Cheryl Alkon – Author Interview

What is your most recent book? Tell us a bit about it.

Balancing Pregnancy with Pre-Existing Diabetes: Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby is the first insider’s guide to what it is like to manage pregnancy along with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. It includes the insights of more than 50 women with diabetes, as well as advice from leading medical experts, about how to do pregnancy with diabetes right.

Tell us something about yourself.

I am a longtime writer, researcher and editor who has lived with type 1 diabetes for more than 30 years. Based in Massachusetts, my work has appeared in Avenue, Boston, Body+Soul, Cosmopolitan, Ladies’ Home Journal, More, Self, Weight Watchers and Woman’s Day magazines. I have also blogged about pregnancy and type 1 diabetes at Managing the Sweetness Within (www.thesweetnesswithin.blogspot.com), the book’s precursor.

What inspired you to write this book?

When I first began thinking about trying to get pregnant, the books on the market were all written by health professionals, and were pretty dry and straightforward. At the same time, many doctors and other resources will stress all that can go wrong with a pregnancy with pre-existing diabetes. While the potential for complications can be higher than what they are for women without diabetes, I knew that there had to be positive stories out there about women who have had healthy and happy babies. I had friends with diabetes who had had healthy babies, but I wanted to write the definitive guide from woman’s, not a doctor’s, perspective.

My book is the book I wish existed when I initially considered having a baby.

How did you publish this book? Why did you decide on that publisher?

I wrote a 45-page book proposal and sent it directly to an editor who worked with a company that published a lot of diabetes titles. We had been in touch while I was writing the proposal, and he encouraged me to send it when I finished it.

After about two months of not hearing back from the editor, I began to look for a traditional literary agent. I used a list one friend had compiled, as well as contacted the agents of friends (with the friend’s permission, of course) to contact about 40 different agents who were interested in women’s health and/or diabetes. I spent a lot of time researching each agent before I contacted them–were they open to submissions? Did they prefer queries or the full proposal? Email or snail mail? I heard back from many right away, particularly those who knew friends of mine. Most said the proposal was well-written, but the topic wasn’t right for them, or that the project didn’t have a large enough potential audience. (Around this time, I heard back from the editor of the diabetes titles, who passed because he didn’t think the book would sell enough copies to make the publisher any money).

Still, I persevered, because I knew that for the right reader, this book would be great. Ultimately, about five agents wanted to take the project on. I had the nice task of figuring out which agent would be right for me and the project. I ultimately chose Molly Lyons of the Joelle Delbourgo Agency. She saw the book for what it was, and didn’t want me to try to rewrite the proposal to include gestational diabetes (an entirely different audience) or to make the book more clinical and less insider’s guide.

I tweaked the proposal per Molly’s requests, and sent her the final version a few months later. Unfortunately, the country’s economy was collapsing around the same time, so Molly chose to wait another few months until she felt the publishing climate would be more open to buying books–particularly small, niche topics like mine.

Molly sent the proposal out to about 19 publishers, and eventually, two were interested. Of the two, the editor at Demos Health, Noreen Henson, was enthusiastic about the proposal and wanted to know if I was considering anyone else. The other publisher was more reserved, and after a phone call with Noreen, it was clear that Demos would be the perfect home for my book. It will be available in mid-April and it is pre-selling ahead of Demos’s expectations, so that has been gratifying to see.

What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?

Keep at it. Putting one’s ass in the chair and writing is the toughest part of the process for me.

Take classes if you are still green, and take part in workshops to get insight on your writing.

Be business minded about it if you are trying to sell a nonfiction book. Write a kick-ass proposal that shows you know exactly why your book is needed, why you are the best person to write the book, and show a sample chapter that illustrates how great your book will be.

What are you doing to promote your latest book?

I am very active in the online diabetes communities, including blogging, social networking, and Twitter, to spread the word about my book and what it offers women with diabetes who want to get pregnant, as well as how to deal with related topics such as early motherhood, pregnancy loss and/or infertility.

I also recommend Sandra Beckwith’s online workshop on book publicity. For details, see http://buildbookbuzz.com/workshops/book-publicity.htm

I’m also speaking about the book in Massachusetts, New York and elsewhere. For current book tour details, see:

http://booktour.com/author/cheryl_alkon

Where can readers learn more about you and your book?

Order the book through my publisher’s page:

http://www.demosmedpub.com/prod.aspx?prod_id=9781932603323

Become a Facebook fan and receive notices about where I’m speaking, reviews, and more:

http://bit.ly/91AK9w

For more information about my blog, see Managing the Sweetness Within: www.thesweetnesswithin.blogspot.com

For more information about me as a writer, researcher, and editor, see my site: www.CherylAlkon.com