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Author! Author! Doreen Pendgracs

Doreen Pendgracs, volunteer, public speaker, journalist, author

In March, 2010, Doreen Pendgracs’ newest book, Before You Say Yes was released by Dundurn Press and is destined to serve as the ultimate guide to anyone sitting on a board of directors in the non-profit sector. As well, Doreen’s co-authored two books: Frommer’s Newfoundland & Labrador and the Manitoba Book of Everything. 2008.

In addition to books, Doreen has had numerous periodical assignments, has done writing/editing projects for various corporate clients, conducted writing and copyright workshops for a number of writing organizations and her speaking abilities have dazzled audiences on Celebrity Cruise Lines and in other forums.

What gave you the idea of writing a book on volunteering? And how did you convince a publisher that this would be a sexy enough topic to publish?

The idea for Before You Say Yes (BYSY) came to me in March, 2009. I had just finished a six-year term on the board of Access Copyright, Canada’s Copyright Licensing Agency. The wonderful thing about the AC board was that it was made up of nine creator reps and nine publisher reps. One of the publishers, whom I’d gotten to know quite well, published business books and I thought that a book about non-profit boards would likely interest him. He asked me to submit a proposal. It was accepted, and I had a signed contract by June. The book was published one year later, is doing quite well and has led to some wonderful speaking engagements.

Before You Say Yes: A guide to the pleasures and pitfalls of volunteer boards

What have you learned about the publishing industry?

I learned that just because you have a publisher, it doesn’t mean that you have any less work than if you self-published your book. You have to market relentlessly. Fortunately for me, that comes fairly easily, as I love people, love to talk and am not afraid to promote myself and my book. But I know that many authors are not extroverts and find this part of the process difficult. If this is the case for you, hire a publicist to help with promotion. Publishers are operating with reduced resources these days and just don’t have the man/womanpower to put into effective promotion. You’ve got to do it yourself (or get someone to help.)

This means getting in touch with media, building a multi-level author’s platform in which you have a professionally designed website, a blog, Facebook author’s page, Linked In account, Twitter and more. I spend hours a day promoting myself, my book, my upcoming book, etc. It can be tiring and invigorating at the same time.


Getting people to subscribe to the blogs and participate by posting comments has been a challenge. Thank goodness for my dear friends and to colleagues from PWAC (the Professional Writers Association of Canada) and Toastmasters, as they have been very supportive of my efforts. It’s no fun posting a blog post without reaction. And, having a regular flow of comments on your blog also shows publishers that you have a following and potential customers for your books.

In today’s market, it’s all about an author’s ability to prove that he/she has a following. An agent I have been working with from New York told me very clearly: “It’s no longer about whether you are a good writer or have a good idea. Those are givens in today’s marketplace as you wouldn’t even have an agent without those two factors. But in today’s marketplace, you absolutely need to be able to prove to publishers that you are marketable as a business entity and that you have a built-in audience ready to purchase your book the minute it hits the stands. You need a firmly established platform that proves you are already out there.”

Doreen, in cholcolate research mode, Amsterdam

Would you do anything differently?

For my upcoming book on chocolate and travel, Chocolatour, A Woman’s Guide To Chocolate, I have decided to have a US-based agent market the book to US publishers on my behalf. I believe this book will have a global market (nearly every woman on the planet loves chocolate!) and so I cannot work with a small publisher who primarily markets their titles only to the Canadian market. I have very high hopes for this book and it’s my intention to do everything I can to make it a New York Times bestseller.

Although there have been many books published about chocolate, mine is different in that it will reveal the personalities of the chocolate makers I choose to profile, and will help match readers to the type of chocolate that best suits their personalities. Being a people-person, this approach comes naturally to me, and I’m finding that my take is garnering attention from everyone who hears about it. That’s the key. Put yourself into your project and let it flow organically. Write from the heart and you’ll get it right.

Advice to wanna-be-writers?

Start building your author’s platform now. Connect with other writers. Join professional associations. Find a mentor. Network. Attend conferences. Take advantage of any professional development opportunities that come your way. Believe in yourself. And be patient. Success never comes as quickly or as easily as we might like. But it will come if you are persistent—and focused.

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If you have any comments or questions for Doreen, click on Comments and fire away!


  1. February 13, 2011    

    Thanks for the great insights into the world of publishing and promoting a book and showing how much time and energy it takes to get the word out. I wish you every success with Chocolatour, A Woman’s Guide To Chocolate!

  2. February 14, 2011    

    Many thanks for the opportunity to be profiled here, Sandra.

    You have a gorgeous blog, and I’m thrilled to be in such great company!

    Good luck to all the authors and would-be authors reading this post.

  3. February 15, 2011    

    And thank YOU for being such a gracious guest Doreen. I’m learning so much about the world of publishing. It’s all a real eye-opener. Like Heather says, it shows us what’s involved in getting a book “out there.” Writing the book may actually be the easiest part in the entire process!

  4. February 25, 2011    

    Doreen…all great advice and you (along with a few other authors in this forum) confirm what I had been hoping was not true when you write, “But in today’s marketplace, you absolutely need to be able to prove to publishers that you are marketable as a business entity and that you have a built-in audience ready to purchase your book the minute it hits the stands. You need a firmly established platform that proves you are already out there.”

    Good luck with your new book…you must be doing something right as far as social networking because I heard about this book via PWAC member on FB.

    And thanks again, Sandra, these profiles are extremely helpful to someone just starting to negotiate the book publishing waters.

  5. February 25, 2011    

    Wendy, I attended a book publishing workshop last year and the acquisitions editor made a huge point about author’s being “marketable.” Having that built-in audience that Doreen talks about seems to be crucial. Great to have writers like Doreen lay it out like is … gives aspiring authors a wake-up call! Can be a challenge, but hey, we’ve met lots of stumbling blocks in our careers before and climbed those mountains so it’s all possible!

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