Nonfiction credentials

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paqart

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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.

How do you react to someone who has found their ideal subject after publishing on other, unrelated subjects previously? I ask because I now have five published books, six peer-reviewed journal articles, and a published (not produced) screenplay under my belt. All of these are in different subjects. One of the books and five of the peer-reviewed articles are on paranormal dreams (something I am considered an expert researcher on), three of the books are computer graphics textbooks, the most recent book and one of the journal articles are on how expertise is developed. The screenplay is a paranormal thriller.

I don't want my prior writing credentials to detract from what I am doing now or to obscure the kind of writer I am. I have enjoyed a moderately successful career in the visual arts, so I haven't made any serious effort to sell my work as a writer. That is, not with the idea of becoming a full-time writer.

When I have sold my work, it tends to be one of two scenarios. In the first, someone offers to pay me to write something for them. This usually happens in the middle of a conversation about something else, when they'll stop and tell me, "I think you'd be a good writer," and then they make me an offer.

In the other scenario, someone has asked me to write something, but not for publication, and it has occurred to me that it might be salable. I have on those occasions looked for and found a way to publish those and get paid for the work. I should note that I have written two books that I wasn't able to sell, both on request from my daughter. She asked me to write her a novel, and I did, all 85,000 words of it, and then a memoir, and I did that too. It wasn't even her birthday, but at least she can't ever say I didn't go over the top for some of the presents I gave her.

Most recently, I was approached by two different web publishers to write on current events for them. I had nothing else to do that week, so I agreed to start writing for them. One was paid, the other wasn't. It's been a month now and I've written 40 articles and started a book. Finally, I am writing about subjects that, though handed to me like all the rest, seem a natural fit. I will be sending a submission out once I'm happy with the outline for the book and the first three chapters. Until then, I am concerned that my PhD (Education) and earlier writing are unrelated to current events and that a prospective literary agent or editor would be less interested in my proposal for that reason. Is that a fair concern?
 
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veinglory

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I am only an editor on the academic side but I suspect it is the same elsewhere. People are often experts on multiple unrelated subjects. It doesn't matter what they have done on other unrelated topics so long as they can demonstrate standing in the area they are currently writing on. And even if this is their debut work in the area, it's not a lost cause if they did the right upskilling and can show it.
 

mewellsmfu

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I can't speak for academic nonfiction, but on the commercial side, one of the things you need to show an agent/publisher is that you are the right person to write the book you proposed. It's an entire section of your book proposal.

Publication credits are a plus, particularly if they are for recognizable and legitimate media or commercial/academic publishers. Self-publishing, unpaid or little-known work with tiny readerships less so, although self-publishing with very large sales numbers can be a plus.

As for establishing whether you are the right person for the job, depth of knowledge, personal connection or experience in relation to the subject matter, and platform figure heavily into your chances of being commercially published. Again, I claim no knowledge of academic publishing (I believe the AW Admin and several of the mods are very knowledgeable in that segment of publishing and can address those requirements), so I won't presume to address that end of the spectrum.

Also, good writing plays a big role in snagging a book contract. It doesn't hurt your chances to have written extensively in the same or a comparable field and illustrate that you understand competent research and accuracy, particularly in fields like true crime or where you drop the names of living individuals. People are particularly litigious these days and publishers don't like being sued.

Good luck on your journey.
 

paqart

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Not sure if your reply was to me or the OP, but will answer regardless. In my case, although I have published several academic books and papers, I am not writing on academic subjects any longer. I do have research skills thanks to the rigorous (sometimes painful) education received at King's for my doctorate. My understanding is that the reason I have been asked to write about current events is the quality of my analysis, as opposed to depth of knowledge. I do not have much experience writing this type of subject, only 40 articles so far, but do have decades of experience analyzing various subjects to discover their meaning. Apparently, that shows in the writing.

I can't speak for academic nonfiction, but on the commercial side, one of the things you need to show an agent/publisher is that you are the right person to write the book you proposed. It's an entire section of your book proposal.

Publication credits are a plus, particularly if they are for recognizable and legitimate media or commercial/academic publishers. Self-publishing, unpaid or little-known work with tiny readerships less so, although self-publishing with very large sales numbers can be a plus.

As for establishing whether you are the right person for the job, depth of knowledge, personal connection or experience in relation to the subject matter, and platform figure heavily into your chances of being commercially published. Again, I claim no knowledge of academic publishing (I believe the AW Admin and several of the mods are very knowledgeable in that segment of publishing and can address those requirements), so I won't presume to address that end of the spectrum.

Also, good writing plays a big role in snagging a book contract. It doesn't hurt your chances to have written extensively in the same or a comparable field and illustrate that you understand competent research and accuracy, particularly in fields like true crime or where you drop the names of living individuals. People are particularly litigious these days and publishers don't like being sued.

Good luck on your journey.
 

mewellsmfu

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Sorry, paqart. I clicked into the second page and didn't realize it, so good catch.

You never know until you try. Do a proposal, write your sample chapters and go for it. Being an excellent researcher is a great quality to have.

Much luck.
 

paqart

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By "can show it", I assume you mean in the writing sample as opposed to the CV or other materials?

I am only an editor on the academic side but I suspect it is the same elsewhere. People are often experts on multiple unrelated subjects. It doesn't matter what they have done on other unrelated topics so long as they can demonstrate standing in the area they are currently writing on. And even if this is their debut work in the area, it's not a lost cause if they did the right upskilling and can show it.
 

veinglory

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Showing that you are well positioned to write the book can be done all sorts of ways. Just being able to see how the book is right for the publisher, and you are the right author for the book is quite a skill. Most people seem to be quite rigid in their outlooks and just want to say they are great went ofte what is needed is just the right guy for the job, not a super-awesome-genius guy.

I personally recently took over co-authorship of a contracted textbook that is noticeably just outside my skill set. One thing I did was describe how I would upskill and identified times I had successfully done it in the past in relation to other successful projects. The message being: I will get the job done according to your specs and on time. I knew that for more technical works that is a leading concern.
 

veinglory

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Showing that you are well positioned to write the book can be done all sorts of ways. Just being able to see how the book is right for the publisher, and you are the right author for the book is quite a skill. Most people seem to be quite rigid in their outlooks and just want to say they are great -- when often what is needed is just the right guy for the job, not a super-awesome-genius guy.

I personally recently took over co-authorship of a contracted textbook that is noticeably just outside my skill set for a major academic publisher I've had no previous contact with. One thing I did was describe how I would upskill and identified times I had successfully done it in the past in relation to other successful projects. The message being: I will get the job done according to your specs and on time. I knew that for more technical works that is probably a leading concern.
 
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Professorjpj

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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!
Funny promoting education as a writing credential. I never went beyond the 6th grade, yet I'm writing the longest and most profound autobiography in human history! Yet I'm considered a neanderthal eduction wise. Interesting and ironic to me.
 

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