My favorite book on writing for publication, by Kathleen Krull, “12 Keys to Writing Books that Sell,” is no longer in print, but I ruined a copy of her book while writing my first, Marnie’s Kitchen Shortcuts. I worked it to death.
Prior to becoming a book author, I’d written weekly newspaper articles and newsletters.
But starting in the early 1990’s, people began asking me the, “How do you do that question?” about my food processes. At the time, we were entertaining over one hundred guests a month in our home and I was doing the food budget for a fraction of the national average. My guests were intrigued.
I had no time or interest in writing a book as a soul-searching journey, so I interlibrary loaned over 100 books, seeking the “how to” that could explain to people what it was I was doing in my kitchen. None of them were even close.
At numerous points in the research process, I experienced agitation at the poor quality of the writing and information in a some of the published books. I kept thinking, “I could do better than this!”
Realizing that my concepts had not been documented for public use, and that, based on some of the books I’d reviewed, I could, most likely, get published, I decided to write my own cookbook.
The goals were:
If I was going to take the time to write it, I wanted it published.
In the end, I received a phone call from a St. Martin’s Press editor within just a few days of sending a cover letter to her attention. (I knew no one in the book publishing industry.
I had found her name in the cover of another book.)
Next, I received a book contract, with a $4000 (1996) advance, about one week after submitting the manuscript.
I attribute the smooth ride from unknown author to St. Martin’s Press author to my determination to work my manuscript to death.
In a culture of throw-away experts, pleasing your audience is ten times as hard as pleasing an editor. Your baby book is at the mercy of the most fickle, easily-disappointed, harsh audience in the world: The buying public.
And if you think I’m overreacting, just ask any author whose book has been trashed due to a few nasty reader reviews. It happens, it happens fast, and it happens to best of us.
Before putting your book on Amazon, spend time reading the tough questions found in Appendix XX. Kathleen Krull, former editor with companies including Harper & Row and Raintree, agreed to let me include these question from her now out of print classic, “12 Keys to Writing Books That Sell.”
Ask yourself the hard questions. Keep working until your book is ready for the roughest agents. Then, and only then, consider posting it for the public.