Thursday, March 29, 2007

Book Proposal: Content & Format

Question: How does an author convince a publisher to publish his or her book?

Answer: Write a compelling book proposal.

Question: What is included in a nonfiction book proposal? How should it be formatted?


Column 1
Author name
Author Street address
Author City, State, Zip

Column 2
Author voice phone number
Author voice fax number
Author email address

Manuscript Title:
Title of your book including subtitle

Number of Manuscript Pages: This is not an estimate; you should know how many pages on 8.5 X 11 inch paper you have in your book.

Subject Matter, Scope, Intended Purpose:
Start the first sentence by characterizing what makes up your book. Is it essays, interviews, reviews, chronologies, specialized lists? What makes your book unique and valuable to a potential reader? In what style is your book written? Can anyone read it or must that person be specially trained in a particular field? This is crucial information because it is in this section that you are trying to persuade the publisher that you have something worth the time and money required to make this manuscript into a book. The other challenge is that you must state your case succinctly (around 100 words) and the words must be the critical words, the key words, that convey the essence of your subject matter, scope, and purpose.

Here is how The Steiny Road to Operadom entry read for Subject Matter, Scope, Intended Purpose:

The Steiny Road To Operadom is a collection of essays, interviews, reviews, and a working libretto that explores the intersection between poetry and music that proceeds to contemporary opera, the most complex genre of the performing arts. The collaboration of Gertrude Stein and Virgil Thomson are the context for this study in process.

This book written in a style anyone can read, uniquely answers the question, how does a current day artist begin, sustain, and complete an opera project. This work is the close examination of creating an American opera — what resources are needed, who is involved or should be involved, what are the obstacles, what does workshopping mean to the overall success and opening night, and much more on commissions, collaborations, community, critics. The book provides a road map for creative collaborators and performing arts educators as well as a current day history of American opera and Gertrude Stein and Virgil Thomson’s contribution to that art form.

Who is your audience? Think this through carefully so you don’t forget any groups. What have you done in your book to reach out to these groups? Can your book be used in teaching situations? Does it provide some kind of reference? The publisher needs to know the use of your book and the audience in order to evaluate whether he or she thinks the book can sell.

The Audience for The Steiny Road To Operadom:
Arts educators, theater managers (artistic directors, producers, dramaturgs), theater critics, composers, librettists, poets, opera aficionados, Gertrude Stein fans, feminist studies students, general audiences. This one-of-kind book is recommended as a case study reference for performing arts programs and studies

Competing Books:
This requires going to a bookstore usually to see what books you are competing with in the current market. If you book is unique that’s fine but often publishers have a hard time placing your book in their collection if it crosses a lot of lines. For example my book The Steiny Road to Operadom is part memoir, how to (develop an opera project), American opera history, and literary. For books like this, independent publishers are probably best.

Research Methods:
What methods did you use to develop the content of your book—interviews, book or Internet research? Do you have a bibliography?

Quotations Used in this Manuscript:
If you quote people, have you gotten signed permissions to use these quotes? Until permissions are acquired, a smart publisher will not sign a book deal with an author. This section is not a list of quotation, just a statement about whether you use quotes and have gotten permissions.

Sections Previously Published:
This is a general statement about whether any portion of the book has been published before and whether you hold the copyright and have permission to reprint. Authors who have had some of the work previously published, possibly in different versions demonstrate the marketability of their work. In other word, you have had some visibility for this work already and that is good. It makes you a credible author. You should also state whether this work is a doctoral dissertation. Some publishers may not want doctoral dissertations. It’s important to know what the publisher is interested in before you send that publisher a book proposal.

If you have images for your book, how many? Do you have permission to use these images? Do you have print-ready images that have enough resolution to merit publishing them?

Cover Blurbs:
These are short comments from notable people in your field talking about your book. Be sure to include their titles or attribute them as authors of books that show they are experts in your field of interest. Three comments from three different experts are sufficient.

If you are going to take the time and trouble to write a book, write a well stated book proposal that shows a publisher you have done your homework and have people backing you. Let me know how you did!

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Hear Ye! Hear Ye!

The Poet spreads news of The Steiny Road to Operadom: The Making of American Operas first in New York City.

March 16 - At the Mercantile Library, Karren Alenier speaks with Ted Sod about putting Gertrude Stein & Alice B. Toklas on stage. Sod is the book writer of 27 rue de Fleurus, Paris, a new musical told from Alice Toklas's perspective about her "marriage" to Gertrude Stein.

March 18 - At the Manhattan School of Music, Gordon Ostrowsk (Director of Opera Programs at the Manhattan School)
and Midge Woolsey (program host at WQXR) mention The Steiny Road book as they introduce and moderate the proceedings of the sixth annual New American Opera Previews From Page to Stage program. A segment of Alenier's opera with Bill Banfield Gertrude Stein Invents a Jump Early On was previewed in the second New American Opera Previews From Page to Stage program.

March 19 - At the Brooklyn office of Encompass New Opera Theatre and at the Mercantile Library for the concert reading of 27 rue de Fleurus, Paris.

During these four occasions, the Poet distributed flyers about the advance release copy of The Steiny Road book. Grassroots promotion of an advance release book is like watching a stalagtite form. It takes patience but the Poet is pleased to announce that she has some orders in hand!

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

What about The Steiny Road to Operadom?

Anyone who knows poetry knows that poets are trouble. They either want to be left alone to write or they want a stage for their work. The Steiny Road to Operadom: The Making of American Operas is a unique stage where the Poet, that’s me Karren Alenier, takes the reader on a wild ride through the world of opera.

Here’s the jacket blurb:
“Travel The Steiny Road to Operadom with the brave, naive Steiny Road Poet, who like Voltaire’s Candide or Carroll’s Alice, dauntlessly ventures into the best of all possible worlds or down dark rabbit holes in a journey of discovery. What this cubist education tracks is a parallel of the collaboration between opera modernists Gertrude Stein and Virgil Thomson with current day collaborators, poet Karren LaLonde Alenier and composer William Banfield of Gertrude Stein Invents a Jump Early On, a classical and jazz opera that premiered in 2005 in collaboration with director-dramaturg Nancy Rhodes and Encompass New Opera Theatre. Interwoven interviews with such artists as director Plácido Domingo, composer Ned Rorem, and poet J. D. McClatchy complete the story of how modern day operas are created. Stay alert. The roses encountered along the Steiny Road bear thorns, sharp thorns.”

What the Poet did was she wrote the words to an opera, enlisted a composer and theater director to develop the work with her, and simultaneously she began writing essays and interviewing artists in the field of opera to learn about it. She was lucky enough to get her essays and articles published on the Internet in Scene4 Magazine.

In this blog, the Poet will track the progress of this book, which will start circulating to reviewers in March 2007. Everything about book publishing is hard these days. It might be a close second to getting an opera stage. This reminds me that book publishing is a collaborative activity. Without help from generous friends and colleagues who read and re-read my words and then gave me feedback and corrections, the book probably would not have happened.

Here is what academics in the field of opera have said about The Steiny Road book:

“Karren Alenier’s peripatetic The Steiny Road To Operadom is a must read for any librettist, composer, or opera aficionado in search of an inside look at the creation and performance of a contemporary opera.”

Gordon Ostrowski
Director of Opera Studies
Manhattan School of Music

The Steiny Road to Operadom is a fascinating look into the mind of American poet and librettist Karren Alenier. A must-read for anyone aspiring to write for contemporary American opera. A truly Stein’ian landscape of reflections, advice, interviews and objets trouvés from her creative journey starting in Tangier with Paul Bowles in 1982 until the complete production of Gertrude Stein Invents a Jump Early On in New York in 2005. Full of surprises and fun to read.”

Dr. Frank Hentschker
Director of Programs,
The Martin E. Segal Theatre Center,
The Graduate Center, CUNY

“Karren Alenier gives us a fresh view into the world of perhaps the most important writer of our time. She shows the rocky and fruitful collaboration of Gertrude Stein and Virgil Thomson through a wide range of scholarly sources and through her own process with composer William Banfield. The romantic myth of the artist alone crumbles in the glow of a community of artists, as does the myth of the blissful communion of collaborators, whether in 1930’s Paris or New York in the twenty-first century. We see the awkward beauty of two operas conceived, born, and bred, and through the eyes and ears of the Steiny Poet, we can hear the music of language, and the language of music, all the more clearly.”

Juanita Rockwell
librettist for James Sellars’ opera, The World is Round

The Poet would like to share what she has learned and so in other blog entries to come, she will talk about how to find a publisher, getting permissions, the importance of identifying flesh-and-blood critics and more.

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