1. Teladan

    Teladan Contributor Contributor

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    Submission Process Non-fiction Book

    Discussion in 'Traditional Publishing' started by Teladan, Feb 21, 2024.

    Hello. Firstly, if anyone remembers me, I've returned to the forums. I enjoyed collaborating with people here, although I fell out of love with fiction for a while. Well, I rather fell out with the people running the majority of fiction magazines! I also decided to focus on completing an MA Res for a year. It's nice to be back.

    I'm writing to ask about the process of starting a nonfiction book and querying one. In the past, I've largely concerned myself with short stories and essays/articles. I've written the odd novella, but these were more for my own personal enjoyment. As it stands, I have about six publication credits to my name, although this number would've been higher were it not for reasons I won't go into here. Finally, having moved from ecological science to the humanities with the completion of an extended (33,000 word) MA Res thesis in the area of literature and ecological ethics, I feel more prepared to work on a longform project. I'm also in regular contact with an experienced scholar who has offered to beta read for me.

    It's my understanding that I'd need to write some sample chapters and a proposal, then get an agent to look at publishers for me. Is this correct? I feel a little hesitant to begin because I'm not sure what the best starting point should be. A few weeks ago I sent a casual email to a relatively small press to gauge interest, but they haven't responded. I can understand why they didn't respond given that they have an official submission system, but I do find it a little frustrating that the option isn't available to simply ask if my work would be of interest even in the vaguest of terms. Obviously, writing sample chapters is still a major endeavour.

    In truth, I feel a little lost as I'm not sure whether I need to write a proposal and send this off myself or whether I write sample chapters, a proposal and then find an agent. There are many different combinations here.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    Edit: I should add that my book is intended for a general audience.
     
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2024
  2. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    Sample chapters are part of the proposal. I'm sure if you google nonfiction book proposal, you'll see all the things that go into in. A proposal should be between 50 and 100 pages. It's also pretty specific about what needs to go into this. It's not just a pitch or a query. And when you write and submit your proposal, that's how you know if there is interest. You would send your query out. Then if they are interested, they will ask to see your proposal. An agent would send your proposal out to publishers. Nonfiction books are sold on proposal. If publishers accept unagented submissions, you can skip the whole agent step, but the process is still the same.
     
    Teladan likes this.
  3. Teladan

    Teladan Contributor Contributor

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    Thanks, Deadrats. Alright, so the sample chapters are part of the proposal. I assumed they were separate or at least optional depending on publisher requirements. Yes, I'd read somewhere that a proposal holds a lot of weight when it comes to selling a nonfiction book. That makes sense given that nonfiction is more about its value in the market and less about the quality of the writing, at least for works that aren't memoirs. Time to research the proposal process and start solidifying my ideas. I hope I didn't sound lazy in my hope that I would be able to write the proposal but skip the chapters. Admittedly, I do have some qualms about this given that it can be dispiriting to work for so long on something only for it to not be considered--it'd be like being rejected for a short story but amplified a thousandfold--but I guess there's nothing to be done for it.
     
  4. Lilly Zayla

    Lilly Zayla New Member

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    good
     
  5. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    I don't think you're going to find this to be the case. The quality of writing is always going to matter. It's going to matter in the sample chapters, but it's also going to matter throughout the proposal. And it's going to matter a lot. I spent a lot of money on an editor for a nonfiction book proposal. And it was definitely worth it, IMO.

    Plan to spend a couple of months getting it together. And, really, the sample chapters are not going to be the hardest part. I'm just saying this because it's likely to start to feel like a lot of work at some point. And it it. I remember thinking that it was going to be easier to write the book than finish the proposal.

    You don't come across as lazy at all. In fact, I think you're up for the challenge and I wish you the best with it. Like I just said, the whole thing is going to be a lot of work. But your sample chapters are a way to showcase what you can do and prove why you are the best person to write this book. I think it's recommended to have two or three chapters to submit with the proposal, but I would recommend having at least four or five ready because if an agent or editor wants to see more from you at any point, it's good to have them ready. Part of the proposal is a detailed outline for the book. I find it helpful to work on my book and the proposal for it at the same time.

    I will say I worked very hard on my chapters, but an interested publisher liked the book, but hated the chapters. I redid them a few times. This was all without a book deal in place, but it was a big publisher that was interested and we went back and forth for a few months. Remember that these are sample chapters. They give agents an editors an opportunity to heavily way in on just how you are writing the book and a chance to say do it all differently.

    When it comes to creative writing we are always pretty much doing the work without knowing if it will ever pay off. Sometimes it will and sometimes it won't. Rejection is always going to be something anyone trying to trade publish is going to go through. All work that is rejected is considered. I'm not sure how amplified one rejection is over another. Not everyone writes or wants to write short stories. And not everyone is interested in writing nonfiction books. I just wouldn't start thinking a rejection for your book is going to be so much worse. Everyone gets rejected.
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2024
  6. Teladan

    Teladan Contributor Contributor

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    Oh, certainly, the quality of the writing will matter. I was just referencing an article I read about nonfiction proposals, in which the author suggested that subject-oriented nonfiction tends to be judged a little less harshly in this regard.

    This is definitely something I want to do. I'd been considering going down the PhD route for the past handful of months, but I've finally made the decision to focus on writing for a general audience. In truth, I feel like I should've started working towards a non-fiction book much earlier since it's my major goal in life. I know I shouldn't place so much importance on this, yet I can't help it. I was either going to focus on getting a novel published or at least a short story collection. As it happens, I recently turned thirty, and I've been kicking myself about it. Sure, I'm still relatively young and I've gained experience that will help with my book, but this is going to be a long and arduous process, as you've already hinted. I don't want to be too old before I get this thing done, especially as I need to be writing articles and doing presentations in my area at the same time, as well as working.

    I've read some quite in-depth guides on the proposal contents now. It's definitely something that will take a lot of consideration. In terms of the author biography and credentials aspect, it's a shame that I have only six credits. One's in a peer-reviewed journal and another in a reputable literary magazine, but I'd like to have many more. Suffice it to say, I withdrew from some acceptances and have also avoided submitting fiction for about two years at this point, to my untold frustration. I just hope this low number won't impact my chances too much. I'd like to have more before I submit my proposal, but that's not up to me.

    Everyone does get rejected, indeed. It's the norm. I've just been frustrated in the past with how long they sometimes take to arrive (often with a terse form template), the lack of sim sub policies, and a whole host of other issues related to the accessibility of writing as a medium and so forth. In general, it just feels more than a little draining to have written hundreds and hundreds of pages in my life, yet I only have six credits, mostly very short pieces. My MA Res thesis wasn't published on my university's database despite achieving a high grade, which was disheartening. Essentially, a fraction of my work is out there for anyone to see, so I want to write this book. I've considered self-publishing, but I have issues with this route.

    Anyway, that's the end of my ramble.
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2024
  7. Teladan

    Teladan Contributor Contributor

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    I do find it somewhat disheartening that so many proposals and guides on how to approach them emphasise popularity and marketability. Not everyone has a platform and is an influencer. In fact, I'd suspect that most nonfiction authors aren't popular. I can't say my book is going to be popular. Besides, some publishers surely aren't as interested in this. I'm not exactly going for the high end presses. I'm taking as my baseline somewhere like Floris Books, which published a book written by the scholar I mentioned previously, Patrick Curry's Enchantment: Wonder in Modern Life. I'm also thinking of Gary Lachman's Lost Knowledge of the Imagination. These are the kinds of books I want to write, especially the former.
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2024

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