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Independent Study: The Book Deal Toolkit

Practical tips, strategies and revision exercises to get you book-deal ready

If one thing is clear about the contemporary publishing industry, it’s that it takes more than a great manuscript to land you a book deal. The psychological, creative, and professional challenges of balancing artistic and industry concerns are very, very real, and yet, the emotional work of writing—the sheer stamina it necessitates—is so rarely acknowledged.

In this 6-week self-guided class, I will lead you through a practical/psychological adventure in which you’ll develop the written materials needed to pursue a book deal successfully (logline, project summaries, query letters, artist statements…) while also building the fortitude to weather the ups and downs of a writing life. In other words, this Book Deal Toolkit is also a broader Aspiring Author’s Toolkit, the place you will find all of your must-dos and must-haves.

From energy and time management strategies to pragmatic approaches to revision culled from my background in marketing and screenwriting, to mining off-the-book pieces and writing agent queries, this course is for the serious writer who wants a no-nonsense overview of the skills it takes to publish books in America today.

Here's what the six-week course will look like:

Week 1: Finding, making, and protecting your writing time

Week 2: Establishing your “beat”

Week 3: Revision intensive

Week 4: How to talk about your writing

Week 5: Readying your manuscript for an agent’s eyes

Week 6: Ready, set, query!

The required reading of BEFORE AND AFTER THE BOOK DEAL: A writer’s guide to finishing, publishing, promoting, and surviving your first book will be complemented with craft assignments, suggested reading, and video lectures. Upon enrolling, students will receive an email requesting a mailing address where a free copy of the book will be sent. (Note: All students outside the U.S. will instead receive a free digital copy.) 

This course is open to writers in all prose genres. Writers are encouraged to keep a dedicated journal or Google doc for class exercises.

Add-on: The Book Deal Toolkit Review

This is an independent study and does not include any feedback or interaction with the instructor. For an additional charge of $199, Courtney will review your logline, one-paragraph project summary, four-paragraph query letter, and one-paragraph off-the-book pitch. Feedback on these materials will be given during a private 30-minute phone conversation. These consultations are scheduled by author availability, so please inquire first with [email protected] to express your interest.

Courtney has set aside time for free Book Deal Toolkit Reviews (one or two per month) for interested Black writers. In order to emphasize equity of access to this opportunity, a monthly drawing will be held. To express your interest in the next available slot, email [email protected] with a 2-3 sentence description of your book project.

Courtney Maum

Courtney Maum is the author of the novels Costalegre (a GOOP book club pick and one of Glamour Magazine’s top books of the decade), I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You, and Touch (a New York Times Editor’s Choice and NPR Best Book of the Year selection), the popular guidebook Before and After the Book Deal, and the forthcoming memoir, The Year of the Horses. Courtney is the founder of the collaborative retreat program, The Cabins and she has a creativity advice newsletter “Get Published, Stay Published” that you can sign up for at


"With humor and wisdom and the input of writers from across the literary firmament, Courtney Maum has assembled the go-to book for those looking to publish seriously and make a sustainable career of writing. I wish I could turn this book into a serum and inject it straight into my students' veins. I'll have to settle, for now, for imploring them to read this book."

Rebecca Makkai author of Pulitzer Prize finalist THE GREAT BELIEVERS

"BEFORE AND AFTER THE BOOK DEAL is full of writing and publishing wisdom you either should—make that must—know as you plot your authorial future (good luck to you!) or wish you'd known before you got into this mess in the first place (well, better late than never), and Courtney Maum is an ideal guide for the whole loopy adventure: sympathetic, just cynical enough, and uproariously funny. Plus she's enlisted a battery of writers-who-have-been-there to share truths so invaluable you may find yourself, page after page, 'Yes! Yes! Yes!'ing like Meg Ryan at Katz's."


"This book is an act of generosity. It's filled with insight, truth, and good advice; what's more, it had me laughing often and loudly. A trove of riches."

R.O. Kwon author of THE INCENDIARIES

"Courtney Maum's BEFORE AND AFTER THE BOOK DEAL is to book publishing what WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU'RE EXPECTING is to parenting: an indispensable how-to guide with frank insider information that writers can't find anywhere else. Filled with anecdotes and insights that are funny, honest, and wise, it answers questions every aspiring author has but is too afraid or embarrassed to ask. A must-read for anyone who is, has been, or hopes to be a debut author, this will be my go-to gift for writer friends."

Angie Kim author of MIRACLE CREEK