This is all so new to me!

I honestly have no idea. Not yet anyway.

I’ve been working on a series of natural history and science essays with the intent of having them published as a book. Several were conceived and drafted during a one-on-one writing mentorship program I took at The Humber School for Writers with the talented Isabel Huggan.

Most have been read and critiqued more than once by my capable and discerning writing group—ten writers with more than fifteen published books among them. They take writing seriously and do not let me get away with fluffy sentences, vague connections, or impenetrable jargon.   I am particularly encouraged by the fact that while most of them are novelists, they usually start their critiques with:

“I never read non-fiction, but what you have written is fascinating…”


There is so much to learn! (CDC)

In any case, while the essay collection is still in process (in which it has become clear that the collection is really two separate books, neither complete), I am ready to take the next step and figure out how to get this book published. On that topic, I confess to knowing next to nothing.

What I do know could be counted on one hand of a 4-toed hedgehog:

1. Unlike fiction, non-fiction books are not submitted to publishers as finished manuscripts.

2. The proposal is everything.

3. Within the proposal, the “author credentials” and “how I plan to promote this book” sections are everything

4. That’s it with one hedgehog finger to spare.

Editors get all prickly if you don’t follow submission guidelines! (Nat. Zoo)

Getting that proposal in front of the right editor, and more importantly, having it stick, well that part’s a mystery to me (and to a lot of people, I gather). But I have learned a few basics about what goes into a book proposal and it’s clear that writing one is not a trivial task.

That’ll be my fall project.

So first steps first —

I dug out my copy of “Thinking Like Your Editor: How to Write Great Serious Nonfiction–and Get It Published” and am re-reading it. Published in 2002, I wonder if it is a bit out of date. I’ll have to see what else is out there.

I bought the current edition of Writer’s Market. I do this about every three or four years and I’m always disappointed. (Yes, like a bird into glass. I know.)  There is no simple way to use this book but to go through it page by page for hundreds of pages. I’ve tried their online database but as of 2010, it was still trapped in the 1990’s.  It serves up a slow and clunky user interface and imprecise search function.  Must find an alternative.

I’m listening! (Wikipedia)

With that, the process begins.

Got advice? Drop it here. I am all ears.