Friday, February 01, 2008

HOW TO WRITE FOR THE COMPLETE IDIOT'S BOOKS: INTERVIEW WITH RACHEL GREENE BALDINO & JUDY FORD

If you haven’t been living under a rock, you’ve had to have heard of the phenomenal Complete Idiot’s Guides under the Alpha Imprint by Penguin Books. There’s The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Being a Model, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Learning French, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting Published (one of my favorites); now there’s a wonderful new book out called The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Enhancing Sexual Desire by Rachel Greene Baldino and Judy Ford.

Rachel Greene Baldino was born in Berkeley, California in 1967 and grew up in Iowa City and upstate New York. Her mother, Judy, is a retired editor, and her father Robert, a professor emeritus of French.

Her first publication (as Rachel Nora Greene) was Inanna and The Land of No Return: A Poem. It appeared in Parabola magazine (August 1979) when she was nine years old. It was based on her maternal grandfather Samuel Noah Kramer's translations of ancient myths about the powerful Sumerian goddess of love.

In 1992, Baldino took a writing class taught by Melanie Rae Thon, who introduced her to the late, much missed, brilliant short story writer Andre Dubus. For several years, Baldino had the honor of participating in the Thursday night writing workshops that Dubus hosted in his living room in Haverhill, Massachusetts.

After earning her MSW from the Boston College Graduate School of Social Work in 1997 and working in a methadone clinic, Baldino published several articles in The New Social Worker, a national trade journal for social work students and recent social work school graduates. In 2000, White Hat Communications (the same press that publishes The New Social Worker) brought out her first book, Welcome to Methadonia: A Social Worker's Candid Account of Life in a Methadone Clinic.

In 2005, after providing counseling to individuals, couples and families in a community-based outpatient mental health clinic, Baldino published her second book, The New Age Guide to Loving Simply: Eliminating Drama from Your Intimate Relationships. That book went out of print only a year or so after publication due to the dissolution of its original publisher. But it lives on (in a slightly modified form) in cyberspace, where it was re-released as an e-book in 2006 by Fictionwise.com with a new title: Loving Simply: Eliminating Drama from Your Intimate Relationships.

Baldino has also written online and print articles, including a series of relationship columns for SixWise.com, a health and wellness website. She is a member of The Authors Guild and the National Association of Social Workers (NASW).

Rachel Greene Baldino lives with her husband and their two children in Massachusetts. You can visit her website at http://www.rachelgbaldino.com/.

Judy Ford is a nationally recognized family counselor, best selling author and inspirational speaker whose expertise is in empowering individuals and families. She has dedicated her life to family healing and wholeness. Her "Parenting with Love and Laughter" workshops have been attended by thousands of parents.

She is also the author of nine bestselling books: Wonderful Ways to Love a Child, Wonderful Ways to Love a Teen: Even When it Seems Impossible, Wonderful Ways to Love a Grandchild, Wonderful Ways to Be a Family, Wonderful Ways to Be a Stepparent, Expecting Baby, Between Mother & Daughter, Getting Over Getting Mad, Single, and Painting the Walls Red. You can visit her website at http://www.judyford.com/.

A quite impressive list of accomplishments by both ladies.

So, how does one get into The Complete Idiot’s Guide Books? Do we need an agent? Is it a simple matter of sending them a proposal (handy dandy link is on their website telling you what they need)? And, the most important question of all, would we stand to make any money off of these books?

Ahh…great questions.

Today, we interviewed the ladies to get their input on these and other questions we had about The Complete Idiot’s Guides.

Welcome to The Writer’s Life, girls. Tell me how did the two of you hook up?

We met through the wonderful literary agent, Andrea Hurst: http://www.andreahurst.com/.

Both of you are accomplished authors. Do you think that it helps when you’re both on the same level of writing?

Judy: I had a wonderful experience working with Rachel. She’s become a friend even though I’ve never met her in person. Our writing styles complement each other. She’s smart, thorough, and quick. She can write a paragraph in the time it takes me to write a sentence. I could not have written this book with out her. It’s been a great partnership and I’m proud of the work we did together.

Rachel: I don’t know if I am on the same level as Judy, but I learned SO much working with her; I can’t even begin to put it into words. She is an amazing person and her writing style is so warm, positive, friendly and inviting. I sometimes get overly clinical (and a tad dry!) in my writing style, and Judy ever so gently helps me bring out my warmer side.

Tell us about the book you two co-authored The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Enhancing Sexual Desire. What message are you trying to get across with this book?

So many things – but mainly the message that sex – indeed life! – is meant to be fun and enjoyable, and that sex is the way that loving, committed adult couples “play” with each other. People get so busy and stressed out. They sometimes forget to make their relationships with their loving partners a top priority. Speaking of stress, they even forget that sex is a phenomenal way to relieve stress! Our book reminds couples to create time and space for each other as a way to enhance not just sexual desire, but every other aspect of their lives together as well.

We also knew what we didn’t want to write when we set out to write The Complete Idiot's Guide to Enhancing Sexual Desire. We didn't want to write a medical treatise on libido. That's already been done and done well by people with plenty of expertise in the medical aspects of human sexuality. We are not medical doctors. We are therapists, and both of us happen to have been trained as clinical social workers. And, as social workers, we were trained to look at the "whole picture" of a person's life in order to get the clearest idea of how best to help them. So, if a couple were to come in for treatment in this area, we would certainly want to know about possible physical causes (and to refer to a medical doctor if necessary), but we would also want to know everything else that is going on in that couple's life, in terms of their stress levels, their self-esteem, the general "hectic-ness" of their lives, how much time they are devoting to their relationship with each other right now, etc. Because as it turns out, problems like low sexual desire usually have multiple causes, and it is only by taking a careful look at all aspects of a couple's life together that any real and lasting solutions can be found.

And that's essentially why we wrote this book. Does it contain the most up-to-date information on the medical and physiological causes of and treatments for a low sex drive? Absolutely! But our main focus (especially given our primary area of expertise as social workers/therapists) is the emotional dimension of how and why sexual desire ebbs and flows over the course of a long term monogamous relationship, with a specific focus on self-esteem and role that self-esteem so often plays in the sexual desire of both men and women, but especially in women. That is, people who feel good about themselves, who feel comfortable in their own skin, and who have learned a wide variety of ways to celebrate their sensuality and sexuality are often the ones who are capable of experiencing the greatest level of sexual desire. So that is what we focus a great deal of our attention on in The Complete Idiot's Guide to Enhancing Sexual Desire: finding lots of wonderful ways to feel sexy as a great pathway to feeling more desire for sex!

Where did you two get the idea to write it?

We were invited, via our literary agent Andrea Hurst, to submit a proposal to the acquisitions editor. Andrea and her clients have worked with this particular editor on many, many projects.

Did you have an agent for this or did you submit to them yourselves?

Rachel: I had queried Andrea about something else. She passed on that project (a different relationship book), but then she invited me to submit a proposal for The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Enhancing Sexual Desire instead, which I gladly did! The proposal was accepted; Andrea introduced me to Judy, and at that point, we both came on board as co-authors.

Tell us about the submission process. It states on their website that you can send a proposal to them. Does this mean you don’t have to have an agent?

That’s true! You do not need an agent to write a Complete Idiot’s Guide! I don’t know the percentage of proposals they accept that are unagented. For that kind of information, you’d need to speak to someone on their staff. As with most publishers, it is probably helpful (though again, not necessary!) to submit via an agent, simpley because they receive many proposals, and they know in advance that the agented proposals have already been reviewed by one person with literary experience who knows what publishers are looking for in general.

How long was your proposal?

Our proposal was about 12 pages long (per their request); though I am sure the page lengths vary from proposal to proposal. A writer’s best bet would be to follow the submission guidelines on the website exactly: http://us.penguingroup.com/static/html/cig/submit.html.

How long did it take for them to accept your book?

Since ours was a “requested” proposal, it did not take long at all; maybe a couple of weeks. However, I think this may be unusual.

How long did it take from the initial acceptance to the time your book was actually released?

The book contract came together at the end of 2006 and the book was released at the end of 2007, so exactly one year.

How many revisions did you have to go through?

Too many to count! Writing, as they say, is rewriting! There were revisions all along the way, and then many more revisions when the editors reviewed it and made their comments.

How are your books distributed? Are they available all over the country?

We are very fortunate that Penguin Publishing Group (the owner of the Alpha imprint under with these books are published) is a very old, established publishing company. Their distribution is worldwide, and the book is available (either in stock or by ordering it) in all brick and mortar bookstores and all online retail outlets.

How is the publisher to work with? Did you have any arrgg moments?

They were very helpful, very professional. The editors were fantastic and incredibly thorough. We were honestly very pleased.

What are the odds of someone else getting into their publishing house?

We don’t actually know. This would be an excellent question to put to them. Since we don’t know how many proposals they receive, we can’t give you a well informed answer about their acceptance rate.

Does it help to have a platform to get an acceptance?

Absolutely. It helps to be an “expert” or at least a very knowledgeable person in the area in which you want to write a book for this series.

Do they set up a book tour for you or do they leave it to you?

No book tour was pre-arranged for us, but that is something that may vary from author to author. We are very happy to be doing this virtual book tour through Pumpupyourbookpromotions.com!

What is your best advice you can give someone who would like to be published by them?

Polish your proposal to within an inch of its life and then ask a trusted friend to proofread it before you submit it. (This holds true no matter where you are submitting.) Also, be sure to have the right kind of platform or expertise for the kind of book you are submitting. And always be open and receptive to editorial advice and the idea of making changes. Don’t be too “married” to your words. They have a great team of editors, and if those editors make suggestions regarding ways to change your work for the better, it is a good idea to listen to them.

Thank you for coming, girls!

The Writer's Life is proud to sponsor Rachel and Judy on their first virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book Promotion. If you would like to visit their official tour page to learn more about these interesting ladies, click here.

If you would like a chance to win a FREE copy of Rachel and Judy's book, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Enhancing Sexual Desire, leave a comment by clicking here. One lucky blogger will be announced at the end of their tour on February 29 at
http://www.virtualbooktoursforauthors.blogspot.com/!

We wish Judy and Rachel much success with their virtual book tour!

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