Necessary Background Info

When I was a teenager, I was close to my maternal grandfather, Milton M. Brown. I was fascinated by the time he spent as a "delegate" in Herbert Hoover's WWI Commission for Relief in Belgium (CRB). He was one of only 185 American supervisors who ever worked for the CRB. After he died in 1979, I inherited all his diaries, correspondence and photographs from that period (1916-1917).

From 1986 through 1989, I worked full time researching the time period, WWI, the CRB, and numerous delegates. From those efforts, I wrote an 850-page historical novel, Honor Bound. I had a few nibbles -- agents and publishers who asked for the entire manuscript -- but no one offered a contract. In the late 1990s, I made a half-hearted attempt to rewrite the novel, but it didn't go far.

After my second book, Facing Your Fifties: Every Man's Reference to Mid-life Health came out in 2002 (and was included in Publishers Weekly's Best Books of 2002), my agent looked at Honor Bound. He suggested the topic would do well -- and fit my writing strengths -- if it was a history book written in novel-like style.

At the end of 2012, as I turned 60 years old, I came to the conclusion that it was time to take up this incredible humanitarian story again and see if I could make it work.

After more than a year of researching and writing, and with the help of a talented book team, I published Behind the Lines: WWI's little-known story of German occupation, Belgian resistance, and the band of Yanks who helped save millions from starvation. 1914. It detailed the complex and chaotic beginnings of the CRB and CN during the critical first five months of the war (August to December, 1914). It was released in October 2014 in time for the 100-year anniversary of the start of WWI and the CRB.

Since then, I'm happy to report that Behind the Lines has garnered national recognitions and reviews that include a Kirkus Starred Review (only 750 out of 10,000 books annually reviewed by Kirkus are awarded a Starred Review) and inclusion in Kirkus Reviews' Best Books of 2014. The last sentence of the review states: "An excellent history that should catapult Miller to the top tier of popular historians." You can read all the reviews at the book's website, which can be reached by clicking here.

Below are my blog posts about re-immersing myself in this important humanitarian topic. The posts start in Dec. 2012 and come up to the present. The posts are laid out with the most recent first. A "List of All My Posts" is on the bottom right of this page. I start each post with a quick snippet of history. I used to call this item "A Spot of History," but now it's titled "Don't-Forget-WWI Project."

My main forcus now is to finish researching and writing WWI Crusaders, which tells the riveting full story of the American CRB delegates from August, 1914 to April, 1917, when America entered the war and the CRB delegates had to leave Belgium and Northern France.

I hope you find something of interest within this blog. For more information about Behind the Lines and/or WWI Crusaders, please go to the books' website by clicking here.


Post #38: George Washington's Birthday and Book Publishers

Sunday, February 19, 2016

Don’t-Forget-WWI-Project: George Washington’s birthday – To foreigners 100 years ago, it led to an act of defiance against a prison state.
During the harsh German occupation of Belgium during WWI, all acts and events reflecting Belgian patriotism were outlawed. Civilians couldn’t even wear or display the tricolors of their country’s flag.
Baron von Bissing, German Governor-General
 of Belgium who outlawed all displays of patriotism.  


Because nearly 7 million Belgians were being saved from starvation in large part through the efforts of the American-led Commission for Relief in Belgium (CRB), the Belgians spontaneously decided to celebrate their own patriotism by honoring the birth of George Washington.
On Monday, February 22, 1915, all over Belgium, schools closed, people dressed in their Sunday best, and strolled through their towns and villages proudly displaying the colors red, white, and blue in suit button holes, women’s blouses, and hats and coats. The U.S. Legation office in Brussels was overwhelmed by thousands who came to pay their respects.

The Germans were furious, and would take their revenge.
To learn more about one of America’s greatest humanitarian efforts—the CRB—and to read a sample of my first book on the subject, Behind the Lines, go to my book’s website, www.WWIBehindTheLines.com   

My Post: It has been an eventful start to the new year. I have continued to work on my next CRB book, WWI Crusaders. It was going to be the second in a proposed trilogy of the CRB and Belgium. Unfortunately, I’m running out of my own money to do this project, and I also believe it’s important to get a traditional book publisher interested so that I can reach the widest possible audience.
After talking with a few book publishers, I learned that they don’t want book two in my trilogy, nor book three. They were all impressed with Behind the Lines (which covers August to December 1914), but felt that the CRB topic was a “small slice” of World War I that does not warrant a trilogy and cannot, in their opinion, sustain reader interest that long.

While I, of course, disagree, I can also see the handwriting on the wall (and in my bank balance).
So, I’ve now pivoted to what these traditional book publishers want – ONE book for the entire story, which will cover August 1914 through April 1917 when America enters the war and the CRB delegates have to leave Belgium.

I’m reshaping the 150 pages I’ve already written and have built a one-book outline.
Through most of December, I spent a great deal of time preparing a book proposal, which turned out to be 75 pages. (Fifty of those pages are the first 50 pages of WWI Crusaders.)  I did all that because the American Historical Association held its annual conference in Denver in early January. As part of the AHA conference there was an exhibit hall where more than 30 book publishers displayed their newest titles.

I, of course, saw this as a great opportunity to approach publishers about WWI Crusaders—hence my book proposal.
I also prepared a one-page book proposal summary for those who weren’t sure of their interest. Following is that one page:  

One of America’s Greatest Humanitarian
Efforts—Unknown Today

Narrative Nonfiction Book Proposal—Summary

Working
Title:              WWI Crusaders: The little-known story of German occupation, Belgian
                        resistance, and the band of Yanks who helped save millions from starvation, by
                        Jeffrey B. Miller

The Story:      During WWI (1914-1918), a small band of neutral Americans in the Commission
                        for Relief in Belgium (CRB) worked with the Belgian Comité National de Secours et
                        d’Alimentation (CN) to create the largest food relief the world had ever seen, saving
                       nearly 10 million civilians trapped behind German lines. It’s a story few have heard.

The Book:      In the narrative nonfiction tradition of books by Laura Hillenbrand, Erik Larson, and David McCullough, WWI Crusaders tells this humanitarian story through multiple American CRB volunteers, individual Belgians, and the editors of the underground newspaper, La Libre Belgique—all within the context of the brutal German occupation. This is not a treatise or dissertation, it is an accurate re-creation of events as they happened so that general readers will feel the spirit and suspense of the time.   

Marketing:    A significant base of buyers/readers includes members of WWI organizations, war-history enthusiasts, and libraries. Working with the publisher, the author plans to reach that base and expand it by implementing a targeted PR/marketing plan to attract general readers who have bought bestselling narrative nonfiction such as Dead Wake, The Boys in the Boat, and the perennial bestseller, The Guns of August. 

Jeff Miller’s
Credentials:   * Kirkus Best Books of 2014; Kirkus Starred Review: “An excellent history that
                             should catapult Miller to the top tier of popular historians.” Behind the Lines;      
                        * History Finalist, Foreword Reviews’ Book of the Year Awards, 2014 (eight
                             other finalists were from university presses) (Behind the Lines);
                        * Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2002 (co-authored men’s health book);
                        * Forty years as a professional writer, magazine editor, and book author;
                        * More than eight fulltime years researching, writing, and public speaking about this
                             little-known humanitarian story. 

Available
On Request:  The complete book proposal, which includes the book’s first fifty pages,
                        descriptive outline, targeted PR/marketing plan to stand alone or complement a
                        publisher’s efforts, an overview infographic, author’s resume, and reference letter.  

More Info:     Jeffrey B. Miller: 1265 South Columbine St., Denver, CO 80210; cell: 303-503-
                        1739; email, jbmwriter@aol.com; website, www.WWIBehindTheLines.com      

That’s it for my one-page book proposal summary. I’ll keep you posted on if any traditional book publisher is interested in helping me tell this great American humanitarian story.

End of Post. 

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