Keller Media Blog



Dear Literary Agent,

I have written a book about relationships that I would like to get published.  I know that I need to build a platform, but I’m too overwhelmed by how much there is to do.  I don’t even know where to get started!  Why isn’t it good enough that I have a great book that will help people?


Frustrated Writer


Dear Frustrated Writer,

I hear you.  It would be so much simpler if just having a quality product was enough.  Back in the day, you could write your book and submit it to the publisher and know that it would be marketed without you needing to lift another finger.  For better or for worse, things have changed now.  The money that publishers make is not what it used to be.  Because they are making less money, they pay less when it comes to marketing and advertising.  Because they cannot market the in the way they may have in the past, they are depending on you to do some of that work for them.  Prove to them that you have a large number of people interacting with your content already, and they will be more likely to want to bring you on board.

Next, you need to figure out where your marketing strengths lie and then focus on that.  Are you great at writing short but informative blogs?  Start and maintain a blog, updating frequently.  Be a guest columnist on other blogs.  Are you a confident public speaker?  Start doing speaking engagements – send a press release to new stations and radio programs, apply to speak at conferences or meetings that could be connected to your work.  If you “have a face for radio” or get nervous and tongue-tied whenever the spotlight is put on you, choose another method.  Maybe you are a Facebook or Twitter whiz.  Test things out to find out what you do well and which way your audience prefers to communicate with you through.

It takes a lot of legwork, but you will get the hang of it, we’re sure of it!  If you need some help, feel free to check out our Success Accelerator product – it can help catapult you to platform glory.  Go here for details: Success Accelerator.

All the best to you on your book’s journey – you can do it!


Megan Close Zavala and the Team at Keller Media, Inc.


Want to submit a question to be answered here?  Email your question to

By Wendy Keller, Literary Agent and Nonfiction Book Proposal Expert

looking_for_love_in_a_stack_of_booksA book proposal consists of 5 crucial parts, as well as a few sample chapters.  The finished document is typically between 25 and 60 pages long, depending on the length of the sample chapters.

A publishing decision is made by committee representing several departments, all with individual points of view. Those departments are usually editorial, sales, marketing and corporate (the view of the publisher – “Will this book make money for the house?”)  The only section that will certainly be read by every committee member is the Overview, which makes it the most important.  Pay special attention to crafting a nearly-perfect Overview!



The purpose of the overview is to pique the editor’s interest sufficiently to get them to read the balance of the proposal and buy the book. Your goal is to answer these three questions:

  1. Who is going to buy this book and why?
  2. How do you know?
  3. Why are YOU the right person to write it?

That’s it. It should not exceed 3-5 pages in length.  The last paragraph should be what I call the “save the whales” paragraph.  This is where you get all misty-eyed and talk about how your book is part of your mission to save the whales/children/grow companies/help people find true love – whatever you’re doing.  We want the editor to know you are emotionally and mentally committed to the book.


Author’s Bio

Modesty will cost you a book deal.  This is no place for humility.  Tell us what your credentials are related to the topic, but more importantly, every shred of media you have done on this subject, media training you have, articles you write, your social media presence, the size of your mailing list, etc.

Editors are looking for how you will help them promote the book FIRST, and secondarily what the book is about.  We can sell a cookbook by George Clooney faster and for a lot more money than a cookbook by the guy who owns the best restaurant in Los Angeles. (P.S. – If you know George Clooney, please tell him we’re available to represent him on any book topic he’d like!)  A bio is typically 1-1.5 pages.


Chapter Summary

The point of the Chapter Summary is two-fold:  to give the editor an idea of the breadth of your content and your fresh, interesting way of treating that information; and second, to make sure YOU know what you are promising to write about.

Most books are around 60,000 words, have twelve chapters and each chapter is about 5,000 words long including up to 2,000 words in stories/anecdotes/case studies/interviews.

To organize your book most easily, realize that Chapter One is almost always a general overview for the reader of what’s to follow, a description of your view of the topic, and the implicit promise to the reader of what they will get/learn when buying your book. You introduce yourself to the reader in Chapter One.  You make it clear you’ve had the same challenge they’re having and can fix it for them, or that you’ve fixed it for many other people. You make ‘em love you and know that you care about their dilemma.

Chapter Two in most non-fiction books helps the reader identify him or herself as a person desperately needing the solution you’re about to offer.  Chapters Three through Eleven are where the author expounds her/his ideas of how to create a resolution of the problem for which the reader bought the book. This is where you show off your solution in logical, concise, understandable steps.  Chapter Twelve is typically the “go forth and conquer” chapter.  It sums up the book, encourages and inspires the reader to go out and DO whatever prescription you’ve just written about.  It’s got lots of pathos.


Competitive Analysis

**IF YOU ARE WRITING A PROPOSAL TO TEST AN IDEA’S SALABILITY, this is the section with which to start!!!!***

The competitive analysis proves you are not working in a vacuum, unrealistic, unaware or plain stupid.  I once got a query during John Gray’s heyday.  The author wrote to say he was writing a relationship book called “Men are from Uranus, Women are from Pluto.” (No joke!)  He swore to me he’d never read any other relationship book (including the most famous one by a similar title) and that this idea had been given to him in a personal visit with an archangel.  (We get a lot of archangel-transmitted books offered to muse…)

PLEASE show you are savvy!  Go to and select the top 6-8 books with the most similar content and which are selling well.  Scroll down the AMAZON page to where it says “Product Details” like cut size, page count, weight, etc.  Look at the Sales Ranking listed there. Only select books whose sales ranking is above 150,000 (for most topics.)

Read the whole page – description, sample pages and especially comments by readers.  Look at the books Amazon recommends to people who buy that one.  BUY and actually skim-read those that are quite similar to your own intended work.

TAKE NOTES ON THOSE BOOKS!  The format in which you need to write up your notes (after the header above, and for each of the 6-8 books) is Positive, Negative, Positive. 


Marketing Plan

This is a list of everything you have done in media in the past and everything you will do to promote this book.  This is the single most important factor in determining the size of your advance and thus whether or not we will represent you.  Together with the Overview, this is where our attentions as agents will be focused.  Your marketing plan is most easily prepared if you think of it in six sections.  They are:




Internet/Social Media


Special Sales

Just do the best you can on this.  If you’ve been on lots of shows, just list the national ones and for radio, just list by call letter or in the case of major host syndication (e.g., Dr. Phil or Leno) then by host name.


Need some extra help getting your book proposal in order?  Check out our home study course here: How to Write and Sell an Excellent Book Proposal

Do you think your book proposal is ready to pitch to us?  If so, please visit

By Wendy Keller, Literary Agent

extraYay!  Someone wants to see your baby!   An agency (maybe ours!) is willing to look at what you’ve written in hopes they can represent it.  Agents are always hungry to find good content from smart authors.  (I think of myself as a hungry shark endlessly prowling the ocean.)

You are probably a little nervous. Who knows what we’ll say?  What if we don’t like it? What if we do? You’ve heard horror stories about endless rejections.  You’ve heard about that book way back when?  Some author whose name no one remembers sent his book to 5 agents and they fought to represent him and it eventually sold a million copies and…(I forget the rest of that fable!)

Here are the only 5 things you need to double check before you mail or email your book proposal (nonfiction) or manuscript sample (fiction) to any agency in the USA:

  1. The agent’s correct address and spelling of their name. Call the agency if you have to, but don’t screw this up. I’ve gotten emails addressed to “Kelly” dozens of times in my life, and while I don’t get annoyed, I do know it slightly detracts from my ability to trust the author’s attention to detail (so important in nonfiction!)
  1. Proofread your cover letter or cover email. It doesn’t have to be as perfect as your query letter. You’ve already overcome that hurdle. But it should not contain typos or misspellings.  People like us are nerds – we always notice that stuff.
  1. You are sending a clean version. Sometimes, people unfamiliar with Track Changes will still have markups.  Or redlined notes in the physical copy.  No editorial marks should be shown in the document the first time you send it to an agent. We don’t want to see your process.
  2. Vague promises or threats in the cover letter. An astonishing number of people use one or the other in some futile attempt to induce speed or greed in the agents. “Eight other agents are looking at this” better be 100% true if you’re going to say it.  Also, “You’ll be missing out on the book that could make your career…” and “I guarantee this will become a New York Times best seller…” are shockingly common.  Those kinds of phrases mean instant rejection at my agency.
  1. Begging or Bribing in the cover letter. Begging makes me sad for you.  (See? I do have a heart!)  Begging and its sister, bribing me with a larger percentage of your commission, are bad ideas.  Again, you’d be amazed how many people whine about how badly they want this book published.  As for the bribery, doubling my commission on something I think is worth $0 means nothing. But the begging is scary. “I need this book to build my life coaching business because I’m a single mother with 3 kids to support” is begging.  The publishing industry is not a charity.  I can only represent things I think have a greater than 90% chance of selling to publishers I know. Publishers I’ve spent almost 30 years befriending, studying and to whom I’ve been selling other people’s books.

If the 5 points above seem ridiculous or obvious to you, you might be someone we could represent if your content is marketable and you are, too.  These are unbelievably common mistakes writers make, over and over, year in and year out.  A word to the wise: take heed!


By Megan Close Zavala, Literary Agent

how-to-give-and-take-criticismLiterary agents often get a reputation for being cruel and heartless.  It is true that not a one of us has escaped sending out many, many rejection letters.  I am sure that there are a few slightly sadistic agents out there, but for the most part, authors, please know that we take no pleasure in saying no to you and your project!

It is true!  We WANT you to be our clients.  We WANT to sell your book and make you and us both a trillion dollars (okay, at least a million dollars).  Everyone at my agency has received angry, resentful and oftentimes threatening responses to our rejection letters.   While we can understand being disappointed by a rejection letter, if we have sent one to an author it is for good reason – the book project is missing something (or things) that we need in order to effectively sell the book to publishers.

I was recently asked to speak at two conferences in southern California about “mistakes” that authors make that are holding them back from success.  There are some obvious ones made by bad writers (typos, copycat books, no platform, etc.), but I am more interested in helping GOOD writers identify their hurdles and move their way past them.  I consulted with colleagues and peers and put together a long list of dos and don’ts for writers at any stage in the writing process, and now I would like to share them with you now.  Without further adieu, here are three examples of what even great writers do badly (and how to change!).


#1: They Don’t Think Like Marketers

I often start any presentations I do by asking audience members to raise their hands if they are authors.  Inevitably, almost everyone raises their hands.  Then I ask them to raise their hand if they consider themselves a marketer.  There are a few brave souls who raise their hand, but just a few.  Words like “marketing” and “platform” are dirty words to many authors nowadays.  Having to build awareness surrounding you and your project sounds scary and overwhelming.  But it doesn’t have to be!  Yes it requires time, yes it requires legwork, but it is 100% necessary in the industry today.  Know exactly what your book is about and what you are bringing to the table.  Nail your logline (one sentence summary) and elevator pitch (a 3-5 sentence summary of your book’s content and unique features, as well as your credibility and expertise).  Know which audience you are writing your book for.  Think of your book as a product that you need to convince people to sell and to buy.


#2: They Don’t Understand How the Publishing Industry Works

Writing is a solitary business to be in.  Because your main job is to get the right words put together the best way possible, there is often little time to think about anyone else’s role in the publishing process.  This can lead to unrealistic expectations on the part of the author.  The best way to combat this?  Learn how things really work!

For example, let’s just look at a literary agency.  Agents spend a lot of time trying to find the best projects possible.  This may involve sifting through the zillions of queries that come through every day, or it may mean attending networking events, meeting with referrals, etc.  Hopefully, they find a client they are excited about and sign them on.  At that point, the agent helps the author get their project as perfect as possible before sending it out (working on the book proposal, providing editorial feedback to the manuscript, etc).  They put together a list of editors to pitch your book to based on relationships they have and research that they have done.  They email/call/sky write folks about your book until it (hopefully!) sells.  Up until the first check comes in, all of the work that the agent does is done for FREE.  Once the book sells, they make just 15% in commission.  Because they can’t guarantee that they will eventually get paid (and because they like to eat), agents can only take on projects that they think they can sell.  This is why even if we like you or your book, we may not sign you based on a weak platform, manuscript in its early stages, etc.


#3: They Don’t Know Who to Pitch Their Book To

Before you start sending out your query letters, you need to do some research.  While you may have an amazing project on your hands, you need to make sure the agents that you are pitching to represent projects in genres similar to yours.  For instance, at my agency we do not represent anything that falls under the science fiction, fantasy, young adult, or children’s umbrellas.  That doesn’t mean that we don’t have great respect for those writing, editing or publishing in those genres, we just aren’t interested in taking those projects on.  So whom should you be pitching to?  There are numerous directories of literary agents out there – try the writing reference section in Barnes & Noble,, or even a straight Google search.  Look at the agency’s website and see what type of authors they work with.  If it seems like you could be a match, go for it (make sure you follow their submission guidelines!).  If not, move on and don’t waste your time – there are plenty of other agent fish in the sea.

By Elise Howard, Query Manager for Keller Media, Inc.

researchA query is an email or letter an author sends to an agency in hopes of getting them to work for free to sell the author’s book, at which point the agency will earn 15%.

My role is to read the queries and compare them to the agency’s established guidelines. In all the years Keller Media has been successfully selling books, they have a pretty good idea of what will sell, why and to whom.
When an author sends us something that is juvenile, poetry or a screenplay, that is an easy, instant No. We don’t handle those kinds of books and yet so many people send them to us! They obviously know nothing about us and are bulk-sending to as many agencies as they can.

When an author has a nonfiction to share, more than half the time it is a really sad story about their childhood, bad marriage or other trauma. Thousands of those kinds of books are offered to us. Unfortunately, there is not really much of a market for those unless the author is out there speaking on the topic, leading workshops, is running a growing charity, something like that. So those are also a No in most cases.

Continue reading

by Wendy Keller, Senior Literary Agent, Keller Media, Inc.

Authors throw themselves against the big steel doors of the publishing industry with alarming velocity.  Those who are too bruised by rejections continue stomp off to self-publish.  “That’ll serve those idiots right!” they sometimes think.

But what happens 90% of the time is the author has “no luck” – roughly translated into poor sales of the self-published book.  Which only makes things worse should s/he try to write another book someday in the future.

The reasons authors give for “no luck” are myriad.  But the reasons the agents and publishers give are fairly consistent: the author wrote the book only for themselves, with very little consideration to whether or not readers would buy it.

The time to start thinking about your readers is before you sit down to type out a book.

Continue reading

OR “How Some People Block Their Own Success”

by Wendy Keller, literary agent

Father Knows BestA friend who is a motivational speaker asked me to negotiate a deeper “buyback” for him. I was not his agent when his book was sold many years ago to a mid-sized business publisher, but I decided to do him a favor. (A “buyback” is the discounted price at which an author can purchase copies of their own book for resale purposes, as long as it isn’t via bookstores.)

I negotiated 10% more than he was already getting, the best discount that publisher offers to anyone.  But when the time came to take possession of the books, he suddenly changed his mind. Egg on my face with the publisher, a little mistrustful of my friend, I dropped it.

A few months later, the speaker told me, “You didn’t do a very good job negotiating that after all. Some guy I know said he could have gotten a discount of 25%  more than you got me.” (I know that to be impossible, but I took it on the chin.) The guy mentioned has never worked in the publishing industry and doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

I forgot all about their little drama. I was doing a favor. I wasn’t being paid.

Yesterday, the speaker asked me if I wanted “the chance” to “try” to do a better job this time and get him the rate his guy told him he should get. Continue reading“Everybody has at least one book in them.”

Business owners, entrepreneurs, career climbers and brand builders who write books* easily differentiate themselves from the huddled masses yearning to make a buck.

Life coaches, doctors, consultants, professional speakers, therapists, lawyers, CPAs and pretty much anyone with a service to sell would benefit enormously from writing a book.

But here’s the catch:  Continue reading

Click for your free Special Report

Click for your free Special Report

Most authors want their book to do something for them.  It’s pretty pointless to just publish or self-publish a book if you don’t have a Master Plan in the back of your mind about how you’re going to use your book to achieve an objective.  The most common reason I hear?  People want their book to grow their business. It is NOT too late.  Your book CAN start living up to its potential.

How many of these do you want your book to do?

  • Attract more customers or clients
  • Lure in investors
  • Get them new coaching or consulting business
  • Bring people into their workshops or seminars
  • Open up opportunities for paid speaking engagements
  • Embellish their brand
  • Launch a new business
  • Act as a marketing machine
  • Open doors to industry leaders they can’t access otherwise
  • Establish you as a force to be reckoned with in your industry

So I decided somebody needs to do something…and that somebody is probably me. I have a passion for books – reading them, selling them – and especially, helping authors learn how to use their book to achieve their dreams.  That’s why I just wrote this Special Report called “3 Great Ways to Leverage Your Book to Grow Your Business.”  Whether you self-published 5 years ago, are about to go to press, or published with a traditional publisher, this FREE special report will serve you a few of the very best ways I know to turn your book into a cash machine for your business – and help you live your dreams.

Wendy Keller Literary Agent


Ready to Sell Your Book to a Publisher? You’ll Need a Literary Agent

Most people sit down to write a book and only later do they start to think about how to get it published. The dream is to find a publisher who will pay you a lot of money for the joy of printing and distributing your book. Then thousands of people will buy it, you’ll be famous and you’ll be able to quit your job and write full time.

I’ve heard versions of that fantasy tens of thousands of times in my 26+ years as a literary agent.

But how does this all work, anyway? If you do want that dream, where do you start? Continue reading