Do you need an agent to get a publishing contract?

If you hope to get your book in front of the acquisition editors at the “Big Five” trade publishing houses (Penguin Random House, Hachette Livre, HarperCollins, Macmillan Publishers, and Simon & Schuster) or the largest educational publishers, then the answer to that question is most often “yes.”

The reason? These publishers get so many queries from would-be authors that they tend to use literary agents as a filtering mechanism, and do not accept “unagented” queries. Their reasoning is that if an agent they know and trust has done the initial vetting of a non-fiction book proposal or a query letter for fiction, then it may be worth at least looking at.

Happy New Year! Kudos to Clients Who Published Books in 2018

As we begin the new year, I’d like to raise a toast to the dozen clients who published their books in 2018. Whether I provided editing services, developmental input, or book therapy, it was a great pleasure to work with you all! Just off the presses is The Hilco Story: Discovering a Diamond in Our Own Backyard, Art Hilsinger’s refreshingly candid look at starting and growing a company over 41 years.  Also fresh off the printing presses is Bye-Bye, Computer Guy! How to Do IT Yourself, Do It Better, and Save Lots of Money, Mark Beckley (Bits and Bytes Publishing, 2018). Mark, the owner of Small Business Computing, has put together a book of helpful computer tips for business owners.

Kudos to Cliff and Linda Hoyt, whose reference guide A Century of Cures: Dr. J.C. Ayer & Company, Lowell, MA., USA (Lowell Historical Society, 2018), is a beautifully illustrated resource for collectors interested in the wonderfully quirky history of “patent medicines” in the US.

After a long journey – for both author and editor, Sylvia Ruth Gutmann published A Life Rebuilt: The Remarkable Transformation of a War Orphan, (Epigraph Publishing, 2018). I am beyond proud of Sylvia, the end result, and this memoir’s incredible relevance to some of the most pressing issues of our day.

Several clients focused on health issues. Deb Nelson offers inspiration in Finding Health After Cancer: Stories of Renewal and Healing (Deb Nelson Consulting LLC, 2018). Dr. George Beilin tackles chronic pain with insight and good humor, from the points of view of patients and healthcare providers, in two books: How to Reduce Your Patients’ Chronic Pain: A New Model to Restore Hope (Yours and Theirs) and How to Reduce Your Chronic Pain: A New Model to Help You Restore Hope (Dr. Painless Publishing, 2018).

Crocker Snow Jr., who has spent much time on Nantucket and in Alaska, created a book that features essays along with images by Inupiaq photojournalist Brian Adams. Nantaska: The Minnow & the Whale: The Curious Parallel Lives of Nantucket and Alaska (Snow Publishing, 2018)

Philip A. Duker published The Confederacy: A Great Kingdom Against a Powerful Confederation, the first novel in a planned trilogy about the origins of the African slave trade.

Albert Halstead published a revised second edition of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey: How Patterns, Archetypes and Style Inform a Narrative (Leonine Productions, LLC, 2018) to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary. Film buffs will enjoy the new interview with Douglas Trumbull, who created the film’s memorable visual effects.

Mark C. Bodanza offers food for political thought in Lou D’Allesandro, Lion of the New Hampshire Senate: Thoughts for Presidential Hopefuls, (North Hill Press, 2018). And in An Extremely Dangerous Piece of Lint: A Collection of Humorous and Thought-Provoking Essays (And a Few Pathetic Poems) (Blue Boat Books, 2018), Jeri Kroll offers thoughts on other issues, including the struggles of being a good Unitarian.

Several other clients I worked with in 2018 will have their books out soon – more on their stories in future posts. Happy 2019 to you! And if this is the year you’d like to make your book happen, please get in touch!

Is There a Book in You — or Your Business? Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Writing a Book, but Were Afraid to Ask

Is there a book idea inside you – or inspired by your business – that you’d like to share with the world? Do you have questions about how to get started? What does it really take to write a book that others will want to read? What publication options are available once your book is finished? Before you put pen to paper and share your story or your professional expertise in book form, come to the North Shore Business Forum meeting on Friday, October 5 at 7:30 a.m. (Acapulco’s, Cummings Center, Beverly, MA) to get the straight scoop and a no-nonsense, experienced perspective. I’ve helped authors write, refine and publish books in a wide variety of genres, from business books and corporate histories to memoirs, self-help, and fiction, and if you’re thinking about writing a book (or have already started), I’d like to help you start off on the right foot.

For more information on the North Shore Business Forum and their meetings, visit

Celebrate a Milestone Business Anniversary with a Corporate History Book

Tell Your Business StoryIf your company is preparing to celebrate a milestone anniversary in the next two or three years, have you considered commemorating the occasion with a book that tells your company’s story? Whether your business is ready to mark 25 years or 125 years of success, Blue Pencil Consulting can help you chronicle your corporate history in book form.

A corporate or business history book is a lasting way to share unique foundation stories, perspectives of key leaders past and present, and your company’s mission and values with clients and customers, employees, and the community at large. The book may chronicle significant events and decisions in the company’s history, or it may focus more on the stories of the company’s founders and leaders. Both approaches work, and some books mix the two.

Last summer, I had the great pleasure of working with the one and only Chris Nahatis (“Mr. Saladmaster”) of Manchester-by-the-Sea on a book that uses lively anecdotes to chronicle his life story and his 64 years (so far!) selling cookware for Saladmaster. (See this news story about the book’s publication, or learn more about the book here.)

This year, a number of corporate history projects are underway. A personal corporate story with a different client is almost finished; this one tells the story of the founding and growth of a company in the optical products industry and shares the founder’s valuable, hard-won lessons about how it can sometimes take a company more time than anticipated to find the right track.

Then there’s another corporate history in the works that’s a detailed look at an industrial products firm about to celebrate 150 years in business, and it’s quite a colorful story. For another client, the focus is a bit different: the author has no ties with the company he’s writing about, but he is an avid collector of the bottles and advertising ephemera produced by the company throughout its century-plus in existence.

Contact us to learn more about anniversary books (or other types of book projects if you’re interested in something other than a corporate history). Email or call 978-777-8840.

Questions About Book Publishing? Come to the New England Authors Expo on July 26

Do you have questions about book publishing? Come get answers at the New England Authors Expo, taking place on July 26 at the Danversport Yacht Club on Route 62 in Danvers, MA. Meet authors and service providers from around New England — Blue Pencil Consulting will be there exhibiting, and I’ll be part of a panel on book store sales and distribution at 4 PM. The Expo itself runs from 4 to 9, but informative panels start at noon, and all of it is free and open to the public.

My fellow panelists include Dominic Copeland of Barnes and Noble, and Paul A. Parisi of Acme Binding. We’ll be talking about the ins and outs of book distribution, and steps indie/self-published authors can take to get their books on retail shelves. Among the many important actions authors can take is making sure their books meet industry standards for professionally published books. Earlier this year, the Independent Book Publishers Association released its “Industry Standards Checklist for a Professional Published Book.” It’s worth your while to take a look. at the checklist. If you aren’t able to attend the Expo, but are interested in some of the information I’ll be sharing as part of the panel, here’s a PDF of the Book Distribution Resources I’ve put together. Please contact me if you have any questions

What It Takes to Write and Publish a Non-Fiction Book

Interested in learning more about what it takes to write and publish a non-fiction book? Head over to YouTube ( and watch this video I recorded last week, when I was a guest on the Greater Beverly Chamber of Commerce’s “Voice of Business”
show, hosted by John King of Headway Strategies Consulting.

It’s a quick 30-minute overview of the key steps in writing and publishing a book, including:

  • the development of the book idea,
  • the writing process,
  • the importance of beta readers / early reviewers,
  • the different paths to publication, and
  • the benefits of engaging a team of professionals (editor, graphic designer, proofreader, printer, etc.) if you choose to self-publish.

The Compass Approach - CoverJohn’s interest in the topic stems from his own experience writing and publishing his new book, The Compass Approach – Successfully Charting Your Business by the Compass. Like a number of my other clients, John wrote the book to share his expertise, and to use in his consulting practice and in the workshops he offers. I served as the book’s editor once John had completed (and then, as you’ll learn from the video, expanded) the manuscript, and pulled together a team of other professionals to help John through the self-publishing process.

If you have a book idea or a partially completed manuscript and would like to discuss possibilities and next steps, I’d love to talk with you. And if you are part of a group that would like a speaker to address topics ranging from writing a book to getting published, I often give talks on these subjects, so please get in touch!

“Time to Write and Publish Your Book!”

Concord Festival of AuthorsIf you think the time has come for you to write and publish a book, but you wonder where to start, you might want to attend this event that’s part of the Concord Festival of Authors. On Wednesday, October 28, 7:30 PM at Kerem Shalom in Concord, MA, join me and fellow panelists David Casullo, Paul Jensen, Ken Lizotte, and Katy Tynan for answers to questions like whether you should look for an agent or approach publishers yourself, or whether self-publishing might be the right choice. We’ll also cover writing tips, time management, and how to avoid writing pitfalls.

I’m looking forward to being in the good company of such accomplished panelists. They include:

David Casullo, author of Leading the High-Energy Culture: What the Best CEOs Do to Create an Atmosphere Where Employees Flourish (McGraw-Hill), is president of Bates, a worldwide leadership-coaching and consulting firm.

Paul Jensen, an engineer by training, self-published his first book, How to Soundproof Your Home, in Denmark in 1974. Since then he has self-published numerous print books and e-books. Most recently, he has completed a cookbook (Got Game? Cook It!), Could Young Love Be a Metaphor for Your Business Success? and 91 Tips on Selling Today.

Katy Tynan, author of the new book Free Agent: The Independent Professional’s Guide to Self-Employment Success (Productivity Press), is an expert on how work is changing. A popular professional speaker, she is a founding partner of Liteskip Consulting Group and MindBridge Partners.

Ken Lizotte is the author of six books and literary agent for over a hundred more. Chief Imaginative Officer (CIO) of emerson consulting group inc. in Concord, NA his firm “transforms business experts into thought leaders” by helping them publish their ideas. Ken has moderated similar Concord festival how-to panels since 2009.

This event is free and open to the public, as are other festival events, thanks to the generous support of its
many sponsors. For more information about the festival, visit: Hope to see you there!


“Ask the Experts” Panel on Book Publishing on October 8, in Marblehead, MA

Ask the Experts: Book Writing and Publishing

Ask the Experts: Book Writing and Publishing

If you’re writing a book (or want to write one) and have questions about the writing process and the business of publishing, come to the next “Community Connections” networking event at the JCC of the North Shore in Marblehead, MA. I’ll be moderating a panel discussion, “Ask the Experts: Book Writing and Publishing,” on Thursday, October 8, at 6 PM. The event takes place at the JCC North Shore, 4 Community Road, Marblehead, MA. More information at

My fellow panelists include:

Barbara Rosenberg owns The Rosenberg Group literary agency, representing authors of romance, women’s fiction, trade, non-fiction, and college textbooks.

Laurie Faria Stolarz has written several popular young adult novels, including the Dark House series published by Disney/Hyperion Books for Children.

Julianna Thibodeaux is an award-winning journalist, freelance writer/editor, creative writing instructor and writing coach. She is at work on a novel and a memoir, and teaching writing classes this fall at JCC of the North Shore.

Lisa Sugarman writes the nationally syndicated humor column “It Is What It Is,” featured in more than 400 GateHouse Media newspapers and websites. She is also the author of the Boston Globe Local Bestseller, “Life: It Is What It Is.”

This event is free and open to all who RSVP in advance. The Community Connections program is supported by Michael Franchella at Highland Financial Group. Please RSVP to Cammi Bailey at or 781-476-9902. Hope to see you there!

Visit Blue Pencil Consulting at the 2015 New England Authors Expo on July 29

Stop by for a chat about your book project!

Stop by for a chat about your book project!

If you’re in the Greater Boston area and would like to chat in person about your questions on book writing and publishing, stop by my table at the 2015 New England Authors Expo on Wednesday, July 29, from 4 to 9 PM at the Danversport Yacht Club (Route 62 in Danvers, MA). I’ll be exhibiting at this event along with graphic designer Jenny Putnam (of J. Putnam Design), and between the two of us we can answer your questions about your book project.

This annual event is free, open to the public, and organized by Pear Tree Publishing. In addition to the opportunity to buy books in every genre (and who doesn’t love that?), it’s a wonderful opportunity to meet many local and regional authors, illustrators and publishing professionals in a relaxed setting with a beautiful waterfront view. Hope to see you there!

How to Write a Book that Boosts Your Business: Upcoming Presentation in Newburyport, MA

Newburyport smallOne of the best ways to showcase your expertise and boost your professional credibility is to share your ideas in a book. Whether you’re already writing a blog, people keep telling you that “you should write a book,” or you’re just curious about how to get started, a presentation I’m giving on April 6 in Newburyport, MA, will give you a quick introduction to why and how you can write a book that boosts your business.

I’ll be speaking to the next meeting of Port City Women in Newburyport, MA, on Monday, April 6, 2015, from 5:30 to 7:30 pm at The Port Tavern, 84 State Street, Newburyport. The meeting fee is $5; dinner and drinks may be ordered on your own. For more information about Port City Women, visit: City Women logo

Drawing on examples from my work with book clients, I will cover:

  • The best reasons to write a book (and best reasons not to),
  • How to get started on your own book, and
  • How to choose the publishing path that makes sense for your book and your business.

If you plan to attend and would like to email me questions in advance (, I’ll try to work those into the presentation as time allows. And if you can’t attend but are interested in having me speak to a business networking or other group you belong to, please let me know! I’ll hope to see you in Newburyport!