Saturday, 21 May 2011

B Is For Book Proposal . . . Part One

It circulated for five years through the halls of fifteen publishers and finally ended up with Vanguard Press, which you can see, is rather deep into the alphabet.     - Patrick Dennis on Auntie Mame

And I thought a query letter was daunting . . .

Let me reiteriate, I never intended to write a book.  But life happened and grabbed my heart so fiercely that I had to put it on paper to keep my sanity.  A query letter was one thing, but I was totally unprepared to learn I was now expected to write a BOOK PROPOSAL . . . I was not happy.

I learned in class to think of a book proposal as a sales tool pinpointing the benefits of publishing my book. 

A writer can send a book proposal directly to a small press publisher, but major publishers do not accept "UNSOLICITED" books.  This writers success depends to a large degree upon the quality of the proposal.  Cork Millner

The book proposal is written in third person, and varies in length from four pages to twenty-five pages . . . plus sample chapters.  The sales package is divided into several sections listed in the Proposal Table of Contents.  These include the BOOK CONCEPT, ABOUT THE MARKET, PUBLISHING DETAILS, ABOUT THE AUTHOR, OUTLINE OF CHAPTERS, and SAMPLE CHAPTERS.

I was overwhelmed riding on the verge of a migraine . . .

If I had not invested so much of my life in this book, I would have thrown up my hands and hid in the closet.  But I'm not a quitter!  I'd been through much harder situations than this, I told myself, so I said a prayer, squared my shoulders and trudged on . . .                       

Without my teacher, and the support of my writing class, I would have been down and out in Round One.

Attached is a copy of my Proposal Table of Contents:                             
                                    The Concept . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
                                   The Market . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
                                          Characteristics of reader
                                   The Author . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
                                   Mission Statement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7 
                                   Synopsis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
                                   Chapter Contents . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   15
                                   Sample Chapters
                                         Chapter 1 – I felt like I was going mad . . .  19
                                         Chapter 31 – I knew better than to ask . .   24
                                   Lifeline Resources . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   27

New Zealand . . . where did that come from?

I leave for New Zealand on Wednesday at 11:30 p.m.  I hadn't planned to go to New Zealand, it wasn't on my to-do list, but when my daughter and her family moved to Auckland in September . . . I knew I must go to New Zealand.

We have a close bond, and lived within a 20 mile radius.  I witnessed the birth of her first baby, Max (7) but I missed Charlie's (3) because I had the flu.  I spent time with them at least once a week, by invitation of course.  I had it made!

Then New Zealnd popped into the picture . . .

I can't wait to see them.  It's going into winter there.  We moved our clocks forward, they moved their clocks backwards.  I leave Auckland at 1:05 p.m. on the June 6th, and arrive at LAX at 6:30 a.m. that same day  Strange, I return before I leave.  Wrap your mind around that concept . . . like the galaxies in outer space that go on forever.

I'm very excited, but I HATE TO PACK!  Is there such a person as a professional packer?  I'm not one of those throw-it-all-in-a-duffle-bag kind of females.  Can't help it.  It's the way I'm wired.  But if I don't consider every "what if" sceniro, my mind will not rest.  I'm surely not the only female who puts herself through this torture . . .

Lesson Learned . . . my two cents

There's only one way to ride a horse . . . you have to get on it!

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Q Is For Query Letter . . .

Ode to Saturday morning and the opulence of writing in my PJ's.  A steaming cup of black coffee, a handful of cold cherries and a rice cake smothered in peanut butter at my elbow.  Seagulls screech over the crashing waves at Big Sur ebbing from my Media Player.  A setting decadent as a piece of rich dark chocolate. 

What more could a writer want?  THEIR BOOK PUBLISHED!

The way to love anything is to realize that it may be lost.    
                                                                                                                        Gilbert K. Chesterton 

A query letter was my next mountain to scale.  Daunting and foreboding.  I knew it must start with a "hook" like my story, something that will grab the readers attention.  And it must be short!

Research . . . write, then rewrite.  It took weeks before I had something solid in place.  Something I was ready to read in class, if asked.  And I was . . .

Why was reading aloud so terrifying?  But I knew the answer . . . self-doubt!

May 1, 2010

Mr. Mick Silva, Editor
WaterBrook Press

Dear Mr. Silva,

              “Why in the hell did you call 911 when I tried to commit suicide?”

              This was part of a message left on my answering machine by my husband, a Vietnam vet, three months before he took his own life.  Devastated, I could not comprehend why our men and women die by their own hand after surviving the ravages of war.  I knew I wasn’t alone suffering in silence, watching the man I love destroy himself.  I knew tens of thousands, perhaps millions of other families live this nightmare with no place to turn.   
              Diary of a Vet's Wife, subtitled Loving and living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, my memoir at 96,000 words covers an eighteen year period in my life lifted from personal journals.  This heartfelt love story took sixteen years to write and reads like a novel. 

Divorced with three young children, I longed to find the love of my life.  Eighteen months later we meet, oblivious to the perils waiting and all I would sacrifice for my dream.   Laced with love and heartbreak, secrets and fear, my unique story shows the family dynamics of living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a normal reaction to abnormal life threatening stress.  I later learned I too had developed PTSD from living with my husband’s illness.  The reader will slip into my world like a fly on the wall as I take them places most have never been, while bonding with others who know the terrain that only love dare travel.

            In search of reason, I stumbled upon the peace that surpasses all understanding when I came to know God’s love as a born-again Christian, convinced He held my hand and walked with me through the valley of the shadow of death.  

            My expertise is that I survived to tell this story.  I’m committed to get this book into the hands of as many people as possible, exposing them to a deadly epidemic infesting our nation and the world, drawing attention to the raw wounds of war destroying families.  After all these years, suicide is still on the increase.  Each suicide is a tragedy . . . .     

Manuscript and Book Proposal are completed.  May I submit my work for consideration? 

Critique given in class showed compassion and concern, confirming the need I saw for those touched by war.  Now to find an agent and/or publisher who held the same vision . . . the same passion.

Within weeks, I attended the Orange County Christian Writers Conference.  Mick Silva, an acquisition editor with WaterBrook Press, was key speaker, later hosting a workshop.  He announced he would accept any well-written book proposal.  I only had my query letter, which he agreed to take a look at.   

But it wasn't meant to be.  By the time I returned from my family reunion in Ohio, he was no longer with WaterBrook Press.  He was on his own.   

Now I had to go to Plan B.  The problem . . . I didn't have a plan B.

Lesson learned . . . my two cents

Every writer who wants to be published must have a Plan B!  And maybe a Plan C and a Plan D as well.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Write Your Heart Out . . .

The trick is keeping your heart open.     Natalie Goldberg

May 5, 2011

It's a glorious Thursday morning, and the highway beacons, but instead of my enchanting trip to Santa Barbara, I'm here at my computer pounding on the keys.  Work has taken over my writing time, and this week I had to skip school.  Not only am I writing a blog, but I'm researching ways to market my book.  The resources are endless, requiring the patience of Job.        

First, I want to thank all for your words of encouragement.  I know you're with me, even though I can't see you.  This week I received a few comments that started me thinking . . .

     *  Write to the title
     *  I want to know more about your book
     *  Your date changes are confusing

This blog began as a tool to move me into publishing.  Accountability for my time and actions was my purpose.  Most entries have been lighthearted and chatty, other than the first.  But the time has come when I must share more.  And I'm uncomfortable.  So please bear with me.

Write your heart out.  Never be ashamed of your subject and your passion for your subject.     Joyce Carol Oates

War has gone on since the beginning of man's creation.  And will continue until the end of time.  This necessary evil brings death and pain not only to its victims, but also to the warriors and their loved ones covering our small planet.  It's not the way we'd like it to be . . . it is the way it is.

Brave men and women fight wars in hostile lands where life is valued differently.  Armed with rifles, they're exposed to sights and sounds no human being should ever witness.  And at times, they must engage in unthinkable acts to save their friends which riddles them with shame and guilt.  Or they survive an ambush and the others don't. 

Can you imagine the horror? 

It's not a movie in the theater you pay to watch . . . it's real life!  And it's happening this moment in remote parts of the world.  How does a warrior return to a normal life with this running through their head?

It's called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder . . . a normal reaction to abnormal life threatening stress. 

Those who know me know my story.  They know what I wrote about, and why.  And those who don't know me, other than through this blog, will one day share an experience . . . one that will be hard to forget.

My book?  It's a love story.  And shows how I met the love of my life and we were married.  He was a Vietnam vet.  I didn't know he had post traumatic stress disorder.  I didn't know what post traumatic stress disorder was.  Nor did I know I would develop PTSD from living with my husband's illness. 

The ravages of war tainted our marriage eclipsing it into a nightmare.  And by grace alone, my love gave me the strength and the courage to survive.

I Corinthians 13:4-7  Love suffers long and is kind . . . bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  

Excerpt from my book proposal . . .

Diary of a Vet's Wife shows the innocence of love unblemished with hope and promise, unaware of the imminent demons vowing destruction.  And all too soon her impossible dream is shattered by nightmares her husband doesn't recall and hidden pain he refuses to share.  Her love is unyielding, her journey is long.  She retreats to a life of secrets in order to spare the children and her family from the truth, yet she has no place to turn.

The reader will slip into her world like a fly on the wall as she takes them places most have never been, while bonding with others who know the terrain that only love dare travel.

So there you have it . . .

Lesson learned . . . my two cents

Be open to your readers opinions . . . they're one of the reasons you write.

Show compassion to our brave men and women who have served and suffered for this nation, and our safety. You never know what a person is going through by looking at them.  Would you lay down your life for your country?  Please do me a favor.  When you see someone in uniform, or meet someone who has served in our military, go up to them, shake their hand and say, "Thank you."  It would mean so much to them.  I know from experience . . .

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Publicize Your Book . . .

It was after 2 a.m.  I heard a noise.  Was someone outside, or were the pipes banging?  I slipped out of bed and tiptoed through the dark house.  "OUCH!" I yelped, smashing my foot into the corner of a bookcase.  Pain, pain, pain!  I hobbled to the kitchen for an icepack.  Forget the noise.  I crawled back into bed.  Ever try to sleep with an icepack under your covers?

By Easter morning my middle toe was BLACK, topped with one Double-Dip Red toenail.  I think I broke my toe!

Church was joy-filled.  And brunch was scrumptious . . . I had a chicken liver omelet!  But the Ronald Reagan museum was out.  Too much walking.  Sorry Sandy. said to keep my foot elevated.

Publicize Your Book by Jacqueline Deval is an outstanding source brimming with ideas.  So many my head was swimming.  So I decided to start with one or two.  Dig deep and do them well before moving on to the next.  Whether you're trying to land an agent, or publish yourself, this book offers valuable marketing tools . . . knowledge that will put you steps ahead of most writers.

Write a blog once a week . . . sits at the top of my TO DO LIST.  Of course, I still work, go to school, clean, shop, cook, and all the other mundane chores a woman feels obligated to do.  Sometimes I wonder why.  But then I remember . . . my mother!  And that's how I was raised.  I often think . . . what would happen if I didn't make my bed today?  Would the Clean and Tidy Fairy turn me into a toad?  Being a writer, I do love to stay in my PJ's and write until noon.  That is, when I'm not working.

April 21, 2011

Heavy clouds left a mist clinging to my windshield like frosted glass.  But I didn't care.  It was Thursday and I was on my way to class.  Only thing to stop me would be a mudslide across Pacific Coast Highway, which only happened once.  Or gas reaching $8.00 a gallon!

Yet, once I reached Santa Barbara, the heaven's parted spilling warm sunshine over the lush green mountains, sprinkled with tiny houses like confetti after a party.  I love this town.

Cork Millner's easy-going, yet unique style of teaching captivates his students.  The first two-thirds of each semester deals with the fundamentals of Unleashing Your Creativity and Writing Creative Nonfiction.  Though my memoir was complete prior to my first class, I am now filled with brilliant ideas of what to write next.  Each class I've attended I've learned something new, something I never knew before.

Did you know that Shakesphere was the first writer to use a comma?

My Journey into Publishing . . . 

Spring 2010

If you do not write for publication, there is little point to writing at all.  
                                                                                         George Bernard Shaw

How You Can Become A Selling Writer, the introduction page in Write From The Start, grabbed my attention.  And many others.  However, my first real lesson began in Part Three, How To Sell What You Write.  Chapter twelve started with my first mind-bender, Writing Irresistable Query Letters.  To be honest, I had no idea what a query letter was . . . nor how to write one.  After all, I wrote a book.  Was this necessary?  Yes!!

Cork Millner drummed the need for this instrument into my head each week.  No query letter, no book sale.  I had no choice.  This painful process took me back to square one, screaming and kicking because I knew he was right.

Think of a query as a fishing trip . . . you're trying to hook an editor into taking a look at your manuscript.

A book query is a one-page sales pitch.  It should include the following information (plus some):

   *  The focus, theme or slant of your book
   *  Why the book will fill a need
   *  The potential market for your book
   *  Your expertise on the subject
   *  Your publishing credits, (if any)

And when I heard what it was, my immediate reaction was IMPOSSIBLE!  You've got to put all that on one page?  You're kidding me!  It's like writing the Lord's Prayer on the head of a pin.

Lessons I've Learned . . . my two cents.

Where do I find time to write?  The number one question all writers have.  In the beginning, I wrote in the evenings after work, but my brain was fried.  And so was my writing.  Yet on weekends, I could start in the morning and write into the night.  What could I do during the week?

I'm a morning person, but I had to leave for work at 7:15 a.m.  How could I write in the morning?  I read about a writer who set her alarm 30 minutes earlier every three days and left it there.  A gradual process of "making time to write."  Your body and your mind barely notice.  And it worked!!! 

In the end, I got up at 3:40 a.m., made coffee and was at my computer ready to write by 4 a.m.  And for me this was perfect!!  My mind loved the discipline and the words flowed freely.  And I came to know the morning bird who sang first, slowly waking all the other birds.  A glorious way to start the day . . .

Lesson learned . . . You don't find the time, you make the time!