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New Author Success Story: Geraldine DeRuiter

Geraldine DeRuiter is a Seattle-based writer and admittedly hapless traveler who founded the awesome travel blog, The EvGeraldine DeRuiter Picerywhereist. We were excited to learn she landed her first book deal—and to hear her tale of multiple rejections, confusing feedback, despair, perseverance, and finally, success! She’s a great reminder of the thick skin we all need to develop if we want to find the right home for our books. Read her story, pass it on, get inspired. You could be next!

What’s the title of the book and who’s publishing it?
The working title is ALL OVER THE PLACE—a humorous guide to life from a travel expert who finds out that if you are trying to find yourself, getting lost is a great place to start. It will be published by Public Affairs in summer 2017, because sometimes god gets drunk and dreams come true.

Tell us how this book came about. What inspired you?
I’ve been blogging for years on my site The Everywhereist, and the book felt like a natural counterpart to that. I realized I’d started withholding certain stories on the blog. At first, I was just stockpiling them for my therapist, but then I decided to compile them into a book, which I’m pretty sure is how the entire genre of memoirs originated.

Can you share some insights on the chain of events that lead to your book deal?
It has been a nonstop ride on an Emotional Roller Coaster followed by a spin on the Drama Ferris Wheel. And then a visit to the Funhouse of Rejection. (Metaphors, y’all.)

I started writing the book two years ago, and I sent a sample chapter out to various agents. The feedback on that one chapter was very positive (though there was one or two harsh rejections), and a few agents asked to read the entire manuscript. After that, the rejections just rolled in! It was like Christmas morning, and every gift was debilitating self-doubt! Most of them said that they felt my manuscript required too much work before they could pitch it to publishers.

The feedback was really inconsistent, which was pretty frustrating. I heard that it wasn’t unique enough, I heard that it was too esoteric. I heard that it tried to do too much (it was both a travel and a personal memoir) or that it did too little, and didn’t have a unique hook. No one could agree on what was wrong with the book and what needed to be fixed.

However, there were a few agents that were actually interested. The problem was, their visions for the book didn’t really match mine, or I didn’t really feel like they were someone I could work with. Weirdly, my eventual agent, Zoe Sandler, who is just wonderful, actually contacted me. She’d seen an article I’d written for Good Housekeeping, and from there she found my blog and saw that I was looking for representation. I really liked her. And she believed in my work.

I told Zoe I wanted to revise my draft before sending it to her, so I spent a few months polishing it up. She then read it and gave me some feedback and changes which I rolled into the manuscript, and she started pitching it to publishers early this year. The response, considering how many agents passed on the manuscript, was surprisingly good. And in the end, I had several interested parties, so the manuscript went to auction. So now there were different publishers bidding on a book that numerous agents had told me didn’t have a chance.

How did you handle the challenges along the way?
I cried and told my husband that I was never writing again and that I was a talentless hack who had wasted her life.

Seriously. (I take rejection really badly. I should have never become a writer.)

So I decided to throw myself back into blogging, which is what I had been doing for a while. One day, after getting a really brutal rejection, I decided to write a post and I told my husband it was going to go viral. And then it did. I got half a million visitors to my blog in less than a month. It was a good reminder that there were people out there—probably not normal people, but people nonetheless—who wanted to read what I had to say.

I also had an amazing support system and people to talk to. My husband, Rand, is my biggest fan, and he was so supportive to the point of being annoying (sometimes, you just want to wallow in self-doubt and misery, you know? And he did not let me.) And I swear I’m not saying this because it’s her website or because she bribed me with baked goods, but talking to Kerry Colburn (of Jen & Kerry fame) was super helpful and always picked me up. She reminded me that there were always ways to publish this book—I could even do it myself. Knowing that made the rejection easier to take.

What surprised you during the publishing process?
That in the end, the rejections are sort of irrelevant. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s true. It’s like falling in love. You just need to find the one right person—the one right agent and the one right publisher—who thinks that you are amazing. That there will be lots of people who don’t think that your book is that great, and there will be a few who will think that it’s wonderful and they’re the ones who can make amazing things happen.

What’s one thing you’d like to say to other burgeoning authors?
You suck way less than you think you do. Trust me.

What’s next for you?
I’m currently in the editing process for ALL OVER THE PLACE, which is fun and agonizing. My manuscript should be completely done by this summer, and after that I’d like to get back to blogging. I also have a few other ideas for my next book. I think it’s going to be a feminist memoir, and the concept I’m toying with has the potential to be really unique and fun. I’m excited about it. But I need to get this one done first.

Anything else you’d like to share?
My husband said something to me recently that I really, really liked. I was having trouble with a chapter of the book, and I told him I wasn’t a good writer. And his reply was, “Of course you are. Just because it’s difficult doesn’t mean you are bad at it. Writing is hard even for good writers.”

That was sort of revelatory, because it reminded me that it’s the process itself that is difficult. So you just need to keep at it.

 

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Only a few spots left! Register NOW for our May Class: Craft a Winning Book Proposal

bookstackDue to popular demand, we’ve teamed with with the Queen Anne Writers Studio to bring you our book proposal workshop! To date, we’ve had many students turn their dream of publishing into a reality, and this class is where many of them started. One student even said, “I went from feeling hopeless to hopeful.” Our classes have a tendency to do that to people.

Here’s the thing: You may have a terrific book idea ready to set the publishing world on fire. Alas, without a spot-on book proposal, it may never see the light of day. Don’t let this happen to you! Learn how to create a savvy and professional proposal that will make publishers and agents sit up and take notice. During our 4-hour workshop, we will walk you through the key elements of any successful proposal—including title/subtitle, opening pitch, author bio, and marketing plan—and help you polish each one with hands-on exercises and individual feedback. Class size is small so you and your idea will get plenty of attention.

Make no mistake: Crafting a killer, on-point proposal is absolutely essential to succeeding in the current marketplace no matter what publishing route you take. You’ll leave this workshop not only committed to getting the book deal of your dreams, but with a concrete start to every section of your proposal. Don’t you feel more hopeful already?

When: Saturday, May 14, 1–5pm

Where: Tulinda Yoga Studio, 618 McGraw Street, Queen Anne

Who: Suitable for any writers actively working on or thinking about a book. No matter the genre, where you are in the writing process, or how you’d ideally like to publish, this class will ensure you have the best shot at publication. (While book proposals are expected for nonfiction titles, we encourage all aspiring authors to write a proposal, as it will make their submission—and their book—stronger.)

Fee: $199. You can register via PayPal here. Your payment in full confirms your registration and reserves your spot. Space is limited to 15, so register early.

What to bring: Bring something on which to write, be it laptop or pen and paper. (Please charge up before coming and bring your power cord, and we’ll do our best to accommodate your charging needs.) Please also bring your mobile coffee mug or water bottle. We’ll have coffee, tea, and water on hand.

(photo: craftbuds.com)

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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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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.

(Photo: adirondackcenterforwriting.com)

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How to Get Seattle’s Talent into Print

Nicole Brodeur 122015We are thrilled that Nicole Brodeur mentioned The Business of Books and our upcoming retreat in her Sunday column. If you have a book idea but don’t know how to get published, come to our January publishing retreat at Willows Lodge. Read the article here.

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How to Get an Agent: A Q&A with Author Curt Weiss

CurtWeissAfter wanting to know how to get published, the most common question we get is: “How do I find an agent?”

We feel your pain.

Securing an agent is just as hard as landing a publishing deal these days, and requires savvy, a thorough submission, and persistence. When we heard one of our former clients landed an agent, we asked him to share his journey, as well as any advice he picked up along the way.

After over thirty years of working in media and the arts, Curt Weiss knows a good story when he hears one. Now he’s ready to tell the oh-so-good story of one of the most influential and overlooked musicians of their time: Jerry Nolan of the infamous Punk Rock granddaddies, the New York Dolls.

Tell us about your path to seeking and securing an agent.
I had been writing and researching my book on and off since 2006. I hadn’t really given much thought to how I was going to sell the book, thinking I would figure it out after writing it. Little did I know…

In the summer of 2013 a writer friend of mine told me about the Willamette Writer’s Conference. When she explained to me that this was an event where you could meet literary agents, I figured that, after seven years, it was time to jump in feet first. My book was about 95-percent finished so I had no reason to wait anymore.

I researched the event and realized that I needed to learn how to pitch my book to agents. The whole gist of the event is setting up meetings (either one on one or in small groups) with literary agents where you’ll have a limited amount of time to convince them that you’ve got something that’s right up their alley. I needed to learn how to sell my book and myself in no more than two minutes (group pitch) and up to five minutes (one on one pitch).

Before I even learned how to pitch, I had to figure out which agents to pitch to. At conferences like Willamette, you pay for each agent you pitch to, so you need to be selective. Before reserving a spot with an agent, I read their bios (available on the conference website) and found agents who were looking for books like mine. As I was selling a non-fiction oral history on a junkie New York rock and roll musician from the Punk era, I looked for agents interested in the arts, urban grit, bios, etc. Conversely, if their interests were, for example, romance novels, science fiction or young adult genres, I didn’t waste my time and money booking time with them.

The week before the event I attended a pitch workshop given by Cynthia Whitcomb in Portland. I worked her system, practiced and practiced and then practiced some more. She reviewed and critiqued it by e-mail afterwards and my writer pal did the same. It was also important to time myself so I wouldn’t be rushed when the time came to pitch my book.

There was a pitch slam on the first night of the conference, where people lined up and one after another pitched to a panel of agents in front of hundreds of people. If you have trouble speaking in public, you need to get over it quickly. Besides getting in more practice of your pitch, I got to hear others. I noted what worked and what didn’t and kept refining my pitch as well as my delivery. I realized that you can’t read a script. It’s one-part conversation, one-part sermon, one-part advertisement, and another part political speech. You’re selling an idea (your book) but you’re also selling yourself, your abilities, and your credentials. No one can tell this story except you. And no matter how emotional your story is, DO NOT CRY. Practice selling emotion without crying.

The next day, I began two-and-a-half days of meeting agents and pitching. Here’s a tip: if you’re in a group pitch, sit in the center, opposite the agent. The agent will usually go in a circle and as you don’t know whether they’ll start on the right or left, you don’t want to be last and feel rushed if the pitch session is running long. Sitting in the center means you won’t go last and you can face them head on.

I had 13 agents to meet. I ended up getting 10 requests for proposals. Of course, I had no proposal and barely knew what it was. As I was doing 13 pitches, I started to see the same people at the agent’s tables and I started to talk to them between meeting agents. I noted who had already published a few books and asked them about their processes and any tips or suggestions. Like most conferences, there was a table of books for sale, including some related to writing non-fiction book proposals. I bought one that was suggested to me: Nonfiction Book Proposals Anybody Can Write by Elizabeth Lyon.

After working on the proposal for a few months I decided, as this was the first book proposal I’d ever written, I wanted some professional input. I chose to take Jen and Kerry’s proposal workshop and after that, used their individual review service. They helped me edit and hone it.

I was finally ready to submit a proposal. In spite of getting cards from each of the agents, I still needed to check their agency websites for particulars. Some require you to use a central mailbox as opposed to the individual agent’s e-mail address. Some want one sample chapter, some more. Always put the name of the conference and the agent’s name in the subject header.

I sent out six query letters. In addition to the one offer of representation, I received three rejections, one non-response and another acknowledgement of receipt that arrived after I signed my representation agreement. Before I sent out the next four, I got an offer, so I never pursued them. I took notes from the responses to my pitch and used them in each query. Here is the query I sent to John Rudolph of Dystel & Goderich on May 14th:

Dear John Rudolph,

Thanks very much for requesting my book proposal and sample chapters at the Willamette Writers Conference last August. My book is titled Hit It! The Secret World and Public Life of Jerry Nolan: A Drummer’s Story, Before, During and After Punk Rock. In my notes from the conference, I wrote that you were interested in music and non-fiction. If that is still the case, my book should continue to be of interest to you.

Coming out of rough-and-tumble New York in the 1970s, Jerry Nolan played drums for two of the most influential and infamous bands of their time: The New York Dolls and Johnny Thunders’ Heartbreakers. He was one of the driving forces and most memorable characters of both the American and British Punk Rock movement. Told as an oral history, HIT IT! features more than 100 new interviews, including Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame legends like the Sex Pistol’s Glen Matlock, Blondie’s Clem Burke and Talking Heads’ Tina Weymouth. Unlike other books on Punk Rock, HIT IT! examines both the New York and London Punk scenes from their earliest days, and lays out Jerry’s important contributions, both musically and stylistically.

Those who knew Jerry say he had what it took to be a star, and his resume showed it, spending time in bands with Bette Midler, Suzi Quatro, and Punk icon Sid Vicious. Sadly, his battles with heroin stymied his career and caused him to contract HIV, ultimately ending his life at the age of 45. He is remembered as a cross between a Martin Scorsese film character and legendary Jazz drummer Gene Krupa: a stylish, wisecracking raconteur, with a streetwise charm and powerhouse drumming skills. But there was a destructive streak behind his attractive veneer that manifested in his prodigious drug use, ability to scam for “chump change,” lying to promoters and managers, or stealing from the women who loved him. Jerry was a walking contradiction: one part loyal, trusted friend and mama’s boy, another part duplicitous, junkie thief.

I knew many of the people involved in Jerry’s life and saw him play numerous times. During the 1980s, I drummed with major label artists including the Rockats and Beat Rodeo, with members of the Violent Femmes and B-52’s, and on recordings produced by Richard Gottherer (Go-Go’s, Blondie), Mike Thorne (Soft Cell, ‘Til Tuesday) and Scott Litt (REM, Nirvana). Transitioning to television in 1992, I joined the award-winning Seattle PBS affiliate KCTS, where, as Unit Manager, I worked on international productions as diverse as Perilous Fight: America’s Second World War in Color, The ACLU: A History, and Vaudeville: An American Masters Special. I have also written for Classic Drummer Magazine and guest DJ for original New York Doll Sylvain Sylvain’s “Rampage of Songs” web page.

I believe that HIT IT! would strongly appeal to male readers, aged 40-70, with an interest in the music of this era. At this time, I am also approaching other agents who have requested proposals.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Curt Weiss
Phone number
e-mail address
www.curtweiss.com

John responded on May 16th by asking for a different chapter, one with more “big names.” I sent it and he offered me representation on May 23rd. By May 27th, we had a signed agreement.

A proposal is not something you’re going to write in a weekend. It took me from August 2013 until May of 2014 to complete a proposal that I was happy enough with it to submit it to prospective agents. If you’re like most people you probably have a job, kids, aging parents, a lawn that needs mowing, etc. All of those things need to be attended to while you write and research your proposal. It’s hard work and it takes time. Not only do you need to convince someone that your book idea is great, but you have to present potential audience and market data, a promotion plan, a bio and, particularly if your book is non-fiction, establish yourself as a credible expert on your subject. You may also need to set up a website, blog and or Facebook page to establish your “platform:” how will you stand above the crowd? And of course, a sample chapter…or chapters. That’s many months of work. Just keep your eyes on the prize and keep at it.

What surprised you during the querying process?
Trying to settle on a format. There are so many to choose from and I kept finding conflicting info on the web: statements made about what the right format is, with examples contrary to the formula. Look for examples of a successful query in your genre and start there.

What’s the next step toward publication?
Working with my agent to get him the proposal that he’s happy with. Every agency has a format they like. It’ll probably be somewhat different from what your workshop suggested, which is different from what the book suggested. Your agent is your sales person. Give them the tools they need to make the sale. Grit your teeth and do what they say. I’m on version four. Still gritting my teeth!

For more on Curt, check out his website at curtweiss.com.

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Cover Letter vs. Query Letter: What’s the Difference?

In our workshops, we get this question a lot: What’s the difference between a cover letter and a query letter? Here’s the answer.

A cover letter is one page. It is what you attach to your complete book proposal when submitting it to agents or publishers. It is 9994948-old-ribbon-typewriter-machineincluded as a teaser only, introducing the title and concept of your book, who you are, and why you are sending it to this particular agent or editor. (This shows you’ve done your homework and aren’t just blanketing Manhattan with submissions to anyone and everyone.) There is no need to go into extensive detail about your book in the cover letter; your goal is to simply pique enough interest for the reader to flip immediately to your impressive proposal—which you’ve crafted according to our awesome Business of Books plan.

A query letter is more fleshed out, as it stands in place of your proposal. Many agents require a query letter only, and will then request a full proposal if the concept intrigues them. So, in essence, your query is a mini-proposal, sent in advance. Think about distilling each of the key sections of your proposal—including your Intro, Competing Titles, About the Book, About the Author, and Marketing)—into a separate short paragraph. Be sure to close with the fact that you have a full proposal at the ready if (when!) they want to see more. Case in point: One of our former clients sent out three query letters via email to agents, per their guidelines, and two of them responded the next day asking to see more. This clever author had a polished, complete proposal ready to send right away, while the interest was fresh. Soon after, she signed with one of those two agents (and was published within the year).

Both the cover and the query letter should set the tone and voice of the proposal, and also highlight why your idea is strong and why you are the person to write it. Sell it!

For more helpful tips on your proposal, the submission process, and all things publishing, buy our Publishing Toolkit. It’s Jen & Kerry in a binder!

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What Publishers REALLY Want You to Know

Sending out a book proposal for review by agents and publishers is an act of bravery. At The Business of Books, our raison d’etre is making sure you do it right…by way of a complete, polished, on-point book proposal that will give you the best possible chance at publication. Beyond that, you have to be savvy when submitting it. We recently interviewed publishers and agents in New York and asked them about some simple do’s and don’ts that they wish they could tell every writer. Listen up, potential authors!Whisper Art

DO know to whom you’re sending your proposal.
This translates as do your research. Over and over again, publishers have told us how frustrated they are with receiving proposals for the kinds of books they don’t publish. How would you like to work for a cookbook publisher and continually get pitches for children’s books or memoirs? Do your homework to ensure you’re sending your book to the right place; otherwise you waste your time and annoy the publisher.

DON’T pigeonhole the publisher.
Resist the urge to tell the publisher who they are (“You’re quirky,” “You’re intellectual,” “You’re prestigious”) when explaining why you’re sending them this book idea. It can make them bristle. Instead, tell them what other books they publish that you admire, and how your book might appeal to those same readers.

DO promote yourself and your idea as marketable.
Your book may be a labor of love, but it’s also a product that needs to be sold. In today’s publishing world, it’s more true than ever that writing the book is only half of your job. When you pitch your book, convey to the publisher that you understand this, and that you stand prepared to partner with them to promote and sell your book. Wow them with a terrific author bio and offer some creative ideas on how you might reach your target audience.

DON’T forget to say what the book is about.
Believe it or not, most publishers say that the most common rookie mistake is not clearly stating what the book is about. What is the book, what does it promise, and how does it deliver on that promise? It’s the author’s job to convey this clearly and passionately from the get-go.

Ready to learn more? Join us at our all-day book proposal seminar on Feb 9, “30 Days to a Winning Book Proposal,” or check out our helpful webinars, including “What Every Publisher Wants You to Know.” Write on!

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New Online Class! What Every Publisher Wants You to Know: Selling Your Book in Today’s Marketplace

Fresh back from Book Expo America, we’ll be champing at the bit to share everything we learned from editors and agents. We have ways of making them talk…

So, on June 27, we’re kicking off our new online classes with a timely and helpful seminar for anyone at any stage of the publishing process. What Every Publisher Wants You to Know: Selling Your Book in Today’s Marketplace will help you create a proposal that’s built to address publishers’ current needs and requests.

Learn the latest of what publishers and agents are looking for…right this minute! Armed with insider intel gathered at BEA—the world’s largest publishing conference—we’ll reveal what publishers and agents say they clamoring for in the current marketplace. No matter where you are in the process or what kind of book you’re writing, learn to create an attention-grabbing proposal by giving editors and agents exactly what they want. Our 90-minute online seminar will cover:

  • The proposal components that are crucial to landing a publishing deal
  • Rookie mistakes to avoid during the submission process
  • The aspects of an author platform that matter most
  • Fine-tuning your proposal to address today’s publishing climate
  • The one thing that agents and editors want you to know

June 27, 7-8:30pm PT | Click here to register!

 

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