Thursday, June 09, 2011

Does Your Book Proposal Have Curb Appeal?

It better have: I just read a post on that suggested prospective home buyers form an opinion on a home in 15 seconds--before they even go inside. That's the power of curb appeal. Your book proposal needs "curb appeal" as well. That's why I recommend concise on-the-point proposals. You have 15 seconds to impress an editor. Think you have more? Think again. The Publishing Pro.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Before You Write Your Memoir ...

... think twice: Memoirs are wonderful. They aren't the easiest books in the world to sell, but everyone should write one. Okay, almost everyone, but mostly everyone, sometime. If you have been thinking about writing a memoir, here are some questions to ask yourself.
  • Is it the right time? There is a right time. If you're too old or frail to put pen to paper or to promote your finished book, it may be too late. If the subject matter is too fresh in your mind--if you have too many resentments, too many scores to settle--it may be time to put your memories in a journal but too early to put them in a book meant for the public. Memoirs are not for the young, the young being those who haven't live long enough to make peace with themselves and the others in their lives. I recall a workshop in which a psychologist--I can't remember his name--pointing out that people do not fully mature until they work out their "parent stuff." Everyone has parent stuff, no matter how good their parents were, and it doesn't usually get worked out until the thirties (and then only if you're particularly precocious). Until it happens, you're probably not ready to write your memoir.
  • Is it too much? It doesn't have to be. One of the mistakes people make is trying to do too much in a memoir. When you're 85 and set off to tell the story of you're entire life, you could easily wind up with a 1,000 page book, which may be too expensive to put together and too intimidating for anybody to read. Good memoirs have a focus--something besides "my entire life." Mine, From Rome to Jerusalem, is about a religious transition that took a lifetime. Someone else could write a memoir about a specific time in their lives: their war experiences, their career, their struggle with breast cancer, and so on. Another format that works well for families is a compendium of stories. A bonus is that the order of the stories is not critical.  They don't even need to be chronological, which tends to make the project easier to write and complete. Another terrific memoir, especially to pass on to your descendants, is the equivalent of an "ethical will." Such a memoir would be organized around specific traits or values you find important instead of a chronological walk through your life. The other decision you could--and should, I would argue--make is to write a memoir of a specific length. I like 50,000 words because it produces a book of around 160 pages, which is long enough to be taken seriously and short enough to be inviting.
  • How do I treat the people in my life? Good question, one you'll have to resolve. When I wrote my memoir, I kept going back to the idea that this was my story. This helped me keep the focus on my feelings, my thoughts, and my behavior rather than that of my family, friends, and colleagues. Realizing I could damage someone's reputation by writing the truth as well as an untruth, I watched what I wrote (keeping in mind that this was, again, my story) and then shielded the identity of most characters as an added protection.  The Publishing Pro.

Marketing Tip: Write Articles

It will build your brand: One of the things you can do to promote your book is to write articles for blogs, newsletters, and magazines. Here are my suggestions for making this strategy work for you:
  • Focus on  your core market first. Let's say you have written a book about your hobby, building model railroads. Instead of contacting general interest magazines, or large circulation magazines, or good paying magazines, you should contact organizations, groups, and publications with a specific interest in model railroads. The size of their circulation and the absence of any payment are less important than their focus on your market.
  • Send proposals, not articles. Don't send completed articles. In most cases, you'll be wasting your time. Instead, send short proposals that include a working title, a brief summary of what you want to write and what it will do for their readers, and some information about yourself (including, of course, the fact that you are the author of a related book.) If you are corresponding by snail mail, include a self-addressed stamped envelope. If the editor is interested, she will tell you how long to make the article and how to adapt it for her audience.
  • Build your brand. When you write these articles, you're not promoting your book so much as building your brand. In fact, talking too much or too directly about your book probably won't work, even if it is possible. The editor might decide to work with you because you have written a book on a related subject, but probably the most you'll get is a mention of the book in your bio. However, writing this article will build your credibility, which will help you get more assignments and help your book sales down the road.
  • Propose articles related to your book subject. To gain any benefit for your book, you must propose articles related to the subject of your book. However, they do not need to be excerpts from your book or even closely related. They could be variations from a related workshop you are doing--or would like to do.
  • Put it on your blog. If you must write articles before you get an assignment, put them on your own blog. If you land an assignment based on one of your blog articles, make sure you inform your editor before pursuing the assignment. The Publishing Pro