WORKING YOUR MANUSCRIPT: The Beginning, the Plot, and Ten Ways to Improve Everything

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WORKING YOUR MANUSCRIPT: The Beginning, the Plot, and Ten Ways to Improve Everything

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Before you spend years researching, writing, rewriting and polishing that great
nonfiction tome that no one else could possibly assemble, STOP! Why invest time and
effort in a book that may not be what publishers believe is marketable? Or worse, after
three years and three hundred pages, your book turns out to be very similar to another
already set for publishing. Would it not be more time- and cost-effective to first distill
your concept and structure into its essence, then write a proposal outlining your format
and information? And before you send that detailed proposal to agents or editors,
would it not be even more prudent to focus your ideas further by writing a single-page
query letter? The answer to both questions is yes. Proposals and query letters are
standard publishing industry procedures.

Overworked agents and editors welcome anything which helps them work more
efficiently. A query letter gives them a sense of whether or not they should invest time
in reading your proposal. If you “hook” them, they in turn will use your query to sell the
concept up the ladder into the publishing houses. Everyone wants to scan one page
first, then peruse the expanded proposal.

But where to begin? In this morning seminar, powerhouse writer Marvin J. Wolf offers practical advice and savvy tips about turning your work into an attractive product ripe for picking by the book-publishing establishment.

MARVIN J. WOLF has written professionally since 1965. In addition to authoring or
co-authoring 15 nonfiction books, his articles have appeared in magazines and
newspapers in 132 nations around the world. Mr. Wolf honed his storytelling talents
while serving as a U.S. Army infantryman, Ranger School instructor, basic training drill
instructor, combat photographer, public affairs officer, staff officer and company
commander. Later, he worked in creative advertising positions for Foote Cone, Wells
Rich Greene, and Northrop. In 1978, Marvin Wolf became an independent writer.
In partnership with veteran screenwriter Larry Mintz, Wolf took up screenwriting in 2001.
Their script “Ladies Night,” based on a chapter of Wolf ‘s 1988 book “Platinum Crime,”
aired in February 2005 on the USA Cable Network, as did “The Pierre Heist,” based on
another Wolf book. Mr. Wolf’s books include “Buddha’s Child,” the wartime memoirs of
former South Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Cao Ky, and “Where White Men Fear To
Tread,” the autobiography of Native American activist and film actor Russell Means. His
“Beating The Odds” recounts the life story of ABC Television founder Leonard
Goldenson. In addition, he has written several true-crime anthologies, including “Fallen
Angels, Chronicles of Los Angeles Crime and Mystery,” considered a minor classic of its

Marvin J. Wolf is a charter member of IWOSC and has served four terms as president.