Here's some advice I recently gave one of my students, a California plastic surgeon. He wants to publish a book about how plastic surgery can benefit people. Actually he's completed the entire manuscript, and now he wants me to send it to my agent. I told him that was not the best way to move forward. Here's exactly what I told him:

"How do you go about selling this manuscript? In my opinion there's only one way that will work, and that is to turn your 'outline' into a book proposal. [He had completed a chapter-by-chapter outline in addition to the entire manuscript.]"

"I can help you do that."

"Then I'll help you find literary agents to query."


"This is a two-step process that almost always works; provided, however, that you have something

to sell. I think you do. Trust the process. I can't guarantee you'll sell your book, but I can say that what you have to offer is better than many other students I've worked with, and many people have asked me for help getting published."

"I'm offering to help you, but you need to get a working proposal ready. With my method you can do it in a week, working only an hour a day. If you're ready to move forward, let me know. I'll then send you a completed book proposal, one that sold my latest book, and you can rewrite it to sell your book."


"Right away I urge you to go online and begin looking for literary agents. Doing so will inspire you. You'll see that many are eager to look at books just like yours. Over the course of the next two to three weeks I think you should find about 8 or 10 literary agents you wish to query."

"You have waited long enough with this manuscript. I encourage you to follow my plan because I have a feeling you'll impress an agent, and then they'll ask to see the book proposal and sample chapters."

"Once that happens you are halfway home. They will then give you feedback and you will be working with the agent, not with me. Hopefully they will get an editor interested in working with you to publish the book as a medical advice title for the layman."


"Instead of asking me who do I know and can I recommend the book at this point to my agent, take the time to write the book proposal and develop a list of literary agents on your own. I will help you every step of the way, and by following this plan of action:

1. You will protect yourself from the possibility that my agent might reject the idea at this early stage (which I feel he would because there's no book proposal attached);

"2. You will become inspired when you see how many literary agents there are out there who handle your type of book;

3. You will learn a lot of useful information about the marketplace during the next week or so as you read over what agents are looking for;

4. You will find agents who, in all actuality, might be better for you than mine in the long run;

5. You will see that this might be only the first of many books you can author, and a good literary

agent at the correct agency, will encourage you to do that.

"Just think, I'll be helping you every step of the way. All you have to do is say: 'Okay, Bill, send me your book proposal, the one that sold your latest book. I'll look it over and rewrite it to sell my plastic surgery title.' Then we can start putting together a list of agents to query. I'm excited about this, and I hope you are too."

"The next step is up to you."

"P.S. I think we're going to want to included your best two chapters with the proposal, not the first two, so I'll want to see them at some point also. Usually agents don't want chapter 1 with the proposal; it's too introductory -- they want to see the heart of the argument, so perhaps your last two chapters might work better."


The most important advice I gave this plastic surgeon was to stop trying to get someone to read his entire completed manuscript. He should never have written the whole book up front anyway. But since he had, I suggested we take two chapters from it and add them to a book proposal. That book proposal is something I'm almost positive we could sell.

This advice can work for you too. Stop trying to get a friend to give you a name in the publishing world. Write a book proposal at the same time you start researching literary agents. That two-step process is what will bring you more success than any friend or connection you have.

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