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Pearls From a Publishing Panel

book writing coach lisa tener
Book Writing Coach Lisa Tener

Back from Las Vegas and, in my total 17 minutes of gambling, I won $40 at roulette. More than 130% return on the $30 I bet. But I bet you want to hear book writing advice from the publishers at the Medical Fusion Conference.

Julie Silver, MD, headed the publishing panel at the conference
Julie Silver, MD, headed the publishing panel at the conference

Dr. Julie Silver facilitated the publishing panel made up of Debbie Carvalko (acquisitions editor at the  Praeger imprint of ABC-CLIO, Karin J. Craig (acquisitions editor at Sunrise River Press), author Kenneth Kamler and myself.

Julie asked all on the panel for some pearls of wisdom. It was interesting to note what the two publishers said: Karin Craig said, “Be clear who your market is.” She’s not as concerned with a book proposal overview–she might suggest a different angle for the book, but if the author doesn’t know their market, she’s not interested.

Debbie Carvalko said, “Know your competition.” You have to be able to know what’s already out there and how your book fits in. Dr. Silver echoed this by saying that when she mentions a new Harvard Health Publications book proposal to her own agent, often her agent says, “Just send the competitive analysis” to decide whether she’s interested in hearing more.

Of course with the larger trade publishers, you need to have a platform (some exceptions are made for memoirs and fiction, for instance) . Last week, I spoke privately with Michael Larsen and a client of mine who is working with Mike. Mike defines platform as “continuing visibility with potential readers online and off.”

Literary Agent Michael Larsen, Author of How to Write a Book Proposal
Literary Agent Michael Larsen, author of How to Write a Book Proposal

Mike pointed out that for a how-to book for a wide national audience in a heavily published field–the promotion of which has to be author driven–a promotion plan is at least eight times more important than content in the proposal. Of course that doesn’t mean you don’t need a fresh idea, impeccable writing, and valuable content. It means that these virtues aren’t enough to keep good books from failing.

And you can’t have a convincing promotion plan without a credible platform. Of course, as Mike points out, elements such as an author’s charisma, title, idea, and writing can offset a platform or promotion plan that isn’t is as strong as it should be, so there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. But the only way to get the best editor, publisher and deal for a book is to have the strongest possible proposal, platform, and promotion plan.

What does this mean for you?

1. All the parts of a book proposal are important. Spend time researching and refining each section. Don’t skimp anywhere.

2. If you’re looking at a small to mid-size publisher, their priorities can be different from a larger publisher and, while platform is still important, other issues, such as credentials, might have more emphasis for some. You still need to know your market and competition and make a solid case for your book.

Lisa Tener

Lisa Tener is an award-winning book writing coach who assists writers in all aspects of the writing process—from writing a book proposal and getting published to finding one’s creative voice. Her clients have appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, CBS Early Show, The Montel Williams Show, CNN, Fox News, New Morning and much more. They blog on sites like The Huffington Post, Psychology Today and WebMD.

Reader Interactions


  1. Larry Kilham says

    Hi Lisa –

    Very interesting! But I didn’t know you were a high roller! Stop in Santa Fe next time. Nuestra casa es tu casa.



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