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  • Writer's pictureJohn Lim

MF 226 : Alissa Carpenter on book proposals and pitching to a publisher

Updated: Jun 22, 2022

On this episode, Alissa Carpenter, shares tips on writing a book proposal and pitching to a publisher. More at

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Alissa Carpenter

Today, I speak with Alissa Carptener about going the traditional publishing route with your book. Alissa is a career coach, TEDx speaker, and author of the upcoming book Humanize Your Workplace [final title: How to Listen and How to Be Heard], which focuses on communicating with people in the workplace.

I had a chance to pick Alissa’s brain on the process of where to begin, how to understand the traditional publishing space, how to put together a book proposal, and managing your time to write your manuscript.

Did you ever think about writing a book?

Alissa shares that writing was “not her thing” growing up but in the past 5-6 years, she has thought about it more and decided that writing a book would be a great way to hone her message and share it with those who need it.

Why write a book?

Throughout the past several years, as Alissa has gained experience working with different clients, she has increasingly come across communication issues within companies. She realized that there is a growing need for information and solutions in this area so writing a book was the next logical step.

Once you had the idea, what did you do next?

Alissa shares that since her book would be based on real stories, she didn’t need to write out the complete manuscript in the beginning. Instead, she wrote a few chapters and created an outline, envisioning what the book would look like. Next, she reached out to a mentor who had previously published a book. After speaking with this mentor, Alissa decided to go the traditional publishing route. One big takeaway Alissa shares is that you don’t necessarily need the full-text manuscript if you work with a publisher since the concept or idea may evolve or change.

Book proposals 101

Alissa’s starting point was Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, which covers strategies and tips for pitching to a publisher and creating an effective book proposal. The book also includes a list of agents to contact for representation since most publishers require it. From there, Alissa did a targeted search of agents who represent authors writing in the same genre and soon signed with one. Alissa points out that a book proposal is lengthy and an important part of the pitch process so put your time and care into it.

One big takeaway or tip on writing a really great book proposal.

Alissa shares that most authors get caught up in the idea. While that’s important, you also have to pitch your platform. Publishers want to know what kind of platform and audience you’ve built up to communicate your book to the right audience. Interestingly, while this is a given for self-publishing, it’s also key if you’re going with a traditional publisher as new authors are expected to do their own marketing. So, when it comes to writing a great proposal, spell out what your platform is; your social media reach, presence at conferences and speeches, etc.. Alissa boils it down to two factors: 1) credibility to speak on the idea, and 2) access to the right audience for the book.

Where is Alissa right now in this process?

Alissa just turned in her manuscript and it’s now with her publisher for editing. In addition to editing the manuscript, she will work with the publisher on finalizing the title and cover design. The book is set for a spring 2020 release.

Writing process for a busy person (time management)

One of the reasons I was glad to speak to Alissa about writing a book is because she is very busy. In addition to running a business, she has a family, kids, and travels a lot for work. I asked her what her writing process is like and how she found the time to get her manuscript done. For Alissa, finding the time meant compromises and carving out minutes here and there. Alissa’s advice for busy professionals who want to write a book is to wake up earlier or stay up a little later or use audio recordings (as I talked about last week).

When it comes down to it, writing a book requires you to “plan little pockets of time to get it done.”

Finally, Alissa advises not to edit while you write. Even if it’s terrible, focus on getting the ideas out in that first draft.

Connect with Alissa

  1. Everything’s Not Ok That’s Ok

  2. Facebook

  3. Twitter

  4. Pinterest

  5. YouTube

  6. IG

Check out episode 141 to hear more of Alissa’s story


Scrivener (available for Mac, Win, IOS) is a book writing program that auto formats for self-publishing on Amazon’s KDP and other platforms. It’s a great tool with rich features that allow co-writers to collaborate through Dropbox. Scrivener has a bit of a learning curve but I’ve been a fan since 2017 and have talked to many authors who use it as their go-to. If you’re interested in Scrivener, you can use the coupon code MOVINGFORWARD to get 20% off your purchase (for Mac or Win). It’s a one-time license fee and available for Mac, Win, IOS.

Note: this section contains affiliate links and coupon codes for which the author may receive some compensation.

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