for your book proposal.

1. Do pick your most representative sample.
This is the most important thing to consider when selecting sample text. Your text should convey the tone and voice of your book, the pace, the information, etc. If you are writing a how-to book, include a chapter that covers all the types of projects or instruction that would be in the book. If you are writing a novel, pick a selection that that captures the essence of the book. Don’t worry about giving away the climax; this is the chance to wow, and whatever part of your manuscript is going to do that is what you should use.

2. Do include examples of all your extra elements.
Along the lines of representative copy, think about all the various elements you envision in your book and include as many of them as possible. If you plan on having sidebars or charts, include at least one of them in your sample. If you plan on featuring your own photography, insert a sample (no originals, though) into your manuscript.

3. Don’t just include the beginning of your book.
Most writers gravitate toward including the first chapter or two of their book in their proposal. It’s usually the most polished and thought-out text. However, you may not be putting your best foot forward. If you are writing a novel, the first chapter might start out with a bang, but it can often include a lot of set-up and exposition that doesn’t get to the heart of the matter or the action. If you are pitching a romance, your excerpt better have some juicy bits. If you’re writing a travel memoir, there should probably be some travel going on.

4. Do use several excerpts, if it makes sense.
You don’t have to send complete chapters. If it makes sense to give a sampling of your book through several excerpts, go for it. If it’s a novel or memoir, set the scene with a few sentences to explain where each excerpt falls in the plot.

5. Do polish it. And polish it again.
You’ve probably looked at your manuscript a million times. That doesn’t mean that it’s perfect; in fact, it can mean that your eyes are glossing over typos at this point. Read your text over and over again. And enlist someone else you trust to read your proposal and sample text. Give them specific direction: do they understand the plot from the sample text? Do the instructions or recipes make sense? Do they have any questions after reading it?

6. Don’t get too attached to one piece of writing.
It may be the most lyrical, polished, gorgeous bit of prose you’ve ever written. But does it convey what the book is about, does it advance the plot? Step away from your manuscript and look at it with a critical eye, maybe even put yourself in the shoes of the acquiring editor. Ask yourself the hard questions and if this isn’t the sample that’s going to both impress and inform an inquiring editor, choose another excerpt.

7. Do read the publisher’s or agent’s submission guidelines.
We know it’s hard to choose just a few pages to include but be mindful of what an agent or publishing house asks for. If you send 50 pages when they’ve asked for 15, you’re in jeopardy of having your entire submission dismissed. Only send the amount of text requested.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Wouldn’t you like to have Jen and Kerry in a binder?

art Toolkit cover_265wideDid you know you could get all of our publishing insight and guidance in one crisp white binder? It’s true!

The Business of Books’ Publishing Toolkit made its debut last year to rave reviews. Chock-full of information on researching your idea, developing the key sections of a proposal, honing your submission list, sending out your proposal, and navigating contracts and the business of publishing, the Toolkit is a resource that can stand in for us and keep you focused and inspired. As one attendee said, “The toolkit has been extremely informative and helpful. It is an anchor that I’ll refer to again and again.”

We’re excited to share this material with other burgeoning authors, namely you. The Publishing Toolkit is $99 plus shipping. This binder provides 100+ pages of insider information and includes worksheets and two actual proposals (rarely seen outside of publishing circles) to guide you on your path to publication. Click here to purchase the Publishing Toolkit through PayPal, or email us at jenandkerry@gmail.com if you have questions. Write on!

1 Comment

Filed under Publishing News, Publishing Series, Publishing Toolkit, The Business of Books with Jen & Kerry, Uncategorized

Who’s on YOUR Publishing Wish List? Honing in on the Right Publisher

ImageWhen you are developing your manuscript and your book proposal, start developing your wish list, those dream publishers or agents with whom you’d love to sign. As you peruse the shelves or search competitive titles online, pay particular notice to who’s publishing each title. Notice if certain publishers keep coming up again and again, which might indicate that they publish regularly into that category or genre. For instance, if you are researching spiritual books, you might find that Hay House or Thomas Nelson crop up again and again. Write them down; they might be the first publishing houses you add to your wish list.

Now, the fun part. Investigate those publishers! Hop online and look at each publisher individually. Note what books they are promoting on their home page, and then search by genre. See if they offer a mission statement or an explanation of their different imprints. Do you like what you see? Will your book feel at home here? This is an easy exercise that you can do in your pajamas or while watching TV.

If you think the publisher may be a good fit for your book, check out their Submission Guidelines. Virtually all publishers offer them online. Here, you’ll find out if they take unsolicited proposals or if you’ll need to work with an agent. They may also indicate how to send the proposal (e-mail vs. snail mail), how many pages it can be, response time, and other pertinent details.

Some other fun ways to compile your publishing wish list:

  • Look through your own bookshelf and make a list of the publishers of your favorite books. Jot down any names that may be on the acknowledgements pages.
  • Write down the sections of the bookstore where your book idea could possibly live, aside from the obvious.
  • Make a separate wish list of the qualities you’d like in your publisher (lots of hands-on interaction with editor, big book advance, prestige, etc.). Now rank them in order of importance. When looking over your list, take into account these priorities.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

New Author Success Story: John Clifford, Graphic Icons

Graphic-Icons_Cover-2When we reviewed John Clifford’s proposal in 2012, we knew we had a winner on our hands. John had a big idea: an accessible, visual overview of graphic design history, profiling the modern era’s most influential designers. Continually frustrated that this book did not exist in the marketplace, John did the enterprising thing—he set out to create it himself. Luckily, he had the tools to do so. He’s an award-winning graphic designer, teacher, and creative director at New York’s Think Studio, focusing on the design of brand identity, websites, collateral, and books. By fall 2013, his book, Graphic Icons: Visionaries Who Shaped Modern Graphic Design was published by Peachpit Press.

JohnClifford-l Tell us about your path to publication.
I went after a traditional publisher. This book needed to be very visual, so I knew I needed an image budget. I also wanted a publisher’s support and expertise throughout. I was already taking on roles outside my comfort zone—writing, researching, negotiating usage and permissions—so I wanted help with publicity, distribution, and everything else. Graphic design books are a small niche in the publishing world—there aren’t many publishers putting out books like this—so I didn’t think an agent was necessary. I sent out proposals myself, and I was lucky—there was interest right away, and I had to decide between two offers. No complaints.

Why were you inspired to write this book?
It’s all about me: I’ve always wanted this book for myself. It’s an easy reference on history, and provides great design inspiration. When I teach, I want students to have this—I think it’s easier to understand some of the basics of graphic design when there are human stories involved. Mainly, though, I want people to know the names of these designers. Many people are familiar with some of the famous architects, artists, and fashion designers, but nobody knows the graphic designers. I hope my book can change that in some small way. I thought about this book for years, but figured that someone else (who knows how to write) must already be working on it. After a few years of not seeing it come out, I knew it was time to get serious and try to do it myself.

What professional services did you seek out in the process?
I ran the proposal by my friend Nancy Eklund Later, an editor in the design world, and she had some great input. I then hired Jen and Kerry, who helped make the proposal more lively, and also helped me think beyond publication and consider promotion and marketing. The publisher connected me with an excellent editorial team: development editor Bryn Mooth, copy editor Elaine Merrill, and production editor Tracey Croom. I did all the designing myself (because I’m a designer, not because just anyone can do that). While I love the idea of the DIY approach, I’m a big believer in working with people who know what they are doing.

What surprised you during the publishing process?
I’ve been designing books for years, so I knew something about the process already. This book relies heavily on imagery. The expense and hassle of securing the images and permissions was pretty shocking. It took a lot of creativity and time (and an obsessive nature) to find ways to make the book I wanted with a limited budget. Also, this didn’t surprise me, but writing is hard!

What’s been the best moment/aspect about getting published?
It may sound corny, but I think it was seeing my 4-year-old find my book in the bookstore. There they were: my two big accomplishments together.

What one piece of advice would you offer to burgeoning authors?
Only one piece? I guess beyond the “just write” and “keep at it” and all that, I’d say learn everything you can about what a publisher would want from an author like you. Look at your proposal critically and objectively: why would someone want to invest in your idea? Oh, and hire a good designer! And pay that designer. Your book should look great. Don’t put it out there with crappy type on the cover.

What’s next for you?
I hope to write and teach some more about these design icons. Fortunately, my design work is keeping me very busy right now, which is great. That means I never really got to do the “I just wrote a book and now I can sleep for days” thing, so I maybe I can do that soon.

You can learn more about John Clifford and Graphic Icons here:

Book site: http://graphiciconsbook.com/
Think Studio: http://thinkstudionyc.com/
Twitter: @thinkstudionyc
Facebook: Think Studio

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

This infographic is perfection. Hang it

This infographic is perfection. Hang it in your writing space! How to Publish Your Book: INFOGRAPHIC – GalleyCat http://ow.ly/sQMNa

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

New Author Success Story: Mike Curato, Little Elliot

MikeCurato headshotOne of the issues we continually address in our Business of Books classes is the importance of understanding that publishing is a business. We encourage our students and clients to get to know as much about the industry and their particular genre as possible. We also drive home the value of persistence. You will most likely have your project rejected (repeatedly) and it’s important to be armed with great material as well as a belief in your work when you seek a book deal or self-publish your project.

Illustrator and writer Mike Curato has savvy, sticktoitiveness and a whole lot of talent, a winning combination that led to a three-book deal  (with Henry Holt Books for Young Readers) for his stories of a polka-dotted elephant named Little Elliot. Mike talks to us about how he put himself in a position to make his longtime dream a reality, shares what surprised him along the way, and offers up some advice for burgeoning authors.

Tell us about your path to publication.
I’ve wanted to make children’s books for as long as I can remember. I tried the traditional route while I was still in college, mailing out book dummies and postcards to publishers. One transcript actually garnered some attention, but all the editors agreed it hadn’t found its groove yet. Self-promotion was a lot of work, and a lot of the time I was busy just trying to pay the rent. I established myself as a graphic designer to make my bread and butter, but I daydreamed of being in children’s publishing.

Many years later, I was asked to illustrate a book by an author who was self-publishing. I’ve been asked to do this many times, but Amy Jones was the first one who actually offered to PAY! It was called Mabel McNabb and the Most Boring Day Ever, a very cute rhyme story about a sassy little girl who got into a bit of mischief. It was a great experience actually taking an entire book to finish and collaborating with an author. Meanwhile, I also attended a Business of Books seminar and put together a show featuring all new work. All of these things gave me confidence to start fighting for my dreams again.

LittleElliot_coverThe story behind my debut title Little Elliot, Big City is a bit nontraditional. For years, friends who were in publishing urged me to attend SCBWI meetings (Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators). I finally attended several local meetings in 2011, which encouraged me to attend the 2012 Annual Winter Conference held in NYC. The conference features a juried portfolio show, and I entered knowing that many of New York’s children’s publishing editors and art directors would be there perusing. I thought it would be a great way to get more visibility. Maybe someone would take my card! Well, I ended up winning the show, which was not necessarily in my plans. Talk about 15 minutes of fame! Within 24 hours, I was receiving phone calls and emails from different publishers and literary agencies. Everyone wanted to know about the little polka-dotted elephant in my portfolio, and about his story. The answer was that there was no story! I had some seeds of ideas, not a completed manuscript, but that didn’t seem to matter. People were enamored with this character.

I was absolutely overwhelmed. Though I had been researching the children’s book industry for over a decade, I felt I lacked the insider knowledge to navigate the new terrain by myself. So, I decided to meet with several agents who introduced themselves to me, and ended up going with the fabulous Brenda Bowen of Sanford Greenburger & Associates. It was such a relief to know I had someone in my corner with experience not only as an agent, but also as an editor, publisher and author.

Once I had a story that was “good enough” to show editors, we met with several houses to pitch the idea. The book sold at auction, and I decided to go with Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, who offered a three-book deal! The first book comes out September 2 in the US, and will be coming out later in several other countries (as of now we’ve confirmed Israel, Germany & China).

Why were you inspired to write this book?
Book one deals with feeling small and unnoticed. Little Elliot has a challenging time living in the big city. I think a lot of children can relate to feeling invisible or unimportant in the rush of the grown-up world. Although Elliot is small and can at times feel helpless, he learns that size is relative, and he can still make important contributions in a big way.

What surprised you during the publishing process?
In today’s modern age, I am surprised by how long everything takes! It’s my understanding that large book buyers like B&N and Amazon want to see hard copy proofs of the final book at least half a year before shelf date. That pushes production far away from release date. So, my first book is finished, and nobody but buyers will see it for the next nine months!

What one piece of advice would you offer to burgeoning authors?
Read ten times the amount of books that you read right now. I know that I still don’t read enough, and it’s so crucial not only to learn craft from others, but to be plugged into what is current, and to have a deep knowledge of what is classic.

What’s been the best moment/aspect about getting published?
I think the best aspect is just feeling validated for all the years of work and pining away. I’m glad that my dreams were not in vain. I pinch myself quite frequently these days while chanting, “This is happening, this is happening…”

What’s next for you?
Well, Little Elliot received a three-book deal, so I have plenty of work cut out for me to finish the series. I’m always collecting little ideas for other books as well. I am also still doing freelance illustration and graphic design, which keeps me busy and helps pay the bills. I plan on attending the SCBWI Winter Conference in New York this coming February, so hopefully I will see you all there!

You can find Mike all over the interwebs:
Twitter: @MikeCurato
Order prints


Filed under Success Stories, Success Stories & Testimonials, Uncategorized

New Author Success Story: Judith Gille, The View from Casa Chepito

JudithWe are pleased as punch that in 2013, several Business of Books clients realized their dreams of getting their books finished—and published! To celebrate those accomplishments, we’re launching a series of success stories. We’ll profile these first-time authors, tell you about their projects, and share the ups and downs they experienced on their path to publication. We hope you’ll find inspiration and motivation in their stories. (In 2014, we’d like to profile you and your book! Let us know how we can help you get the job done.)

Our first profile is Judith Gille, who recently published The View from Casa Chepitos. This memoir, set in Mexico, puts a human face on the immigration debate and explores issues faced by women of all cultures and ages. The elevator pitch? Think Eat, Pray, Love on Mexican Time. It’s a formula that’s resonated with readers, garnering Judith gratifying reviews and a #9 spot on the Elliott Bay Books’ best-seller list, as well as the Grand Prize in Writer’s Digest’s Self-Published e-Book Awards. You can meet Judith in person at her reading this Sunday, January 12, at 5:30pm at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park.

Here’s what Judith has to say about the process and her book.

Casa Cover jpg imgTell us about your path to publication and the reasons behind it.
I wrote a lot when I was younger. I had essays and articles appear in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Dallas Morning News, the Florida Sun-Sentinel, in magazines, online literary journals and anthologies. But after I started City People’s [the beloved Seattle mercantile and garden stores] and having kids, I no longer found time to write. But the urge to express myself through words was always there. Then, in 2006, I attended a reading by Tony Cohan (On Mexican Time and Mexican Days) in San Miguel. Afterwards I asked if he ever taught classes and he told me about Book Passage’s Travel Writer’s Conference in Corte Madera, CA. I signed up for the conference. I met a bunch of travel editors there, and was soon writing articles about Mexico. I came to realize that writing longer narratives was more interesting than how-to travel pieces for a newspaper industry that was on life support. So I began writing sketches about the people who live on callejón de Chepito, the Mexican alleyway where I live part-time.

Why were you inspired to write this book?
I’ve heard a number of writers say that they experienced an “Aha!” moment that prompted them to write their books. It was like that for me, too. On a train trip into Mexico’s Copper Canyon, I contracted salmonella poisoning and became extremely ill. One night, in a semi-hallucinatory, feverish state, it suddenly dawned on me that the essays I’d been writing about my neighbors on the alley were meant to be a book. I just needed to learn how to write it…

What professional services did you seek out in the process?
Originally I’d hoped to publish the book through a traditional publisher. I honed my first 50 pages, worked hard on my book proposal and hired Jen and Kerry (who did a terrific job) to edit it. I then submitted it to a dozen agents. I got lots of positive feedback about the themes, the quality of the writing, and the story, but they were uniformly dismayed that I didn’t have a well-developed platform. Without it, they said it would be a hard sell to a publishing house.  I decided to form my own small press and publish the book independently. Self-publishing, at least in part, has gotten a bad rap because many books are not well-edited or designed and the product values are poor. I was determined to create a top-quality product that readers and book buyers would have a hard time distinguishing from a more traditionally published book.

What surprised you during the publishing process?
My husband was in the printing and publishing industry for 20-some years, so there wasn’t much that surprised us about the process. We decided to produce the book through Lightning Source and ordered 1,500 copies (which they had to print twice because during the first run, the press operator fell asleep and the books were all misaligned). The challenging part, however, has been distribution. Currently the books are only in a dozen bookstores in Western Washington and San Miguel de Allende, but they’re selling so fast that I need to restock the stores frequently. Bookstores don’t always pay attention to whether your book has sold down or is out of stock, so you have to keep track yourself. Ideally, we hope to partner with a larger distributor or publishing house for fulfillment.

What’s been the best moment or aspect about getting published?
The overwhelmingly positive response to the book has been astonishing. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t get an email or a hit on FB, or someone comes into the store to tell me how much they loved it. In only five weeks, it jumped to the #9 spot on Elliott Bay’s best-seller list.

I’ve been surprised by how many readers tell me they couldn’t put it down, or who read it in one or two days (it’s 310 pages, for god’s sake!), or how sad they were when it ended. A few people even said they immediately started reading it all over again! I’m just so grateful that the story resonates with readers and that people are rooting for Lupe and Juan’s success in life because achieving a fair immigration policy toward migrant workers is so important right now.

What one piece of advice would you offer to burgeoning authors?
Be a stickler for quality. Write the best book you possibly can, then find a good editor to help you fine tune it. Hire an experienced book designer (unless you have those skills yourself), insist that the printer does a top-notch job. If you want to pitch to an agent or publisher, use Jen and Kerry to help you produce a professional pitch and book proposal. And as Winston Churchill said, “Never, never, never give up.” The best advice I can offer is to be persistent. Even when it seemed hopeless, and the horrible nagging voice in my head kept telling me that my story sucked and nobody would want to read it, I kept plugging away because I believed in the importance of my story.

What’s next for you?
I’m currently visiting with a lot of women’s book groups and before the evening ends, I inevitably get asked when my next book is coming out and what it’s about. I’ve got at least two more books I want to write. The first follows the story of a young Mexican woman named Vicky. It continues with life on callejón de Chepito, but deals with the changing role of women in Mexico, and Mexico’s burgeoning feminist movement. The second book is a novel that takes place in a remote part of Lake Huron and is based on a true story that my grandmother was fond of recounting, about a young woman who was ostensibly kidnapped by a hermit.

Any upcoming book events?
My next reading is on Sunday, January 12th at 5:30pm at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park. Seattle photographer Lesley Burvill-Holmes will be joining me to show her lovely photographs of sunny San Miguel de Miguel and my neighbors from callejón de Chepito.


Filed under Success Stories, Writing/Publishing Tips

Two days only: Publishing Toolkit 50% off!

art Toolkit cover_265wideDid you know you could get all of our publishing insight and guidance in one crisp white binder? It’s true! What’s even better is that we are offering to our Business of Books community this weekend only for the unheard of price of $49!

The Business of Books’ Publishing Toolkit made its debut last year to rave reviews. Chock-full of information on researching your idea, developing the key sections of a proposal, honing your submission list, sending out your proposal, and navigating contracts and the business of publishing, the Toolkit is a resource that can stand in for us and keep you focused and inspired. As one attendee said, “The toolkit has been extremely informative and helpful. It is an anchor that I’ll refer to again and again.”

Our Publishing Toolkit features:

  • A 30-day step by step plan to creating a book proposal ready for submission
  • Two actual proposals to use as templates
  • Worksheets
  • 5-minute challenges to move your project along
  • information to help you create a targeted submission list
  • details about the publishing process a
  • tools for contract negotiation
  • 100+ pages of material

For this weekend only, we’re offering the the Publishing Toolkit for $49 plus shipping. We have never offered this proprietary program at such a low price. The handy binder provides 100+ pages of insider information and includes worksheets and proposals (rarely seen outside of publishing circles) to guide you on your path to publication.

Click here to purchase the Publishing Toolkit through PayPal. Write on!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Have you heard about Seattle PubCamp?

Have you heard about Seattle PubCamp? Hosted by Writer.ly, it’s Friday, 11/22 & features awesome speakers (like us!) & loads of publishing workshops.

During the one-day conference in Seattle, learn how to become an “Authorpreneur,” and explore all the nuts and bolts of self publishing. The day covers everything from writing and editing your masterpiece, to building your author platform and marketing your books. Three concurrent tracks will focus on writing craft, publishing and book marketing.

Lunch, free parking and lots of swag for attendees are provided.

The day will finish with the Seattle Writing Community Party and Wine Reception. Meet with writing organizations, groups and non-profits from the Seattle area, while noshing on delicious treats. Click here for registration details.

Leave a comment

Filed under The Business of Books with Jen & Kerry, Uncategorized

Celebrating Client Success Stories

We started this business with one goal: to help first-time authors realize their publishing dreams. This means that nothing thrills us more than: 1) knowing that clients have finally sent out their book proposal, 2) hearing that clients signed with an agent or publisher, and 3) seeing a client’s first book in print!

Fresh off the press!

Fresh off the press!

This has been a banner week at BoB Headquarters, with three former clients heralding new book deals. First, we have the arrival of John Clifford’s beautiful new survey of the history of graphic design, Graphic Icons (Pearson/PeachPit Press)—and he even gave us a shout-out in the acknowledgments. Second, we got the good news about Karen Gaudette’s book deal for her Seafood Lover’s Guide to the Pacific Northwest (Globe Pequot). Third, we were invited to the Elliott Bay Books launch of Judith Gille’s new memoir, The View from Casa Chepitos (Davis Bay Press). Those success stories join other great achievements from the Business of Books family, including  Ellen Brennan (Say This, Not That to Your Professor), Todd Rendlman (Rule of Thumb: Ebert at the Movies), Mike Curato (the upcoming Little Elliot, Big City), and more.

None of these authors had been published before. What did they have in common? They were ready to get their book ideas out of their heads and onto the shelves. They came to a Business of Books workshop or hired us for a 2-on-1 proposal consultation, and were willing to do the work to get their material where it needed to be. Along the way, they gained confidence that they could do it. As newly signed Karen says, “Your class totally gave me the confidence I needed to negotiate my deal and to feel like I had some idea of what was going on (with royalties, rights, and more.)”

Publishing doesn’t have to be a mystery. Let us help you be one of our next success stories! Contact us at jeandkerry@gmail.com for details on our thorough, 2-on-1 proposal reviews. We’ll help you whip that proposal into shape in short order!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized