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Thread: Nonfiction credentials

  1. #1
    Noob Writers United Eddyz Aquila's Avatar
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    Nonfiction credentials

    As my understanding goes, nonfiction is different than fiction in the sense that you propose to the agent/editor the idea of the book and then you write it. (correct me if I'm wrong)

    Now, my question is this - I can propose / pitch but what about those credentials?

    I want to write a book on a legal/history topic, something that I did in my university and Masters but I have no credentials to back it up. Completely new to this.

    Help please!
    The more you can dream, the more you can do. - Michael Korda

  2. #2
    volitare nequeo AW Moderator veinglory's Avatar
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    You will generally need about 3 chapters written, and a Masters on the subject is a pretty good platform.
    Emily Veinglory

  3. #3
    Swan in Process Siri Kirpal's Avatar
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    Sat Nam! (Literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

    That's sort of correct. You do have to write the first chapter, and many people want three chapters in the proposal. If it's narrative, then the first three; if it's not, then usually the first, something in the middle, and the last. And all of that is because, the publisher is still going to want you to write well.

    You need a proposal which gives your pitch (why it's needed), your bio (why you have what it takes to write it), a marketing plan (who would want to read it), a promotion plan (ideas for how to sell it), comparative titles (and this needs to be more than just the titles, it needs to say how they're similar and what makes yours different), a table of contents, a chapter outline (a line or two about what's in each chapter), and those sample chapters. Some folks want the housekeeping details (probable wordcount, when you think it will be done, and whether or not it will have illustrations) in the pitch; some want it in a separate book details section.

    Whether you need extensive credentials or not will depend on a bunch of things: how hot is the topic? do you have privileged info (someone's original diary, a bunch of private interviews, etc)? is this narrative or for use in a classroom? If it's for a textbook, you'll need more credentials than you would if you have primary materials about a mover and shaker and it's a narrative about that person.

    Hope that helps.

    Blessings,

    Siri Kirpal
    "The only freedom any of us ever has is the freedom to choose how we will not be free."

  4. #4
    Yes, nonfiction books are usually sold on the basis of a proposal. You'd want to consult a book or other resource about writing a proposal. There are several parts to it.

    I don't quite understand part of your post. If you have a master's degree in a field that includes your topic, the degree would be a credential.

    Other than that, it just depends on several factors (including how advanced your topic is). I'm sure a PhD and twenty years as a top expert in the field would always be preferred but that doesn't automatically mean you could not be in the running for consideration.

    If you want to write it regardless, you could self-publish it if an agent or decent press didn't want it.

    We might have better help for you if you listed more specifics. Good luck.

  5. #5
    Herder of Hamsters AW Admin's Avatar
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    Tailor the proposal to the publisher, don't just write one. Increasingly non-fiction trade publishers want agents to submit, rather than writers.
    Last edited by AW Admin; 09-25-2017 at 05:02 AM.

  6. #6
    Such a nasty woman SuperModerator Old Hack's Avatar
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    It's true that having a masters degree in your subject is a good platform. It shows you have a proper knowledge of the subject.

    There are a few good books out there which explain what to put in your proposal, and agent websites will often give you the bare bones, too.

  7. #7
    Noob Writers United Eddyz Aquila's Avatar
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    Thank you so much guys! (and gals of course!)

    My thinking was that you had to have some published articles or books before to have proper credentials - I had no clue the degrees counted as credentials, I thought they were an obligatory part of having a "base" to start with. Indeed, on the same subject as my Masters and University degree.

    The subject is British Constitutionalism it's pretty modern, quite a hot topic and it encompasses a wide range of subjects.
    Last edited by Eddyz Aquila; 09-26-2017 at 01:46 AM.
    The more you can dream, the more you can do. - Michael Korda

  8. #8
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Having prior published work would certainly be useful info in your bio for a proposal, but a degree is good too

    If you have a wealth of ideas, you could always try pitching shorter articles to newspapers/online publications, especially as you say your topic is hot! If you can pitch something timely with the news, and write up your article quickly, the turnaround can be pretty fast. Not only would having published clips help in a book proposal, but doing some edited writing on the topic might help you work out the proposal itself.

    The main advice I've gotten on this topic is to research the correct length and topic for the publication, and to be prepared for a fast turnaround if a pitch is accepted.

  9. #9
    For more info., you might want to search Amazon for books similar to the one you plan to write, to get some idea of the qualifications of their authors and who they were published by.

  10. #10
    figuring it all out shootseven's Avatar
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    What type of publisher are you planning on pitching the book to? If you're going for an academic market. If you're pitching to academic presses (like a University Press), you'll need the completed manuscript. At least that's been the case in my experience. Then, if the editor decides to move forward with it; it will likely have to make it through two peer reviews.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eddyz Aquila View Post
    As my understanding goes, nonfiction is different than fiction in the sense that you propose to the agent/editor the idea of the book and then you write it. (correct me if I'm wrong)

    Now, my question is this - I can propose / pitch but what about those credentials?

    I want to write a book on a legal/history topic, something that I did in my university and Masters but I have no credentials to back it up. Completely new to this.

    Help please!
    ========

    You need to submit a proposal.

    The prop also needs to show there is a market for that book and how it is different from the competing books on the topic.

    Your credentials are a factor but how you can help sell the book, and your following on social media, count as much as your street cred.

  12. #12
    Such a nasty woman SuperModerator Old Hack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pat j View Post
    ========

    You need to submit a proposal.

    The prop also needs to show there is a market for that book and how it is different from the competing books on the topic.

    Your credentials are a factor but how you can help sell the book, and your following on social media, count as much as your street cred.
    As a non-fiction editor, I don't care how much street cred or social media standing most authors have. What I want is expertise, reputation, understanding. A good masters degree in the subject, preferably a PhD, or years of working in the field. Name recognition. A good history of publications, if possible. Something meaty we can use to show that this is the book people should buy, out of all the others out there which are similar.

  13. #13
    practical experience, FTW
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    Quote Originally Posted by pat j View Post
    your following on social media, count as much as your street cred.
    Doubtful, for nonfiction.

    caw
    Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it.

    -- Terry Pratchett

  14. #14
    Herder of Hamsters AW Admin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pat j View Post
    Your credentials are a factor but how you can help sell the book, and your following on social media, count as much as your street cred.
    They really don't. Even technical publishers are more interested in your credentials than your media engagement.

    Scholarly, academic publishers don't really care about your media engagement; they do care about scholarly credentials and reputation in your fields of practice (that means credential peer-reviews publications, and papers presented at reputable conferences).

  15. #15
    Benefactor Member WeaselFire's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eddyz Aquila View Post
    My thinking was that you had to have some published articles or books before to have proper credentials - I had no clue the degrees counted as credentials, I thought they were an obligatory part of having a "base" to start with. Indeed, on the same subject as my Masters and University degree.
    You had to write a thesis, right? Besides, how would you get credentials by publishing of you needed those credentials to publish.

    Keep in mind that "expertise" is sometimes over rated and over thought. You could be a single mom with no college degree and nothing published and you're still likely an expert on buying cheap laundry detergent that works for toddlers.

    Jeff

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