Who needs a pep talk right now?

Hi Manuscript Workers,

I got an email the other day from one of my favorite clients. We worked together on her book proposal earlier this year and I’ve been talking her through the process of submitting it to university presses and responding to their interest over the past several months. Her top-choice publisher asked her to submit the full manuscript, which she did last month, and now it’s undergoing peer review.

Usually when this author emails me it’s to ask a question about something specific she’s discussed with an acquisitions editor, but this time there wasn’t really a question. She was basically just reaching out to say that the manuscript was under review and the reports are expected back next month and she’s FEELING NERVOUS. I think she just needed to tell someone that she was feeling this way, and I’m glad she felt she could come to me.

I completely relate to her feelings about this process. Waiting for the peer reviews of my proposal and later my manuscript for The Book Proposal Book was super nerve-wracking for me too. I can tell my client that her project is smart and well-researched and original (because it is), but I know that’s not what the anxiety is about. I think the anxiety comes from the inevitable uncertainty about the publishing process. We don’t know what’s going to happen when we send our work out for judgment by others, and we fear the worst — that someone will say it’s not good enough and that the time we’ve spent so far (years of work, probably) has been in vain.

No one can entirely take away the uncertainty of the publishing process and the anxiety it provokes. There are two things I can do to help, though, which are to provide perspective and to provide knowledge. If you’re currently feeling nervous about the process of getting your book published (or anticipating that nervousness already), I have a couple things to offer up here.

For perspective, I’ll share some pep talks that I hope can help shift your thinking a tiny bit so that you can put a little less weight on what others say about your book. You can read the full versions of these pep talks in the conclusion to The Book Proposal Book or in this excerpt posted on the Princeton University Press blog, but here are the bullet points:

  • It’s your book and ultimately you get to decide your vision for it

  • You know your audience better than anyone and if you can explain to your publisher how your book will reach them, you don’t have to follow advice that doesn’t help you do that

  • You want a press to choose you but you also get to choose them. They should be proving they’ll be good partners too

  • Your goals for your book don’t have to be the same as everyone else’s. Not everything has to be about pleasing gatekeepers

The other thing I can do to calm your nerves is remove some of the other sources of uncertainty by giving you knowledge about the process. While I can’t predict what your peer reviewers will say or how a particular editor will feel about your project, I can take away the “am I doing this right?” confusion by telling you exactly how to write a book proposal that gives an editor and peer reviewers what they need to know in order to evaluate your project. I can also tell you some of the less obvious tips to make your proposal stand out and really show off your work to best effect.

This is what I do in the new program I just launched, the Book Proposal Shortcut for Busy Scholars. It’s a set of 12 brief modules that take you through the process of crafting your pitch, step by step, at your own pace. Each module is about 10 minutes long and it tells you what you need to know, what you need to do, and how to make your work stand out at each step.

As I was building the curriculum for the program this summer, I realized the modules needed one more component — each one now includes a quick pep talk at the end to help you feel confident that you *can* write a great pitch for your book and that it doesn’t have to be as scary as you might be feeling it is. These pep talks are not fluffy or woo. They’re practical insights that are meant to take some of the mystique out of the publishing process and let you know which details you really don’t have to sweat.

If this sounds like what you need to get your book proposal finished and out the door this fall, please check the Shortcut program out by clicking the button below.

Check out the Shortcut here


Enrollment for the pilot launch of the Shortcut will be closing on Tuesday (August 31st), with the next launch happening in January 2022. If you have questions or concerns or need some help figuring out if this program is right for your needs, please feel free to ask! You can reply to this email (it’ll come directly to me).

In the meantime, I’ll be over here in nervous solidarity with all who are awaiting peer reviews right now. Fingers crossed for good news and no Reviewer 2s!