Deborah Riley-Magnus, Writeaholic

May 25, 2010

Proposal with a Bite!

Anyone else out there writing a non-fiction book proposal?

Holy moly! How complicated can it get? Not that I believed for one moment that writing a GOOD non-fiction book proposal – in this case a cookbook proposal – would be easy, but really? Come on! You’ve got to be kidding!

It’s tough enough to come up with a unique idea, back it with credentials and make it shiny with bells and whistles, but when it comes to writing a non-fiction book proposal, I’m convinced a writer needs a suit of armor and many, many weapons to succeed.

Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not angry or frustrated or even seriously irritated by the process. It’s actually a necessary one, and I’ve been known to vehemently encourage my Author Success Coach clients to do just that. I explain that writing a good Book Business Plan for fiction (as well as non-fiction) is just as important for gaining success as being born under a lucky star. I’m even teaching an online workshop next week for SavvyAuthors.com on Creating an Effective Book Business Plan, I believe in it THAT much. AND … it’s not like I don’t practice what I preach. I have built several wonderful book business plans that have proven successful in gaining literary agent representation for me. Now I’m pushing through the real jungle to create a powerful non-fiction book proposal for that agent to pitch. It’s a long story and I’ll try to abbreviate it.

Let’s start with the reason. Many writers have a book inside them – different from the one they’re currently pitching or have already become known for. Some fiction writers have a non-fiction lurking deep in their heart, a memoir or historical recounting, something personal and powerful they’d love to get out there. Some publishing professionals say it’s easier to get a fiction published first, then rock a pitch for your non-fiction piece. I say yes, that may be very true, it might be easier, but sometimes wowing someone with something so well conceived and so sharply presented can do the trick too. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt if you have a great hook.

My hook? Simple. See, I wrote a fun tongue-in-cheek supernatural romance about a twice dead vampire who gets one last chance to earn heaven. The only problem is, he has to live out his purgatory in a West Hollywood warehouse with several other dead supernaturals, all trying to earn redemption against their natures. Fun huh? My agent fell in love with Cold in California and offered representation within hours of finishing the manuscript. How cool is that? Then suddenly I didn’t know what to do with myself. The baby bird was now under other feathered tutelage and I was left to sigh and wait in the nest.

Having been a chef (among many other crazy things in this long life so far), I have always wanted to write a cookbook using my recipes. Now that I have the time to put together the book proposal, all I needed was the best hook possible. Something that would not only get the recipes out there but somehow build onto a platform for the Cold in California book series my agent is currently toting to publishers. The solution came like a wooden stake to the heart …

A Vampire Cookbook that playfully explored the various vampires in our lives (psychic, emotional and biological). Viola! A concept was born. The plan is to interlock the cookbook series with the supernatural romance Cold in California series and rock them both, letting them feed off each other (pun intended) as well as build on each other. This is a hybrid promotion I’ve never actually seen before in the market. Neat concept; now to mold it into a non-fiction book proposal that will knock the socks off my agent and the publishers he talks to.

Can I do it? Who knows. How hard will I try? Let’s just say I’m looking forward to adding more to the hundreds of rejections I’ve already gotten because baby, it only takes one “yes” to change the trajectory of a writer’s life. The more “nos” I get, the closer I come to a resounding “YES”!

Now for the warnings. This isn’t for the faint of heart at all.Writing a good book proposal is hard. It takes time and diligence, creative problem solving skills and lots of tools. The weapons are simple – creativity, courage, guts and hard work. Your armor must be lined with rejection letters and polished with conviction. The challenges – oh good lord, so many challenges, but if all the required information can be found, you will find it and compile it, by George!

Whew! Thank goodness I’ve already got the recipe part done and in the can.

July 28, 2009

Swallowing it Whole

Filed under: Vampires Don't Eat Cookbook — Deborah Riley-Magnus @ 12:16 pm
Tags: , , , ,

What do you do when you know too much? No, I’m not talking about being the absolute expert at everything. Lord knows, most of us (especially me), are far from that. What I’m talking about is when your life skills, experiences and knowledge fill a big bag of eclectic mish mash, the contents of which very seldom, if ever, interconnect. Life’s junk drawer. 

I have a professional photographer friend who is also a builder and a champion fisherman. Another acquaintance is a math teacher, a tile dancer and expert volunteer. I once knew a woman who made clothes by day and stripped by night. Skills. Every single part of these people was an amazing skill and it made them all rather unique as individuals. The magic is in how they mesh all those abilities into one existence. Today I came across a woman who offered several different services within very similar industries; some as a staff executive, others as a free lance expert. She manages to stand on several different levels of a common need. Nothing conflicts but everything works. Genius. Absolute genius. 

I try that too. I’m doing my best to combine as many of my acquired skills under one heading … writer. Having written for the advertising, marketing and public relations world for so long, I was always working on some novel or another behind the scenes. Understanding the ins and outs of publicity, I’m doing everything I know to make my work visible. But, there was a challenge missing. 

When I became a chef, I thought it was such a drastic ninety degree shift I’d never connect things again. It was fun, it’s was massively creative, competitive and challenging and oh hell yeah, I loved every minute of it. But as this chef grew older, those three gallon stock pots got heavier and heavier. I knew it was time to return to the keyboard. 

So, how can I stitch my two loves together? And … how could I do it to create additional excitement for my Cold in California, vampire urban fantasy series? 

After a suggestion from a new acquaintance, it hit me like a salami to the head. A cookbook. But not just a cookbook, a Vampire Cookbook. 

Now things really have begun to weld together. My learned skills of research and development from the old marketing days stood at attention and things started to pop. Did I want to write a blood cookbook? After all, the only two vampire cookbooks I could find were either a joke book or a book using blood as the major ingredient for all recipes. Ew. 

See, I really wanted to write a cookbook for people who eat food, not suck blood. It seemed hopeless, but then I recalled some terminology that caught my interest before and now has me jumping for joy. Did you know there are Psychic Vampires? There are Emotional Vampires too. Now add to that the Husband Vampire, the Nosey Neighbor Vampire and the Cranky Sister-in-Law Vampire and now we’re cooking. 

The cookbook took on a form and life of its own. The narrative covers how these people, although loved and cherished, can suck the life right out of us. It follows the same tongue-in-cheek style of writing as Cold in California, and like that urban fantasy series, the cookbooks also with have a series. Kid Vampire cookbooks that will benefit children’s charities; one for College Student Vampires who need a little guidance in the food choosing, preparation and quality area; Bachelor Vampires who want to impress and get some. Yes, this could be a lot of fun! 

Who knows anything about writing a non-fiction proposal? Trust me; it’s a long, laborious, time consuming and utterly satisfying process. It’s like writing a business plan for your new, soon-to-be dynasty. I’ve got something here, I just know it. Aside from the duo-publicity potential between the Cold in California series and this cookbook series, I’m actually going to have a great cookbook with my own award winning recipes and a lot of playful narrative to soothe the savage writer within. Next: promotional plans, live demonstrations and tastings. Could life get any better? 

Now, you. Your turn. It’s a challenge and I’d love to hear what you come up with. Take all those separate, unique skills and abilities of yours and find a way to knit them together. Who knows, you may just create a product, writing genre or service no one ever thought of before. It’s what we writers do, right? 

We create!

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