A couple of weeks ago I had the great pleasure of attending a function that is part of one of the best event series in Seattle. What, I ask you, could be better than an event centered around books? An event centered around food AND books! Two of my favorite things!
Kim Ricketts Book Events actually consist of three different series: Cooks and Books, the Visiting Chef Series, held at a variety of fine venues around Seattle, celebrates the release of new books by well-known authors in the food and wine world, and features food prepared by local culinary stars. Words and Wine are wine and appetizer parties that feature interviews with literary fiction and non-fiction authors. Typically a copy of the author’s new book, signed for you by the author, is included in the Words and Wine ticket price. Edible Conversations is a new series, held at the Palace Ballroom, which centers around conversations about food, community and sustainability.
The list of guest chefs and authors is long and impressive including the likes of Salman Rushdie, Michael Pollan, Ruth Reichl, Nina Planck, Dorie Greenspan, Jacques Pepin, Thomas Keller, Giada Di Laurentiis, and Mario Batali. Not to mention wonderful local talent such as Kat Flinn, Tara Weaver, Lorna Yee, Shauna Ahern, Amy Pennington, and Langdon Cook (just to name a few). Even with such calibre of guests, Kim’s events are never pretentious. They resonate with the welcoming, community-building, inclusive spirit of Kim herself, and reflect the warmth, humor, and love of all things literary (and food!) that she exudes. Add to this the cozy, intimate, non-traditional venues that are chosen to house these soirees like the Palace Ballroom, Hotel Andra and the Sorrento Hotel, and this is truly one recipe for success.
They say that every person has at least one book in them, they also say to write what you know. The event that I attended was a variation on that theme. Inside the Book Business was an inspiring and educational look at the process of getting a book published from start to finish featuring Jennifer Worick, who is the co-author of New York Times bestseller, The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Dating & Sex and who has co-authored or written more than 25 books, including her newest titles, Beyond the Family Tree: A 21st Century Guide to Exploring Your Roots & Creating Connections and Simple Gifts: 50 Little Luxuries to Craft, Sew, Cook & Knit, and Kerry Colburn, co-author of the parenting book How to Have Your Second Child First and author of many other nonfiction titles including Good Drinks for Bad Days, and So You Want to Be Canadian? Her latest book, Parenting S.O.S, comes out in Spring 2011. This delightful duo of authors, who met and worked in the publishing industry, and have over 40 years of publishing experience between them, presented information, with a focus on non-fiction, about how to write your first book proposal.
They pointed out that in choosing your subject matter, one should think about what things they are familiar with. Are you a parent? A home cook? Do you have experience in researching your family tree? Most anything in your life could possibly be an idea for a book. In other words, everyone has a book in them and write what you know.
The most important, and first thing, that one must do is homework. The authors recommend that you go to the bookstore (yes, the actual bookstore – online shopping just won’t work here) and find books that are similar in topic to the one that you would like to publish. Find out what books have already been published using your idea. Seeing that “your” book has already been written should not deter you however. Remember that no one has your unique perspective or voice. Decide why particular books work, or don’t work. Look at the best sellers and think about whether you can capitalize on a current popular trend.
Then take note of the publishers who are publishing the type of work you would like to. And read the acknowledgements to see which agents are representing these authors. These are the publishers and agents you should target in shopping your book around.
They also shared that one doesn’t have to write a whole book to sell it. What you do need to do is write one killer book proposal and they outlined the seven steps to a successful one:
#1 Intro: Sell it! This is 3-4 paragraphs that lay out your idea. This should be an expanded elevator speech addressing who the audience is, why the idea fits with this publisher, and what the idea is. Be sure to address current trends if applicable. Grab the publisher’s attention and express why this book is needed.
#2 About the Book: Basics. This is the section that includes the specs and how you envision them. Include general page count,whether is will be paperback or hardcover, suggested retail price, and category. Your homework will come in handy here as well.
#3 About the Author: Sell yourself! This section should be about one paragraph. Tell why you are qualified to write this book. Think outside the box. Are you a parent? From another country? Disconnected from your family? What in your life applies to the subject matter that you are writing on? Have you given talks or trainings on the topic, written articles or blogs about it? What are you a content expert at?
#4 Marketing ideas: Don’t forget that publishing is a business. Publishers want to know that you will be available to sell the book and love to see your ideas. Who are your media or other contacts? How do you plan to put the book out there?
#5 Outline: Meat of the proposal. Include an imagined table of contents and a paragraph or two – but not too much, you don’t want give away the farm!
#6 Sample Text: This is where the publisher gets a sense of your tone, voice and ability to deliver. Include your introduction and a sample chapter.
#7 Extras: Include any articles or reference materials that can help you sell the idea. If it is a trending topic maybe include articles you’ve seen on the subject that show why it’s important.
The two great friends made a wonderful team that night making this information accessable to many who may have found the world of publishing daunting or mysterious. They played off each other well with humor, passion for the printed word, and much compassion for the wanna-be authors in the room. What could have been dry material with any other speakers was fun and exciting to watch. Kim Ricketts works magic, I tell you! I walked out of there with my head spinning with new ideas and looking at every experience, every subject in my daily life, as a possible opportunity for a book.
The one event that I am really looking forward to is Laurie David appearing in the Words & Wine series live in conversation with Warren Etheredge at the Sorrento Hotel on November 10th at 7pm. The writer, environmental activist, and producer of the Academy Award Winning film An Inconvenient Truth will be discussing her new book The Family Dinner: Great Ways to Connect with Your Kids One Meal at a Time. $50 ticket price includes wine, appetizers and a signed copy of the book.
In our house we have always had a committment to sit down each evening at the table and have dinner as a family. My husband and I feel that it is so important to the relationship and communication with your children and spouse to do this. There is no TV, no phone calls, we just have dinner and connect with each other. And oh! The conversations we have! Things that may never have come up otherwise with our children are discussed at the dinner table. Nothing is off the table – so to speak