How Publishers Think and How Best to Pitch Them

How to Sell Your Book to a Publisher and Who You’re Really Selling
Mechanics’ Institute Library, San Francisco
Friday, Jan 17, 2020, 12:00 Noon
57 Post Street, San Francisco, CA 94104
4th Floor, Chess Room (Free to Public, refreshments available)

As everyone probably knows, you or your agent needs to get your book or proposal into the hands of an interested editor; that’s the first hurdle. A well-crafted proposal, an agent with good relationships, and choosing the right editors to approach is the first steps. What most would-be authors don’t know is that the editor has to turn around and sell you to an editorial board. The sales management, more often than not, makes the decisions.  If sales and marketing think they can sell your book, then you’ve got a wonderful chance of getting published.

 So how do you sell the sales people? If it’s your first book, you have no Neilson Bookscan number to get in the way. That can be a blessing, but you have to prove that you are an “influencer” that can sell your book and provide the publisher’s sales force with the ammo they need to go out to the trade. Publishing veterans Jan Johnson, Nancy Fish, Lara Starr, and  Brenda Knight will help you navigate the rapids of book publishing so you can find the perfect home for your books. Bring all your questions about book publishing so you can learn from some of the best in the business!

Jan Johnson is Publisher Emeritus at Red Wheel Weiser & Conari Press, acquiring select books for each imprint. Before launching Red Wheel/Weiser, Johnson worked at Tuttle Publishing, HarperOne (when it was known as HarperSanFrancisco), Winston/Seabury Press and as an independent book doctor, rewrite editor and editorial consultant for corporate and independent publishers. Johnson has worked on many bestsellers including Codependent No More, Random Act of Kindness, Oprah pick The Book of Awakening, and Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way

Nancy Fish


Nancy Fish: In her long career in publishing, Nancy Fish has worked in almost every iteration of the book business. Having been publicity and marketing director for major houses including  Farrar, Straus & Giroux, HarperCollins and Pereus as welll as small indies, freelance publicist and copywriter, and bookseller at legendary shops on both coasts, Nancy now manages the Path to Publishing Program, and all the writers programs, at Marin County’s three-store treasure trove, Book Passage. Ask her about them.


Brenda Knight

Brenda Knight began her career at HarperCollins, working with luminaries Marianne Williamson, Mark Nepo, Melody Beattie, Huston Smith and Paolo Coelho. Knight served for 8 years as publisher of Cleis Press & Viva Edition, winner of the IndieFab’s Publisher of the Year Award in 2014. Knight is the author of Wild Women and Books, The Grateful Table, Be a Good in the World, and Women of the Beat Generation, which won an American Book Award. Knight is Associate Publisher at Mango Publishing and acquires for all genres in fiction and nonfiction as well as children and photography books. She also serves as President of the Women’s’ National Book Association, San Francisco Chapter and is an instructor at the annual San Francisco Writers Conference.

Lara Starr has made her mark in publishing starting at Collins, Conari Press and Chronicle Books. A bestselling author of several books, she is also a producer to KGO Radio. Starr is a creative professional with expertise in public relations, marketing, media production, and special events.


Voices Behind the Veil: The Afghan Women’s Writing Project

Lori Noack

Lori Noack

November 1st — Saturday, 2:00 – 4:00 pm
Temescal Branch Library 

Meeting Room, Oakland

Speaker: Lori Noack, Executive Director

Lori Noack will discuss how AWWP provides a platform for Afghan women to share the stories of their lives. From 10 writers in 2009 to more than 220 in 2014, over 1300 poems and journalistic essays are published on Lori will share highlights of AWWP’s new projects, including an oral history initiative with illiterate women, a monthly radio series, and online writing workshops in Dari. From stories about child marriage to the high-stakes 2014 election, from love poems to war diaries, Lori will read chosen highlights from AWWP’s second collection of poetry and prose to be published in late 2014 by Grayson Books. Q&A will follow. Learn how you can participate in this important project! See attached, AWWP Opportunities

Lori Noack, Executive Director, Marketing and Development, brings to Afghan Women’s Writing Project several years of writing, editing, arts management, and nonprofit leadership experience as executive director of the Sunriver Music Festival (Oregon) and Midsummer Mozart Festival (San Francisco), editor of the Sunriver Scene; founder of Lori Noack Arts Management and of the Written Word. In 2009, she earned her MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the University of San Francisco. 

*The Afghan Women’s Writing Project was founded in 2009 in defense of the human right to voice one’s story. Online writing workshops partner international writers, educators, and journalists with English-speaking women in six Afghan provinces. Poems and essays are published each week at In support of this central focus, AWWP’s program also includes a women-only Internet café in Kabul, training workshops, online Dari workshops, radio broadcasts of AWWP writings in Afghanistan, laptops, Internet, and publication opportunities. AWWP believes that empowering Afghan women creates possibilities for economic independence and instills leadership abilities as in reinforces freedom of speech.

*Founder of AWWP Masha Hamilton was the winner of the 2010 WNBA Award! “Her activism reveals the depth of Masha’s commitment to the world of literacy and books beyond her own career. She is a sterling example of what the WNBA Award truly intends to honor—meritorious work in the world of books beyond her profession,” states Valerie Tomaselli, WNBA New York Chapter President

Mix and mingle after the talk, snacks provided. FREE to members and guests.

Temescal Branch Library, 5205 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland, CA  94609
(510) 597-5049

(Close to BART, AC Transit, metered and free parking)

Please RSVP in the form below so we can plan for you and your guest.

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You and We the People: Writing for Change

 wnbablogphoto1   by Michael Larsen


“One lazy man is a disgrace, two is a law firm, and three is a congress.”~ John Adams in the musical, 1776


Although its follies and problems measure up to its potential and stature, the United States is the best and greatest country the world has ever had. The signing of the Declaration of Independence is worthy of celebration, if only to remind us of how it came about, its vision of America, and our role in keeping its ideals alive.

I want to recommend two things for you to watch. One may change your mind, the other your life. The first is a talk by John Perkins, author of Hoodwinked: An Economic Hit Man Reveals Why the World Financial Markets Imploded–and What We Need to Do to Remake Them. (You can watch it at ) Perkins says that despite corporate bribes and paralyzing partisanship, we, as citizens, can determine what happens in this country.

America is a centrist country, but the public usually hears more from the ends of the political spectrum rather than the middle. Perkins asked his audience to do one thing every day to make the world better, an idea as powerful as it is simple. More than ever before, writers have the opportunity, not just to make a living, but to make a difference. It’s easier than ever for the right idea and the right book to change the world, and the Internet enables you reach the world with your fingertips.

Perkins said that when Rachel Carson sat down at her small desk in her Pennsylvania home to write about how DDT was harming the planet, she had no idea that she would write The Silent Spring, a bestseller that became a classic that liberated the world from DDT and started the international environmental movement.

Whether you write fiction, nonfiction, or poetry, your passion and your gift for portraying the challenges we face and proposing solutions can make a difference. It’s impossible for you to know how big a difference you can make, but it’s much greater than you think.

How about writing and signing you own declaration of independence from whatever is keeping you from becoming the best, most creative and productive person that you were born to be and that only you can be? Free yourself from beliefs, people, and activities that waste your resources but don’t help you achieve your goals. That will be something for you to celebrate every day.

A revolution won is a revolution lost. When people believe there’s nothing more to fight for and just enjoy the fruits of victory, they begin to lose the victory. The only way to win a revolution is to keep striving to keep its ideals alive, especially at a time of political impasse, accelerating change, and growing urgency about the problems we face. The planet has only one hyper-connected economy and only one family: the human family. As Benjamin Franklin warned, we have to hang together, or we will surely hang separately.

America can only work if we do what we can and must to keep the vision of the Declaration of Independence alive and strive to fulfill its dream of a free, independent, thriving country, eager to reach the compromises needed to balance contrary beliefs.

That is one lesson from 1776, a musical that Elizabeth and I watch to help celebrate the holiday. 1776 offers timeless lessons we avoid at our peril. It shows how divided and ineffective Congress was at its birth, how one vote made the difference, and how it took a disastrous compromise on slavery to convince the South to sign the Declaration.

No matter where you are in your life or your writing career, remember Anne Frank’s words: “It’s never too late to start doing the right thing.”


Michael Larsen is an author, co-owner of Larsen Pomada Literary Agency  and two of the west coast’s best writing conferences: The 5th San Francisco Writing for Change Conference / Changing the World One Book at a Time, which takes place on October, 12th, 2013 ( )  and The 11th San Francisco Writers Conference / A Celebration of Craft, Commerce & Community  which takes place on February 13-16, 2014 ( ) Michael and wife, Elizabeth Pomada have been helping writers launch careers since 1972. Visit Mike’s blog and Facebook page: @SFWC /


Ten “P” Keys to Becoming a Successful Writer Faster and More Easily Than Ever

Ten P Keys to Success 

By Michael Larsen


 Now is the best time to be a writer, but technology is forcing writers to reinvent themselves. A new model for becoming a successful writer is needed.  The goal of these ten keys is to provide the model.

1.    Passion—your love for creating and communicating about your work. Using your passion to serve others is the ultimate key to success and happiness.

2.    Purpose—personal, literary, publishing, and community goals that inspire you to achieve them.

3.    Products—devoting yourself to the holy trinity of content: reading, writing, and sharing and the holy trinity of communication: people, platform, and pre-promotion:

4.    People—crowdsourcing your success with win-win relationships with engaged, committed, growing communities of people and collaborators you serve who want to help you, because they know, like, and trust you

5.    Platform–your continuing visibility with your communities and potential buyers, online and off, on your subject or the kind of book you write

6.    Pre-promotion–test-marketing your work in as many ways as you can

7.    Promotion— serving your communities by using your passion and platform to share the value of your work  

8.    People, Planet, and Profit—making the effects of your efforts on the holy trinity of sustainability—in this order–the criteria for determining what you do

9.    Professionalism:

–a positive perspective about writing, publishing, and your field
–reinventing yourself as a “contentpreneur” running a business that creates and re-purposes  a steady stream of scalable content in as many ways as possible
–making you and your work your brand
–using technology
–being a life-long learner

10.    Perseverance—a plan, patience, discipline, faith in yourself, failing your way to success, simplifying your life, a long-term perspective, the commitment to do whatever it takes for as long as it takes to achieve your goals, and celebrating your victories.

These keys balance yin and yang—creating content and communicating about it. Integrating them will create a literary ecosystem that will build synergy as long as you sustain it with service. You can adapt the keys to other fields and your personal life. I welcome your suggestions for changes.


Michael Larsen of Larsen-Pomada Literary Agency has been helping writers launch careers since 1972. For more information about him and the work he has done with Elizabeth Pomada to help writers, visit The 5th San Francisco Writing for Change Conference / Changing the World One Book at a Time at :  and  The 11th San Francisco Writers Conference / A Celebration of Craft, Commerce & Community  at: / You can also check out Mike’s blog: @SFWC  and Facebook Page: Finally, be sure to investigate the free classes at San Francisco Writers University / Empowering Writers to Reach Their Goals:


Are YOU Good Speaker Material?


 by Patricia V. Davis


We’ve all been told that building our author platform can help us sell more books and that speaking in public, such as at conference or in front of book clubs, is a great way to do that.  But—are you good speaker material? By “good speaker material” I mean, are you likely to be asked back to speak again, or, after your appearance will you be crossed off inadvertently from the “Speakers to Contact Again” list?  Let’s find out:

1)      A good speaker can “wing it” when necessary. Even in the very best of facilities, equipment failures can and will happen. Projectors not working or internet connections going down will throw some speakers into a panic, or worse, a hissy fit. Utilizing these tools can sometimes make a good talk even better, but if you can’t say what needs to be said by using a handout or a white board, you’re relying too much on the bells and whistles of modern technology. Slides and websites should only enhance your talk, but not be so crucial that you can’t do without them. And you don’t want to spend the first ten minutes of your allotted time staring at your audience while a harassed volunteer or conference organizer runs frantically around looking for a technician or an explanation as to why things are not functioning properly. Try to get to your room ten minutes early if possible to check if the equipment you need is there and is functioning. Check that you have all the adapters and whatever else you need to use said equipment. If the equipment doesn’t work and can’t be fixed in under five minutes, go to Plan B ─ printed handouts and/or the black or white board, if available. The best speakers ─ the ones who get asked back—don’t roll their eyes in exasperation or whine about equipment failures, they smile graciously and get on with it.

2)       A good speaker doesn’t blame her audience if her talk is not successful. I’ll never forget a note I received from a disgruntled speaker at one of my conferences, a doctor who sent feedback that she was upset that “the audience of people attending the conference represented a very anti-professional/anti-doctor attitude.” Imagine complaining about your audience for such a reason? It actually made me chuckle and needless to say, I never responded to the complaint.  For the reason that it’s the speaker’s task to keep her audience engaged. If that’s not happening, she needs to figure out why and adjust her talk accordingly. Remember that people attending a conference or a book club event have paid an admission price to be there. That means they want to be there and want to hear what you have to say. If you’ve bored them, it’s the fault of your presentation, not the fault of your listener. 

3)      A good speaker doesn’t despair if her talks have low attendance, but treats every attendee like visiting royalty. True story: a day before one of my first book events, which happened to be at least an hour and a half’s drive each way from my home, the bookshop owner phoned me apologetically, “Do you realize we booked this event for the day before Easter? I didn’t think of it and I’m so afraid the attendance is going to be too low for you to come all this way. I’ll understand if you want to reschedule.” I asked him if he’d had any interest from his clientele at all and when he said that two people had told him they planned to attend, my reply was that if those people showed up the next day, they’d be mightily miffed that they’d carved out time in their weekend for something that was cancelled solely on the possibility of low attendance. So here’s what happened: We went ahead with the event. Six people showed up, including the two who’d said they would. They listened to me read from Harlot’s Sauce, got to taste the salsa puttenesca I’d made for the event and drink some wine. Just six. But, lo and behold—those six people bought 45 books. Why? Three of those attendees where there to preview the book for their book clubs.  The other three were there solely for the reading and the free food, but two of those attendees bought a copy of the book apiece anyway, though they told me they hadn’t intended to do so when they first walked in. Even one person sitting in your audience is a potential new reader or follower or champion of your product/book/brand.  They’ve granted you the privilege of giving you time out of their lives, lives which are just as important to them as your life and your time are important to you, to hear what you have to say. So treat them as though you feel privileged that they took that time. Be warm, be kind, be engaging. They are there to see you, though they might not even know you. Isn’t that a nice thing to know?

4)      A good speaker is not an elitist. Unless your work is as well known as Amy Tan’s or Isabel Allende’s, you are a midlist or newbie author. To go from newbie to midlist to frontlist, you need more book sales. And to get more book sales, you need a bigger platform. And to get a bigger platform, you need to put yourself in front of as many new potential readers as possible. This same holds true for whatever industry you’re in, whatever brand you’re trying to build. At any given time there are millions of people looking for a speaking engagement in their particular field and so, if you are chosen to speak, you should feel thankful, not entitled. A conference’s reputation  is built on the quality of its speakers. Part of being a good speaker is making yourself available, as much as reasonably possible, to conference attendees. Conference attendees are there to hear and see you, ask you questions, and have paid to do so.

What I noticed about the last conference I organized, The Women’s PowerStrategy™ 2013 Conference, the most successful speakers we managed to snag were the ones who spent the most time at the conference talking with attendees and vendors, sitting in other sessions and networking at lunch and during the speaker reception at the end of the day. They were present and real, smiling and talking with everyone. They exchanged business cards, they mentioned on their websites, Twitter feeds and Facebook pages that they were speaking at our conference. They even pitched in at the conference where help was needed!

Having a tight schedule is one thing. That is understandable and excusable, especially if you let the conference organizers know ahead of time you’ll only be able to be at the conference for part of the day. But if you feel the need to show up right before your session and leave immediately after, if you don’t want to sit with strangers and network at lunch, if you’re of those speakers who remark, with their noses in the air, that, “I don’t attend workshops ─ I give them,” for no other reason than to impress everyone else (and yourself) about how special and important and successful you are, you might need to reflect a bit on the attitude you hold towards your work. But in the meantime, don’t be surprised if you don’t get asked back to speak again. Ever.

5)      A good speaker says “thank you,” even if the experience was less than stellar. This is not at all altruistic. This is simply good business and good manners. Anyone who’s ever spoken at an event has had a bad experience at least once. The venue might be terrible, the attendance low, the equipment dismal, the organizers distracted and rude. Your name is misspelled in the program, or missing altogether. Been there, done that ─ haven’t we all? Sure, you can offer helpful (but not disparaging) feedback if asked, but still be sure to express your thanks. “Thanks” for being invited to speak, “thanks” to the attendees (all three of them) and “thanks” the next day on your Facebook page. There are two reasons why you should do this, the first being that the reason you wanted to speak in the first place was to get more people to know your name and your work. That was achieved. Whether it was achieved as you’d hoped or not is beside the point. You came, you spoke, you conquered and that appearance is now part of your platform, a conference/group/event at which you’ve spoken that you can add to your resume.

The second reason is in regards to the possibility that that bad experience was a one-off bad experience. The following year, the conference/group/event that was awful when you spoke at it the year before is now much improved. Attendance is higher, the venue better, the marketing and promotion bigger than ever, and the speakers more high profile. And guess what? Because you were so gracious—showed up and stayed a good while, spoke with everyone, didn’t mind winging it when your projector didn’t work and wrote about the experience in a positive way on social media, you’ve been asked back and are now one among those high profile speakers. And this time, the audience is bigger, too.  Eventually, you land more speaking engagements as a result of being one of the speakers at this conference/group/event a second time. You’ve become an asset to the conference/group/event and the conference/group/event has become an asset to you. All because you were a good sport and a hence, a very good speaker, that first time. 


 Patricia V. Davis is a bestselling author and the founder of The Women’s PowerStrategy™ Conference. For more about her visit her website at



Women’s Power Strategy Conference 2013

WPSCpress releaseSaturday, June 15, 2013
9:00 am to 5:00 pm, VIP Reception to Follow
Wells Fargo Center for the Arts
50 Mark West Springs Road 
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
 Women’s PowerStrategy™ Conference

WNBA, San Francisco Chapter is an official sponsor of WPSC and will have an exhibit table with information about WNBA.

We believe that our WNBA mission of advocacy for women as writers and readers intersects with the goals of WPSC “to educate and inspire women of all ages.”

Patricia V. Davis is the founder of WPSC, a member of WNBA, SF Chapter, and our Web Blog Editor who posts and manages submissions.

Many SF Chapter WNBA members are speakers at the conference: Kate Farrell, Lynn Henriksen, Linda Lee, Amanda McTigue, Linda Joy Myers, Linda Loveland Reid.

More on WPSC from Patricia V. Davis:

“The issue of females’ self-esteem, education and whether or not they have the ability to live their best life, impacts every nation.  If 50% of the world’s inhabitants feel depressed and unfulfilled, how does it affect their life outlook, their ability to be good mothers, employers, employees, or even just good citizens? That’s why I believe we all have to do our part to help girls and women feel healthy, powerful, and satisfied even if they don’t meet our distorted modern media requirements of what it means to be a woman.  

To this end, I’ve founded the Women’s PowerStrategy™ Conference, “a gathering of leaders from diverse backgrounds and areas of expertise who are joining forces to educate and inspire women of all ages to believe and invest in their own talents, skills and potential.” This conference is a day-long event which features talks and workshops on everything from technology to relationships, to business and more that will leave every attendee motivated to live her best lifeOnly in its second year, it’s already having a remarkable impact on women and teen girls. For every admission ticket sold, the WPSC sponsors one girl or woman who would otherwise not be able to afford it to attend the conference, free of charge.”

The Women’s National Book Association will have a table at the conference, which takes place on Saturday, June 15, at Wells Fargo Center for the Arts in Sonoma County. A V.I.P reception follows with wines being sponsored by Barefoot Wines and Breathless Sparkling Wine. (Bonnie Harvey, Barefoot Wines co-founder will be a speaker this year, as well as WNBA-SF officers Linda Joy Meyers, Linda Lee and Kate Farrell).

Conference attendees also get to enjoy a free tour through Sonoma Lavender fields on Sunday June 16, compliments of the owner, Rebecca Rosenberg, another fabulous conference speaker.


Zombies are Real: Thoughts on Education and School Textbooks

       Patricia V. Davis


What might be worse than destroying someone’s physical body with a gun or a bomb or any other lethal weapon is to pretend they don’t exist. To pretend their thoughts, feelings, ideas, beliefs do not exist, because they are different than ours.

But the irony is that pretending that someone who is not like you, who doesn’t think as you do, who has a different perspective on any given subject than you do, does not exist, is that it harms you as much as it harms him. Because when there is nothing to challenge your point of view, there is nothing to learn. And when there is nothing left to learn, there is no room for growth. And the opposite of growth is death.

Oh, we might not be physically dead, we might still be sitting on that couch, or going to that church or attending that rally, or posting an opinion on our blogs or on our Facebook pages for only our like-minded friends to nod their heads to in agreement with us.

But our brains and our spirits are dead because we have stopped learning.

And this is why I no longer teach in a high school classroom, or read newspapers and watch news programs that slant to the right or the left, or to the Christian point of view or the atheist point of view or the liberal point of view or the conservative, etc. It’s because each and every one of those outlets is designed to keep its disciples in check.

When we listen and repeat what our teacher says, what a textbook says (or, as in the case at the link below, doesn’t say) what a pundit says, what a religious leader says or what a politician says, we’re not learning — we’re parroting.

That was who was celebrated when I was a classroom teacher: the parrot, not the pupil. The pupil who asked his teachers “Why?” “How?” “What for?” “How do we know?” was considered a BEHAVIOR problem. But the parrot who sat quietly, read the textbook he was given and absorbed wholesale what was in that textbook so he could be tested on how well he’d memorized it, got the cracker.

The same thing is true in most homes, isn’t it? Does the Christian parent exist who wouldn’t be appalled if her child were an atheist, or the liberal who wouldn’t feel disgusted if her child were a conservative? There are those parents who abandon their children emotionally if those children do not conform to what they believe. And some go even further than that —they don’t just emotionally destroy them, they murder them—their own children — and are proud of it, as a matter of “honor.” Western society finds that horrific when they hear about it, but let’s face it—most of us, to a greater or lesser degree, put our children through a death of sorts  by not allowing them to think as individuals rather than as an extension of ourselves and of what we were taught to believe. We’re even told by our peers that we’re being good parents when we do so. “It’s very important that my son speak the language I grew up speaking,” “It’s very important that my daughter goes to church,” “It’s very important that my kids not be gay,” are just three of many caveats to their approval and affection I’ve heard parents issue.
Some people who read the article at the link below won’t be upset by the fact there is missing information in these textbooks, any more than they’re upset that there is missing information in the textbooks used by schools in Texas, California, New York, Utah, and many other states in the US. Yet those same people are terribly upset when an Israeli bulldozer knocks down a house that belongs to a Palestinian in the Gaza, or when a gunman comes into a school and slaughters children like fish in a barrel.

Yes, those are terrible things. But just as terrible, perhaps far worse because of its long tail, is the slow zombification of an entire species. That’s what mainstream media, organized religion and the current education systems in each and every country on the planet are doing to us—more horrific than no schooling at all, more horrific than wholesale slaughter of a population, is the systemic agenda to turn all of us into a mindless mass of followers whose sole reason for existing is to eat the brains of the next generation.

And I can’t think of a greater weapon against this than to read everything, question everything, and learn whatever we can about everyone else who is different than we are, without ethnocentricity and xenophobia as the gatekeepers of our learning process.


Patricia V. Davis is the author of  The Diva Doctrine: 16 Universal Principles Every Woman Needs to Know and Harlot’s Sauce: A Memoir of Food, Family, Love, Loss and Greece. She is the founder of  The Women’s PowerStrategy™ Conference