Category Archives: Uncategorized

New Author Success Story: Anne McTiernan

Anne McTiernan took our UW class last spring to work on her proposal, and we were thrilled to hear that she scored a book deal for her memoir, StarvedFH_AnneMcTiernan_2616Writers, remember: book deals DO happen, and they happen every day. We share these success stories to give you insights from real people going through the publishing process, and to inspire and motivate you to keep going! Here’s Anne’s story.

What is the title of your book, and who will be publishing it?
Starved: A Nutrition Doctor’s Journey from Empty to Full by Anne McTiernan, MD, PhD. It’s a poignant memoir of a girl who endured childhood emotional and physical deprivation, a binge-eating disorder, and abuse, to find love, strength, and happiness.It will be published by Central Recovery Press in November 2016.

Tell us how this book came about. What inspired you?
After reading Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes, a memoir of his miserable Irish Catholic upbringing, I was inspired to write about my miserable Irish-American Catholic upbringing.

Can you share some insights on the chain of events that lead to your book deal?
I sent queries to many agents, received some positive responses, and went with an excellent agent who was ready to work with me without a delay of several months. I received many rejections—that seems to be unavoidable in this business.

How did you handle any challenges you faced? Did you seek out professional services or other help along the way?
There’s a saying among doctors in training: “See one, do one, teach one.” I naively thought that I’d be able to whip off my memoir, but soon found out that creative writing requires a lot of learning and practice. So I sought help. I took the University of Washington Certificate Program in Memoir with Theo Nestor, and also took her Advanced Memoir course. Then, when I had a completed manuscript, I worked with two excellent book advisors/editors: Claire Dederer and Jennifer D. Munro. Finally, when I was ready to find an agent and publisher, I took Jen & Kerry’s UW course, “Publishing Your Book in Today’s Marketplace.”

What surprised you during the publishing process?
I had previously published a health advice book (Breast Fitness: An Optimal Exercise and Health Plan for Reducing Your Risk of Breast Cancer, St. Martin’s Press, 2000), and was surprised at how much more challenging and competitive the business has become. Another surprising thing I learned with both books is that the author has to be actively marketing the book, and can’t expect that the publisher will do all of that.

What’s been the best aspect about getting a book deal?
It’s very rewarding to have a publisher get excited about my book, and to commit to share it with the world.

What’s next for you?
I’m learning a lot about marketing! I’m also working on a memoir about my medical school years.

Anything else you’d like to share?
I highly recommend the information provided by Business of Books—Jen and Kerry covered exactly the things I needed to know for developing a query letter and book proposal.
(Thanks, Anne!)


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Seattle Writes at the Seattle Public Library

We all know that Seattle is a literary town.

But doSeattleWrites1 you know about Seattle Writes? This great program supports local writers through classes, workshops, write-ins, and by providing spaces to work throughout the city. This spring, the Seattle Public Library offers 25 free writing classes and programs that are open to everyone. No excuses!

We’re psyched to be a part of Seattle Writes this year, offering our popular Secrets of a Successful Book Proposal workshop on April 3 from 2-4pm at the Central Library (downtown) and on May 1 from 2-4pm at the Queen Anne Library. We hope you’ll join us for these motivating free talks. Even if you’ve come to our classes before, this will be a great refresher to help you whip that proposal into shape and get it out the door.

But wait, there’s more! Spring 2016 Seattle Writes faculty includes Kathleen Alcala (essays), Nancy Kress (science fiction), Rose Lerner (historical romance), Claudia Castro Luna (poetry), Donna Miscolta (fiction), Nancy Rawles (fiction/dialogue), Ingrid Thoft (mystery), as well as a series of writing workshops presented in partnership with Hugo House. In addition to those featuring your truly, there will be publishing and marketing classes with Martha Brockenbrough (query letters/synopsis), Beth Jusino (marketing), and Sasquatch Publishing (behind the scenes look at the publishing process). Check out the full schedule here. Hope to see you around the library!

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5 tips to building an author platform—without being an author

authorz-platform.jpgIn our experience, there are two words that strike the most fear into the heart of any aspiring author: AUTHOR PLATFORM. [Cue creepy organ music.] Our clients know they need to sell themselves when they sell their book. They know that it’s not just their craft being evaluated by an agent or publisher, but their personal story, credentials, and potential reach to the book’s target market. All of this is rolled up into an individual writer’s author platform, and it must be highlighted persuasively in the proposal and query letter. After all, it’s a job application: When you think about it, every writer is applying for the job of author at that particular house. You have to show why you’re worth their investment.

“But I’ve never been published before!” our clients moan. “How can I build my author platform when I’m not even an author yet?”

Good question. We’ll tell you how. (And by the way, whether you have a glimmer of a book idea or a polished draft, the time to start bulking up your author platform is now.)

  1. Begin offering your services. If you have a kids book, offer to read it at schools, libraries, or kids bookstores. Could you do a demo at a cooking store, or offer to help party-plan a high-profile charity event? Could you get on a local radio show or panel during a discussion that your book might pertain to? Does your expertise lend itself to a conference, charity organization, or event, where you could speak and get publicity in return? All this shows you are making a name for yourself on your topic. (If you have great ideas of things you could do, but haven’t yet, include those in your proposal, too.)
  1. Start a blog. If it makes sense for your book, start an on-point and well-crafted blog, and start subscribing and commenting on other, more high-profile blogs on the same subject. You don’t need a giant audience here. A simple, nicely written blog and/or author website shows you’re committed to your topic and showcases your writing. (Because trust us, the first thing an agent or publisher will do is Google you.
  1. Tweet. Especially for nonfiction writers, start following folks in your field or subject area, and they’ll follow you back. And try to tweet, respond, and retweet a couple of times a day.
  1. Reach out to the writing community. Jump into the writer’s community, both where you live and online. Not only will you find your tribe, but those same people can be really supportive when it comes time to promote your book.
  1. Be a media whore. Yep, we said it. Get your name out there, any way you can. Who is covering a subject that you can speak to? (Ideally this is also your books’ subject, but not necessarily.) When you’re positioning yourself as an author, it’s no time to be shy. Contact local radio stations and print media to offer yourself as an expert. Register for HARO (Help a Reporter Out), where reporters contact experts on a wide variety subjects. A few minutes of your time could mean you’re quoted in a national publication and will come up in searches on that topic.

Now, once you start making inroads, use that info for your book proposal or query letter. It’s a huge selling point of your book these days. Incorporate all of this into a compelling picture of you as an author, someone who can both deliver the goods and be comfortable telling their story to the media.


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New Services to Help YOU Get Published

publishSpring is in the air, new ideas are blooming, and business is booming here at Business of Books headquarters. Due to popular demand, we’re rolling out some exciting new individual offerings for our clients. As always, our mission is to help you put your best foot forward with agents and publishers—and get the book deal you deserve. We encourage you to check out our services to make sure your proposal, query/cover letter, and submission list are spot on and have the absolute best chance for representation and/or a publishing deal.

NEW! Comprehensive Proposal Development & Consult Package
This new service takes you step-by-step through the proposal process, including a personalized kickoff meeting to set a schedule and parameters for your project, regular check-ins to review progress and keep you on track, and guidance throughout your proposal’s development. It culminates with our 2-on-1 proposal review for a perfectly on-point proposal, as well as a review of your query letter, cover letter, and submission list. $2,000.

NEW! Query Letter, Cover Letter & Submission List Review
Even if your proposal is good to go, you still need a compelling and salable query and cover letter—not to mention the right people to pitch it to. This service entails a comprehensive electronic review and detailed feedback on your cover letter, query letter, and agent/publisher submission list. $499

2-on-1 Proposal Review
This popular service provides our professional advice and concrete revisions to ensure your proposal rises out of the slush pile. You send us your draft proposal electronically; we add our comments and suggestions right into the file. We also provide a detailed overall assessment that covers every section of the proposal. $599

Publishing Toolkit
Are you a DIY type? Do you wish you had Jen & Kerry around as a desktop reference? Then our Publishing Toolkit is for you. This invaluable resource, available as a binder or PDF, will walk you through the proposal process and beyond, including insider tips on submissions, contracts, publisher relations, and more. With 100-plus pages of publishing intel plus exercises, worksheets, and two sample nonfiction proposals, it’s a steal at $99.

Looking for something other than what you see here? We’re happy to discuss the unique needs of your project. Email us for rates and details.


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Finding inspiration in Mexico

20160212_134710_001-1“That was the best presentation I’ve ever seen at a writers’ conference!”

“You guys are like Siskel & Ebert.”

“Thank you so much for this information. I came in confused and left confident!”

“Hey, it’s Bonnie & Clyde!”

These are just a few of the comments we received during our workshops and our magical week at the San Miguel Writers Conference in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

We were heartened by all the savvy writers who attended our workshops, realizing the importance of a strong author platform and marketing plan. It’s inspiring for us to be surrounded by so many motivated writers committed to bringing their books into the world.

We were also inspired by the other 70-some instructors who offered great takeaways for our own writing projects and process.

And it was a deeply satisfying moment to realize that great minds think alike, as when Joyce Carol Oates emphasized the importance of a strong title (something we advocate for relentlessly in our proposal workshops), calling out the horrible Trimalchio in West Egg, a book that we now know as The Great Gatsby.

We are looking forwarding to continuing to help the writers we met in Mexico develop and submit their book proposals. In the meantime, we encourage all of you to keep writing, keep educating yourself on the business of books, and to keep looking for writers’ conferences, workshops, and residencies to attend. Hope we’ll see you at one soon!


Literary papier mache in San Miguel

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Get Published! A look back at our Willows Lodge retreat

Willows 2016They came, they learned, they polished their already strong book ideas.

Fresh off our Get Published! Writers Retreat at the luxe Willows Lodge, we are in awe and inspired by each and every one of our attendees.

From children’s picture books to memoir to alternative history, these aspiring authors dove in from the get-go, developing book proposals and query letters, and in the process strengthening their projects.

Based on the feedback and the energy in the room, we helped each and every one of them.

In return, they inspired us. Every single time we teach a class or host a retreat, we get invested in helping our clients’ and students’ books be all they can be. Some folks come in with a polished, “finished” manuscript and yet we help them step away and look at their project with fresh eyes, which inevitably leads to a more thought-out and creative submission. Other writers are still kicking around several ideas but almost immediately, they focus in on the one that feels right for them and the marketplace. Regardless of where they were starting from, all left with a proposal-in-progress and the beginnings of a compelling query or cover letter.

As for the two of us, we left more committed than ever to helping writers realize their publishing dreams. To that end, we’ll be scheduling more workshops in the coming months and expanding our offerings to include individual consultations, proposal writing, and more!

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5 Things You Need to Know to Score a Book Deal

During our years of publishing experience, both as acquisitions editors and authors, we’ve culled some key tips for those looking to get published. While these may seem simple at first glance, we find time and again that they are overlooked in the rush to submit what you are sure is a guaranteed best seller.

Slow down there, boss, and take a breath.

Review our tips and strengthen your submission and chances of a book deal.

1.      Do your homework.
Research other books that could be considered competion, become an expert in your genre and on your topic, visit bookstores or libraries (yes, in person!), and learn which publishing houses and agents specializing in your particular genre or subject matter.

2.      Do think of publishing as a business.
Your book is your baby, yes, but it’s also a product to be bought and sold in a marketplace filled not only with books but other forms of entertainment (apps, movies, music, etc.). It’s critical to be business savvy and approach a publisher with a compelling pitch and attitude that conveys that you are ready to partner with them on a lucrative business venture (i.e. your book).

3.      Do have confidence.
You have got to believe in your idea and your vision! Don’t be shy. Sell it. If you are not absolutely committed to your book project, why would anyone else be? But a note of caution: being confident is terrific, being cocky is not. Don’t claim it’s a “guaranteed best-seller that will outsell The Lord of the Rings Trilogy/50 Shades of Grey/The DaVinci Code;” rather, explain with specifics why your book will perform well for a particular publisher. Is it similar to another book on their list that has done well? Will it appeal to a demographic that the publisher already dominates? The more specific you can get about why you are approaching them in particular, the better.

4.      Do persevere!
Every famous author from Dr. Seuss to J.K. Rowling to F. Scott Fitzgerald has had multiple rejections. Keep going. This is where that confidence and unwavering belief in your project comes into play. We always remind writers that publishers and agents are looking for you, too, and first-time authors get book deals every single day. We have the success stories to prove it—our clients have killer book deals in a variety of genres, ranging from children’s picture books to memoir to fiction to coffee table books to nonfiction.
5.      Do write a killer book proposal.
Your proposal is your business plan. Creating a great one is vital to selling your book in today’s market. Need help? Contact us or register for our second annual overnight intensive retreat, Get Published: A Writer’s Retreat at Willows Lodge, January 23–24. Hopeful authors spend so much time on the craft of writing, but almost zero on the business. That doesn’t work anymore. And that’s where we come in.


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New Author Success Story: Eric Ford

We have had all sorts of writers in our class, writing for all different audiences. We help authors realize their dreams of publishing with one of the “Big 6” houses in New York, sure, but it’s most important to find the right home for your project. And that just might be with an academic or medical publisher. Eric Ford, an Associate Professor at the University of Washington’s Department of Radiation Oncology, came to our courses because he was working on a novel in his spare time (he’s quite the Renaissance Man). But he used the intel gathered during our class to pitch and publish a reference guide for medical professionals to a well-respected academic press. He talks about his path to publication, shares tips for collaboration, and discusses why a proposal is so darn important, no matter how you are publishing your book.

Can you tell us about this book and how it came about?
Practical Radiation Oncology Physics is a reference guide for medical professionals working in oncology (cancer care). It focuses on technical aspects of radiation treatments. Since about half of all cancer patients receive radiation therapy, we are talking about a pretty substantial segment of healthcare. The idea for the book arose out of discussions that a colleague and I were having about four years ago. We were frustrated at not having a handy reference source for the increasingly vast amount of information for practitioners in our field. So that is what we came up with. A practical guidebook. I think the marketing copy says it best: “An indispensable guide to radiation oncology physics!” Anytime your book is an “indispensable guide” to anything that is good. Plus, I love the exclamation mark.

Can you offer up any tips for collaborating with co-authors?
I think a clear leadership plan is essential. What do you do when deadlines inevitably slip? How do you keep each other motivated? A big book project like this is a lot like running a marathon (or so I am told). It is very helpful to be running alongside others, having them push you along and vice versa.

What do you think is unique to academic and medical publishing that it would be helpful for writers to know?
The profit margins on academic texts are very thin, so when you are pitching the idea, it is really helpful to have a solid business case. Who is the audience? How big of a market are you expecting? The publisher may not do that legwork for you.

Another difference is that academicians almost never work with an agent (I do not know of anyone who has an agent). Therefore, you will be dealing directly with the publisher. There are pluses and minuses to this, but one advantage you have is that, comparatively speaking, publishers are not used to dealing with people who are familiar with the publishing world. They almost never receive a formal book proposal, and if they do, then it generally violates nearly every principles of good proposal writing. If you can write a decent proposal, it is a huge advantage in this context.

How did your Business of Books course help you in the publishing process?
Our publication deal had its origins in Hurricane Sandy. I was stuck at a conference in Boston for a week and at one point I found myself more or less randomly wandering the convention center when I bumped into someone from Elsevier (an academic publisher of scientific and medical publications). “Hey, I’ve got a book idea you might be interested in,” I told her. “Can I run it by you?” That got our foot in the door, but it was really the book proposal that got us the contract. Writing a good proposal was something I learned in the Business of Books class. Prior to that, I had essentially no idea what a book proposal was.  A week after I spoke to the woman in Boston (Kate was her name), we had a proposal in to them. The publishers were very impressed and it helped Kate to advocate for it within her company. I’m convinced that we would not have gotten the contract without the proposal.

What other book projects are you working on?
I’m working on a novel. It is a “mathematical thriller” about a frustrated engineer who uses the exponential formula to save the world (or tries to anyway).

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Gearing up for an exciting 2015-16!

coming-attractionsAs summer draws to a close (boo hoo!), we’re looking forward to a productive and satisfying year ahead for The Business of Books. We still have a few surprises up our sleeve, but here’s a sneak peek of what we have brewing.

Due to popular demand, we will be expanding our individual offerings to clients. That means in addition to our in-depth 2-on-1 Proposal Review, we’ll offer new services like proposal development, submission list development, query letter help, and editing/selection of sample copy. Stay tuned for more information on that; we’ll be announcing it here shortly.

Looking ahead to January, we’ll be hosting another overnight publishing retreat at the beautiful Willows Lodge in Woodinville. This was a highlight of our year–if you missed it before, you should join us this time! It makes a great Christmas gift to yourself and helps you kick-start that resolution to pitch and sell your book.

We are thrilled to be invited to speak at the San Miguel Writers Conference in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, in February! The conference has an amazing lineup (hello, Joyce Carol Oates!) and who doesn’t want to go to Mexico with us? Check it out!

What classes or services would you like to see us offer? What’s new on your book project? Keep in touch by following our blog, following us on Facebook and Twitter, or dropping us an e-mail. We’d love to hear from you!

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Be Our Next Success Story!

Things people say to us ALL THE TIME:

“Isn’t traditional publishing dead?”

“It’s impossible for first-time authors to get a book deal.”

“Why bother? It will never happen to me.”

Have you said these things to yourself? Well, stop it. Yes, writing is hard and publishing is competitive. But the truth is this: books are acquired every day from first-time authors. Why not you?

To inspire you, here is a sampling of recent author success stories across all genres: fiction, nonfiction, memoir. What do they have in common? Each of these writers was a Business of Books client (toot! toot!), wrote a killer proposal, and found a home at a traditional publishing house. Want to be next? REGISTER NOW for our May class at UW: Publishing Your Book in Today’s Marketplace. Give us four Thursday evenings–just four!–and you’ll learn the ins and outs of publishing, plus have a completed draft of an on-point proposal to sell your book. Get it out there, people!

Seafood Lovers Pacific Northwest (2)Karen Gaudette Brewer‘s Seafood Lover’s Pacific Northwest features the best eats and can’t-miss festivals for your next road trip, along with cooking inspiration and personal stories of the interesting characters in the seafood industry.


Mike Curato is living the dream. After signing a three-book deal (!) with Macmillan for his cupcake-loving elephant, he’s receiving tons of accolades for Little Elliot, Big City and getting ready to launch the sequel, Little Elliot, Big Family.

Seattle-based writer and performer Joe Guppy’s electrifying and wryly lo res lMFGcover 3comic memoir, My Flourescent God, details a period of paranoid psychosis–including time spent in a Seattle mental ward and his subsequent struggle toward sanity.


New York graphic designer John Clifford saw the need in the marketplace for a book he wanted himself: a compendium of visionaries in the field of modern graphic design. The result is the beautiful Graphic Icons.

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