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Thread: Learn The Nonfiction Book Publication Process With Mommas Jenna and Lauri and Poppa F

  1. #1
    wishes you happiness JennaGlatzer's Avatar
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    Learn The Nonfiction Book Publication Process With Mommas Jenna and Lauri and Poppa F

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    Last edited by JennaGlatzer; 01-13-2010 at 01:28 PM. Reason: Sorry... I'm not here anymore.
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  2. #2
    wishes you happiness JennaGlatzer's Avatar
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    Testing an Idea

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    Last edited by JennaGlatzer; 01-13-2010 at 01:28 PM.
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  3. #3
    professional multitasker scfirenice's Avatar
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    MommyJ

    I just wrote my first proposal for my NF piece only I'm not sure about the entire project. I think the proposal is good and I already have the thing half done, BUT it's not going to be that long maybe around 25,000 words. It is a compilation of labor and delivery inspirational stories (Some don't end well, but they all have a motivational component.) I was thinking it would be a smallish hardback gift type book. I dunno. Anyone want to take a look at my proposal and tell me if it sucks?
    Coffee? Do I smell Coffee???

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  4. #4
    wishes you happiness JennaGlatzer's Avatar
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    Ah, yes. Gift books can certainly be a lot shorter than "regular" nonfiction books. Especially if they're going to have photos/artwork included.
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  5. #5
    wishes you happiness JennaGlatzer's Avatar
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    Starting the Proposal: The Title and Overview

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    Last edited by JennaGlatzer; 01-13-2010 at 01:28 PM.
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  6. #6
    Writer and Music Producer Vanessa's Avatar
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    Aww Jenna, this is right up my alley. Just what I needed. Thanks for the info. I've bookmarked this thread. This is why I hang out with KF's. (Knowledge Feeders)
    "As long as my mind speaks to my fingertips, the conversation is endless!" -Yeah I said it!


  7. #7
    Sockpuppet
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    I hope you know I am saving this link.

    Thank you so much for doing this, Jenna.

  8. #8
    practical experience, FTW LloydBrown's Avatar
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    You're the best, Jenna. My proposal got no agents, but I'm thinking that's likely to be because of the limited size of my market. I'm thinking 5-digit copies sold: exactly where in that range is up for grabs. I'm afraid it's not enough earning potential to interest an agent.

    My next proposal is going direct to publishers, but I'll wait to see a bit more of what you have to say.
    Lloyd Brown
    www.lloydwrites.com


  9. #9
    wishes you happiness JennaGlatzer's Avatar
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    Lloyd, you're probably right. If it's a niche book, it'll be hard to attract an agent-- but the good news is that most of the smaller presses don't require agented submissions, and that's probably where you'd fit best. I had a heck of a time finding an agent to rep Make a Real Living as a Freelance Writer, but I already knew there were several publishers who specialize in books for writers-- Writer's Digest Books, Allworth Press, SquareOne Publishers, and Marion Street, to name four-- and I happened to run into Nomad Press along the way, who didn't specialize in books for writers at the time, but were interested in nonfiction how-to books in general. (Now they're looking to expand their writing titles.)

    Oh, and I've mentioned this before-- I've sold the vast majority of my books without an agent. From what I've learned here and in my perspective, an agent is more important for new novelists than nonfiction writers... there are few publishers who won't look at a query/proposal from an unagented nonfiction author, at least in my experience. Of course, you must have a contact name and not just a general "Dear Editor" letter, but we'll get to that later.
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  10. #10
    Empirical Storm Trooper MadScientistMatt's Avatar
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    I just wanted to thank you for starting this thread, Jenna.

    Not knowing any better, I went and banged out a complete non-fiction book on its own, and now I've finished revising a second draft. The book is a complete guide to chosing the right modifications for a car. Now I'm wondering: Would it be better to write a proposal for this book, or get a few beta readers to check it out and further refine it?

    Also, this book is going to need a lot of illustrations in its final form. In fact, it will need a lot of them to make sense to any beta readers who are unfamiliar with cars. If I went with beta readers, this may really delay things. Should I get to work on these for beta readers? Or should I leave illustration to the publisher's pros?

  11. #11
    figuring it all out
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    Exclamation Will you discuss?

    Jenna,

    Thanks for this very informative thread.
    I was just wondering if you will touch on breaking into new markets?
    You know, if you typically write material about X or make a living as Y, how do you break into true-crime writing for example, or write the next Chicken Soup book?
    Thanks for any help.

  12. #12
    Finestkind underthecity's Avatar
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    Jenna,

    Can other nonfiction authors step in and say stuff too? I have some items I'd like to add.

    allen
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  13. #13
    wishes you happiness JennaGlatzer's Avatar
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    Allen, absolutely!

    (Matt and Moon, I'll answer your questions later-- just wanted to jump in and tell Allen to go for it. )
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  14. #14
    wishes you happiness JennaGlatzer's Avatar
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    OK, answers to what I can answer:

    Matt, yep, you're still going to need a proposal. The good news is that it should be relatively easy to write because you already have the manuscript to work from.

    Agents and publishers really do want to see a proposal because it includes info they won't find in the book itself-- such as information about the target market and competing books. You can note in the proposal that the full manuscript is available. They also prefer to see a proposal first because they can get a much quicker view on the book overall without having to read the whole thing to know what's included.

    About illustrations: My gut tells me that if it hinders the understanding of the read (of the sample chapters), you'll need to either put in some rough sketches or text that describes what the sketch will look like, but I'm not sure on this, so I just sent your question to one of my editors and will let you know what she says.

    Moon, yep, I'll get into that (probably after I finish explaining the steps of a proposal). Remind me if I don't answer exactly what you're asking.
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  15. #15
    Finestkind underthecity's Avatar
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    Other considerations:

    I am not going to directly contradict Jenna, but I'd like to throw in some comments based on my own experiences.

    Book Completion It's true, for a nonfiction title you don't need to have the manuscript finished before you start seeking a publisher. But to expand on the above statements, you had better make sure you can finish a whole book on the subject before you start pitching it. Chances are, you're married, you have a full-time job, you might have kids. You already have a busy life. A nonfiction book will require research: libraries, bookstores, interviews, driving across town to meet interviewees, seeking source materials, etc. Do you have time to do all this? If you submit a proposal that says you plan to have a completed manuscript in six months, then you had better be sure you can follow through. You'll have no idea what kinds of obstacles you will face between the idea stage and printing out yet another manuscript revision.

    Proposals Don't get too hung up on the mechanics of a proposal. Nonfiction publishers will sometimes, more often than not, tell you exactly what they want in a proposal. Sometimes, with noses pointed high, they might refer to a proposal as a "Vita." Needless to say, it's the same thing. Follow their guidelines and write a good one. But yes, nonfiction publishers require them.

    Source materials Make double sure you will have access to source materials: photographs, letters, legal documents, interviews, before you begin your project--even before you send out that proposal. If you plan to write a book about the subway in your city that was built but never used, you'd better know where to find the supporting photographs, city documents, and maybe even legal clearances to use some of the materials. Some private collectors can be surprisingly stingy when it comes to sharing rare photographs (yes, I've been there) so don't depend on just one source for information or materials (which I do not). For instance, you might say in your proposal, "The Historical Society has all the photographs and documents I need." Then after your contract is signed, you discover that either the Historical Society has just a few instead of the hundreds of images you thought they had, or they DO have the images, they just charge $100 apiece for publication rights. If you secured an advance, that money may completely disappear just for this purpose. So, plan to use multiple sources.

    Briefly on Advances Not all publishers offer advances. Be forewarned that some do and some do not. An advantage to not getting an advance is that you're guaranteed a nice royalty check every six months.

    Manuscript length Each publisher has different requirements on text lengths and photo layout. You may imagine your book will be a nice coffee table book with big, glossy pages. What you end up getting may be different than what you expected. Be flexible. Also, you will be required to modify your text and proposed image layout to fit the requirements of the publisher. If you've written 75,000 words and have 300 photographs, but your publisher's books only contain 128 pages and 200 photos, then be prepared to edit to their standard. Don't complain about it and just do it. Your book will be better for it. Trust me, I've been there.

    On Writing Yes, you should read Stephen King's On Writing, but that's not what I mean here. When you write your manuscript, depending on its subject matter of course, write it for the general reader. Have you ever picked up a book published by a university press written by a professor who overuses long, ponderous words in complex sentences? I've tried and I can't get through two paragraphs of it. Just a suggestion: keep it simple.

    Last but not least check, double check, and triple check your information. There's nothing worse than having readers point out all the inaccuracies in your book after it's been on the shelves for a few months. (Note, this did not happen to me in either of my first two books. However, it did happen to one of my publisher's other books that I know of.) Although you may already have planned to make use of beta readers, have an expert or two read your manuscript NOT for grammar and puctuation, but for accuracy. Give them an acknowledgement and a copy of the book for their trouble. Although you can bend the laws of physics to work in fiction, you can't do the same in a nofiction book. Your book could be used a reference book in a classroom, or will be an aid to researchers. Accurate information is a must, and believe it or not, some authors don't get that.

    There's more, but my lunch hour is up.

    edited to add: To find out how I wrote my first book, please check out my faq page.

    allen
    Last edited by underthecity; 11-15-2005 at 10:34 PM. Reason: added link to faq
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  16. #16
    wishes you happiness JennaGlatzer's Avatar
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    Book Proposal: The Market

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    Last edited by JennaGlatzer; 01-13-2010 at 01:29 PM.
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  17. #17
    wishes you happiness JennaGlatzer's Avatar
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    Matt, from one of my editors:

    Hi there. Depends on the publisher and the budget for the book.
    If it's just a proposal, I would just put into the proposal that the book would contain X number of highly illustrated ...
    Most of the time, it would be the author's responsibility to supply the line drawings. But, again, it depends on the publisher and how "big" a book the publisher sees this as, thus how much of a budget would be put behind it.

    I'm going to ask Frank (aka eraser) to chime in on this, too, because I think he was responsible for producing drawings for his fishy book...
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  18. #18
    Empirical Storm Trooper MadScientistMatt's Avatar
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    Thank you, Jenna. So while it looks like I may need to illustrate it, at least I may be able to put that off for a while.

    And in case you were wondering, I had a pretty clear audience in mind when I wrote the book. I moderate a couple car message boards, and one of them often has people stop by and comment that they are either looking for a car to modify, or have bought a car, want to make it go faster, but don't know where to start. I wrote my book to answer those questions.

  19. #19
    Fish Whisperer aka eraser's Avatar
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    My ears were burning....

    If the pubs to which Matt is submitting are familiar with techie car-type stuff, then just a description of the illustrations will likely suffice for a proposal. When (let's think positively) they offer a contract and ask for the full, then supplying rough sketches for the pub's art gurus to work from will suffice.

    Any 6-year-old, chosen at random, can draw better than I can. We, (editor, me, art people) all enjoyed belly laughs at my drawings. But the art gurus got the gist and after some back-n-forthing "we" came up with some nifty illustrations.

    Good luck Matt.
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    He who conquers others is strong. He who conquers himself is mighty. - Lao Tzu

  20. #20
    Milk Maker Anastacia's Avatar
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    As a writer currently preparing to submit what I hope will be a successful non-fiction book proposal, I just want to thank Jenna so much for this thread! How kind of you to share your knowlege and experience with us!


  21. #21
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Thumbs up Thank You!!!!!

    Jenna,

    I just want to say thank you for taking the time to do this. I am finishing my first nonific book now and am amazed at how long it takes and all the issues I have come across. I will probably ask some specific questions later in the discussion.

    Thanks again!!

    Alana

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    Co-Host, Mom Writer's Talk Radio
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  22. #22
    Empirical Storm Trooper MadScientistMatt's Avatar
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    Jenna,

    What are your thoughts on including personal anecdotes in How-To books? Are there times when this is a bad idea? Times when it is almost essential?

  23. #23
    practical experience, FTW dee3's Avatar
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    Thank-you again Jenna!

    Jenna,
    I have been really holding off on trying to write a nutrition book for children as I am a dietitian and truly feel the need for the obese childrens area, but...I just feel so overwhelmed at taking the plunge. I guess I feel insecure about what I am allowed to copy and what I am not allowed. I had always been taught if you see something in three other publications, you do not need to cite it. I would appreciate any help in this area or any suggestions on any books that may help me.


    Thanks for helping me in my two dream aeas of writing...greeting cards and nonfiction! We really are blessed to have you and this website!
    Thanks,
    Dee

  24. #24
    Empirical Storm Trooper MadScientistMatt's Avatar
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    Jenna,

    I have another question. In Make a Real Living as a Freelance Writer, you emphasized using primary sources and turning in additional source material with articles. How important is that for books? Will I need a list of sources? Is using things like magazine articles and other books less of a problem with books than articles?

  25. #25
    Fish Whisperer aka eraser's Avatar
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    Matt, my name's not Jenna but I thought I'd give you my take on your first question at least.

    Unless you're writing a scholarly tome, personal anecdotes can add much-needed tang to a book. Mine were often set apart as sidebars and they worked well that way. If they fit the subject matter and help illustrate a point, I don't think many editors would object.

    Oh what the heck, I'll take a crack at your 2nd q too. I'm assuming you cite sources along the way. You may or may not have to turn in your sources when your ms is accepted but you should certainly have the list handy for reference in case questions come up during the editing process. The pub might want the list for the appendix too.
    Recently Thunk Thoughts
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    My book makes a great gift!

    He who conquers others is strong. He who conquers himself is mighty. - Lao Tzu

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