Selling a Photo Book to Publishers – Words Matter.

Cathy Greenblat’s uplifting Alzheimer’s photos were being exhibited throughout the US and Europe to great acclaim. She hoped to publish a companion book with a leading publisher. Photography books, however, are a hard sell, as they’re generally more expensive to produce and difficult to market.

Dr. Starr helped me write my pitch letter, rewrite my book proposal and edited my manuscript. She’s a delight to work with – both for her writing/editing skills and her warmth and encouragement.” – Dr. Cathy Greenblat, Love, Loss & Laughter: Seeing Alzheimer’s Differently.

Cathy’s powerful photographs and accompanying text challenged the dominant images of people with Alzheimer’s and dementia as empty shells.

She asked for our assistance in presenting the book to prospective publishers.  This required a strong pitch letter, a revised proposal and assistance in reformatting and editing her existing material. We agreed that she should present a completed manuscript, rather than a few sample chapters.

Pitch letters require “marketing drama” (otherwise known as hype) that most authors prefer to avoid. Unfortunately, the author has only a few chances to make a sale.  If the first few paragraphs fail to grab an editor’s attention, the opportunity is lost.

Pitch letters and proposals are often initially reviewed by lower level staff who might dismiss the project out of hand, or move it up the editorial food chain with mixed comments. Experienced literary agents bypass lower level reviewers and go straight to the senior editors. Senior editors scan the text before deciding to read on.

In Cathy’s case, the process of drafting a strong pitch letter, revising her proposal and editing the book took about six months. Cathy is a fine writer and a responsive client. Working with her was a true pleasure.

My partner, New York literary agent Karen Gantz, presented the project to Lyons Press, known for successful photography books. Moved by the letter, proposal and manuscript, Lyons published Cathy’s book in 2012. It was soon featured in the health section of the New York Times. “You can almost touch the joy, love, and laughter that emanates from the people involved,” declared a reader.

Maria Shriver wrote in the introduction: “This groundbreaking book provides honor, respect and dignity to people living with dementia and delivers comfort, support and understanding to their caregivers.” Dr. Harvey Fineberg, President of the Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences concurred: “This remarkable collection will inspire anyone who has been touched by Alzheimer’s.”