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Forest for the Trees

Talks & Writing Workshops

I give talks and workshops on writing and publishing from my perspective as an editor, agent, and author. I’ve given talks or workshops at Columbia University, Harvard University, Yale University, Cornell University, Pratt Institute, The City College of New York,  Emerson College, Goucher College, Breadloaf Writers Conference, Radcliffe Publishing Course, Goddard College, Tin House Summer Conference, Miami Book Fair, LA Times Book Fair, Florida Writer’s Conference, Denver Publishing Institute, Lighthouse Publishing Conference, Aspen Writers Conference, Holy Cross College,  RJ Julia Booksellers, Salon.com, and BarnesandNoble.com among others.

Frequently requested topics include:

  • How to get an agent
  • How to write a query letter
  • How to write a proposal
  • Titles Workshop
  • First Lines
  • First Page Test
  • What should I look for in a contract?
  • Should I hire an editor, self-publish, e-publish?
  • Self promotion – do I need a blog, website, facebook; should I tweet?
  • After I get an agent, what’s the process?
  • The author-editor relationship
  • Should I get an MFA? Self-publish?
  • What if my agent stops returning my calls?

Please contact me  to set up a program or talk for your school, conference or writer’s group.


“Lerner doesn’t preach on how to write a book but rather tries to help writers and would be authors cope with such problems as ‘being alone with it.’ It’s a survival course. She wants to help the writer who cannot get started embark, the writer stalled between projects ingnite; She wants you to be an effective self-promoter and not a self sabateur. The book is also an affirmation that late bloomers can become successful writers.      –The New York Times

“Lerner has a wicked sense of humor. But don’t think that means her book isn’t brilliant. It is. Cleverly disguised as a sensible reference work, [this] is in fact a riveting safari throught the wilds of a writer’s brain, as well as an honest and unpatronizing guide to publishing from every angle. Its tone is singularly authoritative, compassionate, irreverent, and unafraid.” –Newsday

“Lerner describes the self-promoter, the natural, the wicked child, and the downright mentally ill. She explains the ambivalence that almost every writer feels about writing for oneself versus for the public…Her beautifully written book of observations and advice seems to be coming from a friend.” –Columbia Journalism Review

“Remarkably generous about inviting writers behind the editorial curtain, [Lerner] sings like a canary the trade secrets of editors and agents, offering solid, insider advice on every step of the publishing process…with this book, Betsy Lerner becomes what every writer hopes for — a friend in the business.” –Chicago Tribune

“Betsy Lerner’s style is economical and witty. The Forest for the Trees should become a permanent part of any writer’s or editor’s personal library.” –The Seattle Times

“With an early promise not to ‘Strunk you over the head with rules about style,’ Lerner, a former editor in New York’s top publishing houses, provides inspiring, uncondescending advice for writers.” –Entertainment Weekly

Here is a recent article from the McNally Jackson reading. Warning: some foul language is used.

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