A few questions, a few answers

Who or what is a Barncat? >>

Barncat is a place for writers. It was founded by prolific author and nationally known film critic Jami Bernard for writers who needed help finishing and polishing their manuscripts. True, that describes pretty much all writers … but when the struggle to finish and get published becomes too painful or overwhelming, that is the time to come to Barncat. Although we do not accept everyone, we have even taken motivated first-timers all the way to publication.

What can Barncat do for me? >>

Barncat can help you polish your work if it’s near completion, get creatively rebooted if you’re stumped, get back on track if you’ve strayed, find the writer’s voice that is most comfortable for you, and get your book proposal in shape for attracting top agents. We can help you locate your theme, rebuild your structure, and understand the real story behind the story you’re telling.

We work with first-timers and seasoned pros, published authors and writers who keep hitting a brick wall with agents and publishers.

We also work with independent professionals who need to give speeches, write op-eds, or have a book to use on their website or as a back-of-the-room marketing tool to help anchor their business, raise their profile, and make them the go-to person in their field.

You can arrive with just the glimmer of an idea or with a manuscript that seems to defy completion. You can be published or unpublished, stuck or confused, switching genres or hoping to chuck the day job and write full-time. You can be writing a quickie How-To book or polishing a work of literary fiction.

The emphasis is on individual support in the areas you need it most.

How do I know whether Barncat is for me? >>

If all you need is a proofreader to catch stray spelling errors, Barncat is NOT the place for you! Our services are about as intimate as anyone can get with you and your work without a medical license.

As long as you are serious about getting results and you are willing to do your share and accept honest, constructive feedback, Barncat may be for you.

But it is certainly not for everyone, and we do not accept every client. We screen for commitment, passion, high standards, reasonable expectations (don’t assume a book will make you rich overnight!), and a willingness to meet the challenge. These qualities, in our view, are more valuable than whether you have been published in the past. In our experience, any book with a fundamentally sound idea can be brought up to publishing standards, but not every writer is up for the adventure. Please look through this site carefully and make sure these services are right for you before applying to workshops or signing up for services.

If I have been published in the past, why would I need Barncat at all? >>

Even the best writers can be tripped up by pitch letters and book-proposal packages, which are written in the kind of marketing-&-sales speak they deliberately shy away from. These pitches are sales tools, and the language in them is foreign to most literary sensibilities.

Proposal also require special formatting — which is fine for the 15 or so people who have ever mastered Microsoft Word’s page numbering, headers and footers, type styles and indices. (Perhaps “15” is overstating it.)

Also, good writers are not necessarily good editors — let alone good self-editors. Even the best editors have a tough time seeing their own copy with a critical eye.

The difference between a completed manuscript and a polished manuscript can be the tipping point for getting a book contract. It’s an open secret within the publishing industry that authors these days are increasingly relying on outside book doctors or copyeditors before submitting their work.

Isn’t that cheating? >>

Absolutely not! A good book doctor or editor can take your words and your story and make the kind of macro- and microscopic changes that make the difference between an okay manuscript and a winner.

Why am I having so much trouble with my book? >>

You ask that as if it’s unusual!

Nearly all writers struggle the last few yards. Writing a book is a huge, solitary commitment of time and energy. It’s not unusual to write most of a book, realize it’s not working, and start over. The question, really, is not WHY you are having trouble, it’s whether you have the resources you need to move forward. You may need an editor or the feedback of other writers to see where your book went off the rails. Or you might have come down with a toxic dose of writer’s block.

Can writing really be taught? >>

YES. Barncat has coached first-time writers all the way to getting top agents. Some people think you’re either born with talent or you’ll never have it … but that assumes a level playing field where everyone knows all about technique, and where everyone has practiced writing within a supportive environment. Until you master certain writing skills that can be taught and learned, you may not know the depths of creativity that lie dormant within you.

What is Barncat’s success rate? >>

Glad you asked! Here are just a few stories:

  • An entrepreneur and first-time writer landed a top agent at Sterling Lord less than four months after she began working with Jami;
  • A first-time book writer from the entertainment industry is now represented by the William Morris Agency (now known as WME);
  • A psychologist and first-time writer landed a top agent on her second try;
  • A stay-at-home mom who had written only technical articles signed with William Morris (now known as WME) after being wooed by several agents;
  • A fashion designer who vowed to have a published byline before a milestone birthday got her wish when, after working closely with Jami, a first-person essay she wrote was featured in a prominent New York City arts weekly;
  • A well-known cultural critic came to Jami with a nearly completed manuscript; Jami made her rewrite and rewrite until several agents came knocking;
  • A former newspaper journalist got an agent on the basis of a book proposal and a few sample chapters;
  • An international journalist worked with Jami to switch book genres; he is now in the process of switching agents to match;
  • An award-winning author worked with Jami to develop comfort in a new genre; not only is she nearly finished with the new sample chapters, she also worked with Jami to revive an older manuscript, in yet another genre, that she had given up for dead;
  • A struggling memoir writer got an agent after Jami suggested she try fiction and helped her make the switch;
  • A medical textbook writer came to Jami with a crippling case of writer’s block; she recently announced the upcoming publication date of the book that had been making her miserable!
  • A stay-at-home mom and first-time writer was interviewed about her book by The New York Times and NPR; Jami helped the writer get her sample chapters and outline together AND prepared her for handling the media interviews;
  • An artist and computer instructor with an ambitious first-time book project worked with Jami and now has most of her manuscript completed;
  • Jami helped a doctor find the balance between her chapters on scientific research and those meant for a general readership; the book was published to great acclaim.