Non-fiction book proposal formulas revealed by agent

nonfictionbookproposalcoverThe Literary Agent’s Guide to Writing A Non-fiction Book Proposal (e-book, $3.99) delivers on its title. Author (and agent) Andy Ross offers a handy step-by-step roadmap in creating what he describes as your book’s business plan.

This game plan is more than the proposal. Ross starts by addressing the need for a persuasive query letter to an agent. Why should the agent represent you and your book proposal?

Ross notes that the most popular subject he teaches at writing conference is query letters. His top complaint about bad query letters? They’re too long.

One tip the author dishes is to avoid “sucking up.” he doesn’t want query writers to waste time talking about an agent’s list, or life. For Ross, some writers want to praise him on Cody’s, his bookstore for years. “Don’t waste words with your query,” he warns.

One an agent is willing to read your book proposal, Ross advocates fast action. Don’t wait a month to send the requested proposal. From prescribing 12 point Times New Roman font to telling you which sample chapter to include, Ross reveals all.

The greatest strength of this book comes from actual proposals he’s used to sell books for clients. The only time Ross strays from the path is when he includes an imagined query for War and Peace from author Tolstoy.

Ross may not be an author who’ll create legions of starry-eyed readers. He mentions that he gets 10 to 20 query letters a day, only to choose 10 to 20 projects to represent in a given year. “We have become the gatekeepers of book publishing,” he writes. “We filter out the bad stuff, and only deliver the best quality projects for publishers to evaluate.”

Nonetheless, such a clear, level-headed attitude means Ross is the right pick for non-fiction authors wanting a good strategy before they battle for publication.


Who writes those annoying pop-up box refusals? Ick!

Obviousman and cartoonist creator Wiley "Non Sequitur" Miller are two faves of mine. Look both up on

Obviousman and cartoonist creator Wiley “Non Sequitur” Miller are two faves of mine. Look both up on

Imagine “Insulting Your Reader 101,” a college course for all webmasters.

Am I supposed to laugh at the choices given on some pop-up ads? One website I respect has such a “Lady or the Tiger” choice. Just because I didn’t want their e-mail newsletter, I had to choose “No, thanks. I don’t like to save money.”

I’d rather see a juicier non-option. Something like “No, thanks. I like being ugly and stupid.”

I’d like to find each of these smarmy copywriters, summoning them with ringing doorbells and phone calls just when they’ve closed the bathroom door. Then, they’d have to choose “I’d rather sit on the toilet than accept your springboard to fame and fortune.”

For now, each case of online peer (sales) pressure I receive is greeted with a related FLUSH!

A post-Olympics idea for writers

Rio Olympics stampsThe Olympics are over.

Stop competing!

All writers should read. You want to write books? Then, guess what you should read?

It’s that easy.

What makes it hard?

Comparing yourself to others.

This is an event that everyone can win. Just be yourself.

Ask why you like parts of what you’re reading. How did the author do it? Read and learn.

Or, find parts of a story you don’t like. How would you make it better?

Stop wanting to be someone else. Start going for the gold. Read!


Creating the do-it-yourself letter of recommendation

(Photo credit: J. Henning Buchholz,

(Photo credit: J. Henning Buchholz,

Tired of obscure writing prompts and other far-out literary exercises?

I have an alternative for you.

Write yourself a letter of recommendation. Scratch that. Ghost-write yourself a letter of recommendation.

What does that prove?

It proves that you’re ready for anything. Don’t be surprised if a professor, co-worker or good friend replies to your letter request with, “I don’t know what to say about you.”

That’s when you supply the letter. E-mail the reference the whole creation. Say, “I enjoyed imagining what a letter from you might look like. So I drafted this, adding pertinent points about how my experiences show that I’m a perfect candidate for this job. Of course, you could do better. I just thought that might give you an idea of what I’m dreaming of.”

Then, don’t be surprised when a letter from your top reference comes with much (if not all) of YOUR words. Watch the supporter dazzle you with cut-and-paste wizardry.

Such a game plan has worked for me. I’d hope it would do the same for you.

Wordsmithing 101: Exploring the opposite of ‘badass’

Good Ass BeerIt didn’t take long for the flip side of “badass” to spread.

Trouble is, I think there’s still a battle over how to spell the opposite. Is it…

  1. Goodass
  2. Good ass
  3. Good-ass

Well, the beer maker has chosen. Note the logo on their amusing beer. To me, their spelling suggests that the brew’s main ingredient is asses. Hee haw!

Don’t forget the first variation of the buzzword. Being able to read the word aloud is tricky. Is “Goo” a relative of “Ram Dass“?

The only logical choice, I feel, is the third spelling. Any wordage besides the hyphen would muddle the meaning of a sentence like, “What a good-ass man!” Split the words, and someone might include a subconscious comma in the sentence. In other words, we might think the guy’s backside is getting critiqued.

Supposing you’re a badass writer unconcerned about the debate. My only advice? Think hard about including either description in your writing. Your work could be dated faster than you could say “groovy.”

Milk cartons have expiration dates. Don’t rely on words capable of stamping a “best if read by…” warning on your creation.