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Meet the Non-Fiction Editors – “#SFWC15


Brenda Copeland advises writers at #SFWC15

SF Writer’s Conference 2015 – Friday 9 am – Meet the Non-Fiction Editors
California Room
Terry Whalin
Brooke Warner
Liz Stein
Rachel Randall
Brenda Knight
Michael Larsen
Georgia Hughes
Benjamin Hy
Cynthia Frank
Brenda Copeland
Domenica Alioto

Began with Michael Larsen introducing the Non Fiction Editors – They will begin with 3 min introductions

Began with Terry Whalin – With Morgan James Publishing. He lives in Denver, the House is in NY. They have hit the NY Times bestsellers 20 times. He has written more than 60 books. The house does 150 books a year, 30% are Christian. They do self-help, a bit of fiction and children’s books. He’s looking for all kinds of stuff.

Brooke Warner – She Writes Press – “in between” curated. Author does pay up front. They have signed 125 authors in three years. They deal with authors who are tired of dealing with old model. Many authors have good work but can’t penetrate traditional market. The barriers seem to get higher and higher. She started with traditional presses.

Liz Stein – With Penguin Random House. Biggest publisher in world. Their franchise is thriller, crime, but her specialtiy is women’s fiction.

Rachel – Random House – Been around 125 years. Many different products. She is looking for trade books in writing about fiction and memoirs.

Georgia Hughes – Editorial Director at New World library. Marin County, been around 35 years and publishes 35 books a year. Worked at Harper SF (now Harper 1). They publish non-fiction books about personal growth. They do stray outside of this. Biggest hit is “The Power of One.”

Ben H. – Houghton-Mifflin – non fiction in history, politics and current affairs.

Cynthia – Cypress House and Lost Coast Press – Done books  on stock market, humor book “Dancing Naked in Fuzzy Red Slippers.” Not in bookstores but in lingerie stores. Lot of health and healing books… ending elder abuse. Book on Parkinsons. Looking for a cookbook from families dealing with Parkinsons.

**Brenda Copeland – Exec Ed with St. Martins, smallest of big 5 publishers. She has more fiction than NF. Looking for voice driven. Looking for something with advice. Very practical person. Wants advice that offer practical advice. Also teaches editing in NY University. Tells her students and writers that there are three people in immediate editor. Author, editor, reader. Only one person is important, “not me and not you.” She wants to hear from us.

Domenica Alioto – Crown – Crown Trade has many branches. Crown trade does some commercial trade and big ideas. She is looking for memoir, et al.

Back to Liz Stein – Putnam does big high concept non fiction. Examples given from memoirs of Betty White, Burt Reynolds,
Brenda Knight – bit late Clevis Editions  looking for Outliers LBGT, erotica, did first transgender parenting book and a book on how parents feel when their kids change gender. Book is selling well, but also donating to churches because they want to make a difference.

With Viva Editions they have books to do self-help. Random Acts of kindness. How to clean up the big floating garbage patch over the next 10 years.

Q and A – Shuttling Mics

Q for Ben – What history are you looking for? What do you see with history of WWII books. He’s published several history books. China just opened up their archives, and this has triggered interest.

Audience comment – hidden genocide – long rambling question about getting access by a former Pakistani solider and now an author.

Suggestion – look in bookstores, find similar book and look for acknowledgements and find the agent. Larger houses require agents. Find an agent that does similar material.

Suggestion – Get a network together. Reach out and gather supporters around them.

**Brooke Warner has written a book about how to write a memoir proposal. She says you need a proposal. You need to put in the sweat equity on how to do this. “How To Sell Your Memoir.”

Terry Whalin has a free tele-seminar – “Ask About Proposals.” “Book Proposals That Sell.”

Suggestion – Build a network. It’s not just about what you have to say. It’s about the people who are interested in what you have to say. Build an on-line network around a concept. It’s tricky, and you have to start somewhere. It’s probably a matter of experimenting. There is no magic key, but there are some good marketing sections.

In non-fiction you need to know where it will reside on the virtual and physical shelf space. Find kindred spirits. Eg. One editor is publishing a book on the Lusitania, and the current owner endorsed the effort.

Try. What’s the worst that can happen. They say “no” and you move on. Marketing is planned rejection.
Comment on question: What I hear you saying sounds like you’re not sure what you have to offer.

Terry – your proposal must be robust.  It has to have competitive titles.

Brenda Copeland – Her house is suspicious that a finished memoirs was rejected elsewhere. There needs to be a list of characters. The proposal needs sample chapters that are the absolute best and draw us in.

Question to Brenda Knight about the category a book on death fit in. She talked about where it appeared on the shelves.

Question to Liz – Author cited the number of page views she gets on Facebook a such, and asked if these were good. Liz was hesitant to say yes or no because this changes so rapidly.


Question for Liz, what about work that has been out there is a collection of short forms. Book must be distinct from an amalgamation of articles. Nina blogged er book, came in at about 35k, but the book is closer to 65k. It has more content and a different structure.

Georgia said that you have to have a sense of what it is that you’re going to offer apart from just telling people to look at your blog.

Rachel added, re Nina Amir, that Nina had a substantial proposal.

Cynthia said she sees many new authors who are reluctant to do proposals, but these will educate you on how to develop and market your book. She gets a lot of gimmicky proposals, but the ones that get read pay attention to what an editor needs. Know the format. Do the research.

Terry Whalin said blogs are a great way to get started, but then rework the material. You only get one chance to do this.

Michael said that we’re talking about the professionalism of the proposal.

Michael said that most authors in here will self-publish, but what do editors want to see when an author self-published. An agent-rep found it because they heard from a bookstore about how it was selling. This author had placed ads and the book was good. Brenda said that when you self-publish you have to keep at it and go through every channel you can. Reviews, speaking engagements, keep at it.

Michael asked “how any does it have to sell?” Brenda said she was not going to give hard numbers, probably a couple of thousand, but Brenda loved the book.

Cynthia said they took up a paper-airplane book. This kid won an award and was selling 1,000 copies a month to libraries. They were happy to pick him up. This kid wanted to make a big splash locally, regionally and then nationally.

“Honor your strengths and outsource your weaknesses.”

Cynthia says to conduct yourself in a way that does not burn you out.

Georgia said that some who self-publish and don’t succeed in part because they needed more help to produce a better book. She told a story about a book that sold 75 copies but needed work. Now it’s out in 10s of thousands.

Rachel said Ebook sales can be a way to get attention. It would take a couple of thousand books a year. They took her on because she travels and speaks, too. Her presence was already out there and her reviews were good.

Liz – has not published a book that was self-published, but she’s worked with agents who have taken on authors who are self-published.

She said about 5 years ago, an average print run was 35-40k. Now it is 5-10k. So, a self-published book with a few thousand is big.

Brooke said that there is a sweet spot. You don’t want to saturate the market. And you still need a proposal. You need a synopsis and chapter summaries. It’s like a cheat-sheet.

Terry says that you need a book to get a platform.

Michael disagreed – he cited a woman with a podcast that had a 40k download. Others speak before they write. Books are great calling cards. Michael quoted Seth Grodin who says the best time to promote a book is three years before it comes out. “An author is like a doctor… they both need patients.”

Brooke says there are so many different paths. There is no one right way. Some of you will write many books, others have one special book in you. There is no one way. You may be able to go back to an agent after a failed pitch. You can rework the proposal. But it’s far better to get in right to begin with.

Ended up

Strong content and strong voice.
Books where I learn something about myself.
Books that she likes to read are different from the works she buys.
Books that flip the world around.
Books that grab her heart and soul.
Books where you forget you are reading.
Books that show you how other people leave their lives, but that leave room for you to reflect on what you’d do.


Believe It … The Life of Ripley


Reading a fascinating bio about Robert L Ripley, the richest cartoonist of the early 1900s and a man who traveled the world to find oddities. I highly recommend “A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert L Ripley.”

I was a fan of these books when I was a kid, and I got to visit his “odditorium” in San Francisco. But I had little knowledge about the man. He was a self trained artist who was hired as a sports cartoonist and then fired because his work was inadequate. He landed another job and scrambled to take art classes. He managed to sense and fill a need for the morbid curiosity we seem to possess. But he also had tenacity, audacity to double-down in the face of failure (using the last of his savings after being fired yet again) to travel to New York city to seek work. And he was one of those people who lucked in time and again, growing unbelievably rich in the depth of the great Depression.

It’s quite a tale.

Saying Goodbye to Books #humor

Public Domain Image of boxes of books@robblightfoot

Breaking up (a library) is hard to do, but worthwhile.