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An Interview with Dana M Brantley-Sieders upon receiving an offer of representation.

02/05/2020

Dana M Brantley-Sieders (brantldm on QT) has signed with agent Barbara Collins Rosenberg of The Rosenberg Group.

Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
I've spent twenty years working as a biomedical breast cancer researcher. Then, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I thought I knew breast cancer before it whacked me upside my left boob and left me bleeding on the curb of uncertainty. The purpose of this book is to share my personal adventure with breast cancer, from the laboratory bench to my own bedside, and to provide accessible information about breast cancer biology for non-scientists.
How long have you been writing?
I've been writing scientific manuscripts for twenty years, and I've also been writing fiction for ten years.
How long have you been working on this book?
I worked on the actual nonfictional proposal and sample chapters for about six months, but I kept a journal and notes just after I was diagnosed, which was over a year and a half.
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
I didn't feel like giving up on this project, though that's not my experience with fiction! Nonfiction is definitely easier, at least for me, probably because this project relates so closely to my profession. Whether or not I found an agent or landed a traditional publishing deal, I knew I needed to write this story in order to heal.
Is this your first book?
First nonfiction book! I've published over 50 scientific manuscripts in peer-reviewed journals, and in fiction I've indie/small press published 8 novels, 6 novellas, and 3 short stories.
Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
For this project, I outlined! Nonfiction is more structured and often requires a proposal with an outline, chapter-by-chapter synopsis, marketing plan, etc. I hired a professional free-lance editor/ghostwriter to help me polish the proposal and edit the sample chapters. That helped TREMENDOUSLY and I believe it was key to successfully landing an agent!
How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
I queried this proposal for a month and a half, which surprised me! For my fiction projects, I've queried for 1 1/2 to 2 years without success. Nonfiction was definitely easier in my case, probably because nonfiction is easier in general and because I have expertise in the field. Fiction is tough!
About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Over 50 - received three requests for the proposal.
On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
I sought agents with a proven track record of sales in nonfiction and relied heavily on information and comments from querytracker.net - this is such a fantastic resource and community! Very grateful to have it!
What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
For nonfiction, polish the proposal and sample chapters, and I would recommend seeking help from a professional editor. Focus on the hook and premise - What is unique about your story? Why is it important? What other books are on the market (do your research) and what makes yours stand out? Also, platform, platform, platform! Start making connections and planning how you'll market the book as you're preparing the proposal and include that in the marketing section.
Would you be willing to share your query with us?
Sure! Here's the body:

Can I talk to you about my personal relationship with my breasts?

I've spent twenty years working as a biomedical breast cancer researcher. Then, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I thought I knew breast cancer before it whacked me upside my left boob and left me bleeding on the curb of uncertainty. The purpose of this book is to share my personal adventure with breast cancer, from the laboratory bench to my own bedside, and to provide accessible information about breast cancer biology for non-scientists. I say adventure, because I'd rather think of it as action movie with some really cool side quests instead of another tragedy-to-triumph saga. I'm not big on sagas. I am big on kickass intellectual badassery, pathological nerdiness, and talking about my sweet, sweet rack.

Why do we need another cancer memoir? In a sea of inspirational stories, celebrity survivor stories and physician memoirs that bring a clinical perspective, nothing I've found in the current market tackles breast cancer through the lens of a breast cancer researcher who became a survivor. We live in an age of fake news and pseudoscience, made worse by the pervasive anti-intellectual and anti-science political culture gripping the United States and much of the world. The Internet and social media are plagued by scammers selling “alternative medicine” and woo woo “cures” for cancer. Through Talking to My Tatas: A Breast Cancer Researcher's Adventure With Breast Cancer And What You Can Learn From It, I offer accurate, evidence-based science that is accessible to laypersons, including the more than three hundred thousand individuals diagnosed with breast cancer every year*, their caregivers, and their loved ones.

Knowledge is power, and lack of it can lead to overtreatment, unnecessary pain and suffering, and can even be deadly. By demystifying the process from mammograms, biopsies, pathology and diagnostics, surgical options, tumor genomic testing, and new treatment options, I aim to offer hope in a story intended to blend the humor and delivery style of Jenny Lawson's Let's Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) with the integrity and scientifically sound beauty of Siddhartha Mukherjee's The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer.