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Business & Life Skills

How to write and publish a book(How-to-Video)

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Get expert advice from seasoned veterans on the process of how to write and publish a book. Award-winning author, Brenda Peterson  and literary agent, Sarah Jane Freymann explain what agents do and how they work, and provide tips on how to write query letters and business proposal, and even how to handle rejection.

Find excerpts pulled from Brenda Peterson’s book, “ Your Life is a Book: How to Craft and Publish Your Memoir” co-authored with her long-time  New York City literary agent, Sarah Jane Freymann and published by Sasquatch press. – See more at:

How to write and publish a book?

How to start writing a book?

Often just starting the process of writing can be intimidating.  Brenda and Sara Jane offer their tips on writing tools from stashing a small notepad to jot ideas, voice recordings and other software ideas to help you jump start the process.

Take a listen. Click on the time stamps to hear more:

  • 0:54 Should I write a book? How should I start?
  • 3:24 What are attributes of a book that will be published?
  • 4:12 Where do you write?
  • 6:07 What kind of book writing software can you use? What do you use to record your notes?
  • 8:37 How do you start writing? Do you start at the story in the beginning?
  • 6:39 What is feedback that a literary agent would offer?
  • 25:24 How do you know when to stop editing and rewriting your book?
  • 31:17 Brenda shares her writing quilt process and how she organizes her story? (See our first interview at:
  • 32:10 Why it’s important to define your narrative arc?
  • BONUS: Check out a blog post with Brenda on the writing process (narrative arc, finding your voice, different ways of telling a story, and more)

Writing tips

At times you may find it hard to stay disciplined and focused in the process of writing.  Brenda shares some tips on how to keep on track. Plus, Brenda offers her favorite editing tools:

Editing tools

If you are more of a book person than an online person, here are some recommended books that Brenda uses with her editing:

5 Questions to ask yourself:

One of the challenges of all writers is to commit to writing.  Creating a safe place and structure are key in helping you focus on writing each day.  Here are 5 questions from Brenda that you can ask yourself that will help in establishing your groove:

  • What is your best time of day to write? When are you most alert and present? Keep a chart of these times and write them.
  • Where is your most creative space to write? Do you need “a place of your own”?
  • Who can support you as a kind of bodyguard to keep your writing time sacred? Your partner? A friend? Siri?
  • How long can you go without reading a text, checking e-mail, or answering a phone? How much anxiety do you feel when you unplug? Can you ease that somehow?
  • How will you reward yourself in small and simple ways when you succeed in creating writing time and space?

Link to Highlights from my first Interview with Brenda:

  • 47:17 Spiritual memoirs: Tips. Focus on the ?’s not the answers. Focus on the journey not the destination. Focus on people who inspired and taught you not necessarily what you are teaching.  You are a doorway to other wisdom and a listener.
  • 47:45 EAVESDROPPING: A fun exercise from the book to find your own voice.

Resources: Getting creative inspiration

  • Fire it UP with CJ: Tips on procrastination from Creative Coach:

  • Writing tips from Spiritual writer Dan Milliman

  • Overcoming writer’s block


Getting published

In “Your Life as a book”, the authors explain that writing a book and publishing a book are two different things.  They explain that the first involves a craft and the second involves craft plus the knowledge to navigate traditional publishing.  In their book, you will get advice from several of the best editors, book reviewers and publishers in the business, and can find samples of cover letters to an agent, and a sample book proposal.

Getting Good Feedback

It’s important to get good critical feedback from someone you trust.  This can be an agent, an editor, or a friend.  Sara Jane offers her advice:

  • 10:05 Who do you want to get feedback from?

Finding a Literary Agent

In the interview with Sara Jane and Brenda Peterson, they explain the importance of finding an agent to be your advocate and the challenge going on your own.  The first step in the process is writing a query letter to a literary agent.

Sara Jane explains how it’s important in the query letter is not to “pitch”, but to instead seduce, amaze, charm, and move a literary agent.  Here’s how Sarah Jone describes what he is looking for?

“What I really want is for you to share your enthusiasm with me, your passion—to invite me along on a journey; to tell me something you, and you alone, now; to open my eeys to a truth that will enable me to see the world in a different way. “ (p187)

A few other tips about contacting a literary agent from the book:

  1. Write; don’t call.
  2. Send the “pitch” via a query letter via email, which enables you to organize your thoughts, list your credentials, and provide a flavor of your writing style, but also gives the agent a chance to digest, ponder, and reread what you’ve written.
  3. Do a little research on the categories each agent prefers so that you can targetthe right agents. Check out the website Publisher’s Marketplace or the book Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, and Literary Agents.
  4. Do not resort to gimmicks (scented candles, wands, cutesy stationary as they say to the agent that you don’t have faith in your material alone. Be outrageous, but be dignified about it.
  5. Write with confidence, but take care not to be too boastful about how your book is so wonderful, as it can be a turn off.
  6. Make a connection between what you do, what you know(your credentials), and what you choose to write about.
  7. Wonderful one-liners are rare, but if you can sum up your entire book with either a terrific title or an attention-grabbing one line description that is gold.
  8. Be authentic. Sara Jane says that authenticity makes her feel as if a book had to be written.
  9. Provided you write well and are authentic, then be as provocative, outrageous, sentimental, cynical, vulnerable, and as humorous as you choose—whatever reflects who you are and what you have to say.

How do agents work (vide0)?

  • 10:07 What do agents do?
  • 12:34 What is a pitch letter you’d send to an agent? See article written by Sara Jane:
  • 13:36 What happens if the agent loves your concept and voice?
  • 14:02 When do you send a pitch letter to an agent?
  • 16:53 What does it mean to write a non-fiction book on the half?
  • 17:16 What is process for writing a fiction book?
  • 18:44 What happens after you find an agent? How does an agent sell the book?
  • 20:17 What percentage time does a book get rejected?
  • 35:00 Do all writers need an agent? Tips on self-publishing?
  • 35:29 Does an agent focus on certain types of books (fiction, nonfiction, memoirs)?
  • 38:14 How much does it cost to get started? Agent fees?
  • 39:00 Should you pay an agent for a reading fee? What are risks of this path?
  • 40:40 Should you write directly to a publisher? Does it work?
  • 41:13 Why do publishers prefer to work with an agent?
  • Resource: Check out “Your Life as a Book” to see sample cover letters to editors, plus a whole chapter on finding a good editor.
  • An interview that talks about the relationship with writers and agents:

How to write a good book proposal?

“What many writers don’t realize is that all nonfiction books are sold on the basis of a proposal and sample chapters.  Agents and editors won’t even look at a prospective nonfiction book unless it’s submitted in that form.  They’re just too busy to read every manuscript they received, and a proposal includes information that helps an agent make the decision whether or not to read the entire book and take a chance on representing it.  For an editor, a proposal provides important information that helps them decide whether or not to buy it.”

The book proposal has a pretty standard outline that includes the following categories:

Overview- A summary of the whole book.

A literary agent for business books suggests that the description be two or three paragraphs (500 words or less).  He suggest that you think of this as the copy that would go on the back cover of your book, or in reviews you’d see in Publishers Weekly or the NY Times Book Review.

About the Author

This should include your current (or previous job), your platforms and connections (social media, blogs, website, etc), your marketing skills, and any other previous publications.

Target Audience

This includes the primary audience that this book is written for.  Who will purchase your book? What is the market size of that type of reader?


List and summarize how your title compares to other competitive titles and explain the strengths of your book?  It’s fine to say that there is nothing quite like your book, if it’s true.

Marketing and Promotion

What can you offer in terms of actively promote the book? Ideally, what magazines and media outlets are relevant to your audience? What periodicals would you like your publisher to work in getting book reviews? What prior experience do you have with respecting to speak with media? What media or speaking outlets can be leveraged to speak about your book? Beyond book stores, what trade groups or organizations would be interested in your book.  Can your book be split out in portions to be offered as shorter articles in magazines and journals?

Detailed Table of Contents

Include each chapter with s descriptive paragraph.  Make sure to offer a fairly detailed map of what the book will contain. Don’t worry if things shift around during your writing or editing process.

Word Count and Estimated Delivery Date

How long will your book be, and when do you believe you can deliver it.  Many authors have actually written the entire manuscript before even putting the proposal together.

Introduction and Sample Chapters

Sara Jane advises that you send two to three consecutive chapters so an editor or agent can get a sense of continuity.  Make sure the chapters you include offer an accurate sense of the style, substance and structure of the book

Video: What you need to know about writing a book proposal?

  • 37:52 How do audio books work?
  • 41:59 What is a book proposal? What are major parts of book proposal?
  • 45:11 What does an actual book proposal look like? Get more at:
  • 45:41 How many pages is a book proposal and sample chapters?
  • 49:16 Does it make sense to write a business proposal before the book? What comes first?
  • 53:27 Is writing a book the same as movie scripts?
  • 54:43 What kind of marketing does a publisher do?
  • 57:00 How do you write a spiritual book through the Eye of God?
  • What about self-publishing? A blog post by Brenda on Self-publishing:

How to handle rejection?

In the video and book, the authors describe a rejection as our red badge of courage, it shows that we are putting ourselves out there.  The key is stamina.

“When you write a book, you’re in it for the long haul.  Most of all, you must believe that your life story is worthy and ready to be told to a larger audience than just family and friends.  This takes not only some chutzpah, but also a strategy for surviving rejection if you are submitting to traditional publishers- and for handling bad reviews or criticism, even if you are self-publishing.” P230

It may give you comfort to know that many famous authors have been rejected.  Read more here:

  • 20:43 What is the best way to handle rejection?