3 Steps To A Winning Non Fiction Project


Non fiction is an incredibly busy category. With celebrity memoirs and internet-based projects (HONY etc.) everywhere (and rightfully so! As you’ll see below) it’s a competitive space for debut non fiction authors. So if you have a non fiction idea how are you going to get to the marketplace? How do you find an agent and editor that will see the potential?


Firstly, you need a completely original idea or a very new/controversial take on an existing one. Yes, nearly every topic has been written about but there are many more spins and angles to be worked. So ask yourself: Why are you the right person to write this? Why does the market need it? There is no substitute for the idea. You can work on 2 and 3, but this has to be there from day 1. If you’re working on an idea that’s already out there in book format, how is yours different? No agent or editor is going to sign something up that’s already out there unless it’s being done differently or better.


How have you tested your idea? Do you have a podcast where people call in with stories? Do you have a Twitter account with lots of RTs? Do you have regular speaking gigs where people hear you talk? Are you on TV/have a column/hold a prominent job? How does a publisher know that people are engaged with what you have to say? If they’re going to financially invest in a project before it’s written (remember non fiction is sold on proposal) then you need to show them why they should. You’re writing a business plan for your project. Engagement is the proof that this idea can work as a book. Give the publisher faith that you can bring this to a wide audience.


Engagement and platform are the same category, but different. You can have a platform without engagement (i.e. blog with no hits) but you can’t have engagement without a solid platform. Pick the platform that you find easiest to consistently communicate on and make it easy for people to find you. Your platform is essentially your numbers of followers and the virtual and physical reach you have. How many people listen to your podcast? How many followers do you have? They need to be engaged, yes! But, the smaller your platform the higher the engagement has to be. The bigger your platform gets high engagement is expected and that’s when it’s time to pitch a book.

Then you put it all together into a proposal, write a query, and submit.

#askagent on Facebook LIVE Oct 13


The long weekend is over and it’s full steam ahead to Frankfurt Book Fair, #NaNoWriMo, the International Festival of Authors and the rest of the delights of fall publishing.

This week, I’m hosting a live #askagent session on the PSLA Facebook page.

Ask your questions in advance here.

Thursday at 4pm EST you can log in here.  Join me!

10 Ways To Personalize Your Query to Agents

Once Upon A Time pencil

Writers hear that they’re supposed to personalize their queries–but “how personal, exactly?” is the most common question. The best queries show that they have engaged with us before (on Twitter, read an interview, or a blog post of ours) and have done their research. It’s easier than you think to show that personal touch.

Below are TEN great query intro’s you can model yours after:

“You’ve mentioned on your blog an interest in XX and so BOOK TITLE HERE might be of special interest to you.”

“After reading (and loving) CLIENT BOOK TITLE HERE, I am submitting BOOK TITLE HERE for your review.”

“I noticed on Manuscript Wishlist you are looking for XX and XX so I’m submitting BOOK TITLE HERE.”

“I am seeking representation for my novel, BOOK TITLE HERE, a work of XX complete at XX-words. For readers of XX and CLIENT BOOK TITLE HERE.”

“I enjoyed your interview with XX and am eager to present to you my query for BOOK TITLE HERE.”

“As per your request on #MSWL, I am hoping you’ll be interested in my book, BOOK TITLE HERE, an …”

“I am excited to offer, for your consideration, BOOK TITLE HERE, one that is HOOK, like your #MSWL requests.”

“I am contacting you about my novel BOOK TITLE HERE because of your wishlist mention of XX and XX.”

“I noticed your tweet requesting XX and I thought my novel BOOK TITLE HERE could be just what you’re looking for.”

“I am seeking representation for my GENRE novel BOOK TITLE HERE complete at XX-words. It is similar in theme to CLIENT BOOK TITLE HERE.”

You don’t need to gush too much and you don’t need to flatter us. You just have to use your professional judgment to share why you think we’d be a fit. If you tell me that you’ve read my blog chances are I’m going to like that because it shows that you understand what I’m looking for. If you’ve read my clients’ books that shows we might have similar taste. If you cite my MSWL posts that shows some research. It’s really the little details that will set you apart from the pack.

Make sure to also include in this opening paragraph: word count, genre/category/audience and don’t forget your book title!



4 Easy Ways To Streamline Your Author Brand


Every writer has an author brand whether they know it or not. So how can you take control of it? Here are my four easy ways to streamline your author brand across platforms and within platforms.


1. Cross-platform brand consistency

Do you use the same author photo on all your platforms (i.e. Website and Instagram) so followers know they’re in the right place? Do you use the same colour scheme or header image on your platforms (i.e. Facebook and Twitter)? Use visual cues to let readers/followers/fans know they’re in the right place. This creates tone without saying anything and is an easy way to start having a consistent brand across the web.

2. Unique content per platform

If you promote the same links across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, e-newsletter etc. then readers only have to follow you in one place to get the same information. Try creating unique content (but not spamming people about buying your book) for each platform and see how your voice and following can grow in different ways.

3. Engagement

Rule #1 of social media and growing a brand is engaging with comments/readers/followers. Don’t let a single comment go by without replying. Show followers that if they have the time to visit your pages that you have the time to engage with them. Then they’ll keep coming back because they have a personal relationship with you. When it’s time to promote your book they’ll be there to support you.

4. Promote other writers/creators that are consistent with your message/tone/voice

It can be counter-intuitive to promote other people while you’re trying to grow your own following, but believe me–this works! Show the writing community that you’re there for them AND get your name out there by promoting other writers who are comparable to you. This increases your engagement with established authors, shows the marketplace where you belong, and links your name to theirs in google searches.

Try that for a month or two and see how it feels. It will become natural very quickly!