Anyone in non-fiction write about history?

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HistorySleuth

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I honestly don't know why I'm asking. I think I feel isolated in my field on writing forums sometimes. I love AW, I'm mostly in the mystery area, as I write that too (or general threads). Fiction is a big area, as are self-help and memoirs so I get most of the conversation is going to be on those subjects.

I comb the Bewares & Background Checks for people talking about publishers that take history related stuff but I'm not having much luck with that. Mind you, I'm not complaining, I love this place and AW is top of the list to find out the skinny in the writing world. I found one thread in B&BC on History Press, but the last post was two years ago. I mostly write local history, historical true crime, or on Native American issues. If any of you can provide any direction I'd appreciate it. :)
 
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veinglory

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My current project is a history of a research area with chapter set in eras from around 1890 to the present day.
 

HistorySleuth

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Well I was wondering about the publishing/agent aspect of it. I've done a lot of research over in the B&BC area but it seems mostly for fiction. I guess I'm not sure who to approach and how. I imagine a proposal, correct?
 

Siri Kirpal

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Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

Yes, you need a proposal. Elizabeth Lyons has a good book on the subject.

You find agents that take history projects by going into agentquery or you can hunt up publishers that take unagented historical projects. Jeff Herman's book and Writers Digest are places to look.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal
 

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First, you find publishers who publish similar books. This may be indie publishers like W. W. Norton, or big 5, or academic presses, depending on your subject.

You discover what they want in a proposal; generally this is a summary, a detailed outline, a sample chapter and a bio. Publishers may have a specific format and specific questions (like who would buy your book, what similar books are there, what's special about your book?).

Be aware that there are less than ideal non-fic publishers out there; watch out for these guys.
 

underthecity

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Yeah, what Medievalist said. Like with any other nonfiction, you'll have to seek out the publishers that publish the kind of history you've written, find their submission guidelines, write a proposal based on what they want to see, write a query and submit. I would personally advise avoiding the university presses, though. In terms of distribution, contract specifications, even cover design, university presses can compare unfavorably to commercial presses. Not all the time, but they can.
 

kimcooper

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We work similar beats, HistorySleuth, and although I began planning to pitch and write a book about mid-century Los Angeles crime and social history, I ultimately decided to share my research in non-traditional ways: as a true crime blog, then bus tours, and most recently through a novel published by Subscription in a deluxe edition.

If you're set on going the traditional route, I'd suggest contacting writers with published books, and asking them about their experience working with the publishers you're interested in pitching. Some book deals are worse than no book deal, and with stories of local interest, there's a lot a writer can do independently.
 

erinbee

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There are tons of great non-fiction agents out there that love history. I'd look in the acknowledgement sections of books that resonate with your work somehow and query those agents.

(Agented, pubbed non-fiction writer here who specializes in history as well. The genre is alive and well and there are many amazing agents, editors, and writers in our field!)
 

HistorySleuth

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Good to know there are others out there! I actually have a publisher looking at a proposal now for the land title one in my siggy. The other one that is 1850s true crime I'm bring into the digital age on April 1st, self-published. But the proposal wasn't too bad. They had a template as others have said. I survived. :)
 
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dantefrizzoli

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I have read history non fiction in the past, you definitely arent alone it just depends on your preference.
 

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I write biography -- which definitely falls under history (it's History From A Perspective!) -- and when I first set out looking for representation, I went to the AAR website (aaronline.org) and pulled a list of agents who represent bio/history. From there, I queried each of them individually, and had a proposal (with two sample chapters) ready to go when/if asked.

Sounds like you've got the proposal template under control -- if not, I was going to suggest joining a writers' organization (like BIO), where people are often more than happy to share their proposals with you. (The query is a different bird, however.)
 

AnnaPappenheim

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I'm working on a historical nonfiction book, to be followed by a historical fiction book. It's a collaborative effort with my husband, who is a historian. Nearly finished first book (the nonfiction), and have the second book partially written, although it's on hold right now as we explore self-publishing options for the first book.

Sunnyside: Glad you posted those website suggestions!
 
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I am in the process of researching about my non-fiction books about the Japanese-American internment. It's exploded and will probably spawn several books on related topics.
 

HistorySleuth

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Glad to know I'm not alone here amidst all the fiction. (which I write too, murder mysteries, so nothing wrong with fiction of course.)

Thank you sunnyside for the tips. I'm going to check into those. The one publisher has my proposal ready for the board, but I don't know. They may not be exactly what I'm looking for, in talking to other local historians who used them as far as the royalties.
 

AnnaPappenheim

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Glad to know I'm not alone here amidst all the fiction. (which I write too, murder mysteries, so nothing wrong with fiction of course.)

I like murder mysteries too. My husband and I have been working on a historical fiction book (as well as the nonfiction history book) and it's a solvable mystery. (It's on hold right now until we publish the nonfiction history book.)

One of his favorite mystery writers in John Dickson Carr, and the favorite book of his is Three Coffins. I've yet to read it, but will when I have the chance. Will check out your books too :) We sometimes watch old Ellery Queen episodes, for the solvable mysteries. I recommend them if you're into that: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0072496/ They're a little hooky, but a lot of fun!
 

henmatth

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It's alright to write about history ... whether for fiction or non-fiction.
But you have to make good and quality research so you get
accurate facts and your story looks realistic.
Say for instance ...
if you have to write a story like the life of Joan of Arc, Napoleon or Hitler
then you have to search for the best resources.
 

AnnaPappenheim

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Couldn't agree more, Henmath!

Just spent the last year and a half on mostly research-- translating documents, sometimes whole books, conversing with historians, reading countless books, endless online research, filling up two bookshelf shelves worth of notes in binders, a whole wall covered with corkboard, pages upon pages tacked up...

We want not just the nonfiction book to be accurate and informative, but also the fiction book. For example, it would be disappointing, as a reader, to read that gas lanterns were being used, when in fact that was only just invented and several years from being utilized in cities. I like to be able to trust historical fiction authors, and I like detail.

So yeah, I hear you :)

Do you write about history too?
 

plumone

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I don't write about history, but I am a big Robert Caro fan. He and his wife handle all of the researching and writing for his work. He sometimes will spend a decade working on one book. He's given some interviews on his process- its fascinating stuff.
 

Deleted member 42

Just a comment—regarding reading older handwriting.

There are books about this, really, truly, with examples. It helps a lot to see a specimen document with a particular kind of cursive/handwriting and a transcript.

Paleography is not just for Medievalists.
 

AnnaPappenheim

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Just a comment—regarding reading older handwriting.

There are books about this, really, truly, with examples. It helps a lot to see a specimen document with a particular kind of cursive/handwriting and a transcript.

Paleography is not just for Medievalists.

That's neat about seeing documents exactly as they were handwritten.

I've read John M Riddle's books on ancient and pre-modern contraceptives, and one thing he does that I like is provide the source in it's original language. (Though he doesn't provide a photograph of it handwritten.) He translates it, but since he feels that someone else might know of some little known fact to do with a certain word or phrase, he provides it in the original as well.

It's a great way to aid advancement in understanding the topic. And, of course, more so if a photograph/copy is provided.
 

AnnaPappenheim

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I don't write about history, but I am a big Robert Caro fan. He and his wife handle all of the researching and writing for his work. He sometimes will spend a decade working on one book. He's given some interviews on his process- its fascinating stuff.

That is fascinating. I looked him and his writing process up and found a good article on his site: http://www.robertcaro.com/writers-at-work/
 

Elizabeth George's book Write Away