1. chewybrianq

    chewybrianq New Member

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    What does an agent want to see in a non-fiction submission?

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by chewybrianq, Feb 12, 2020.

    Hello,

    I am nearly done writing my first book, which is intended as a self-help book focused on philosophy. I am happy with the tone and content and such, and it has been well received by a few people who read it whose opinions I respect. In addition, they have credentials in the area, such that they would notice straight off if I was off the rails with my premises, or factually incorrect about important ideas.

    The problem is that I have no credentials, and further no experience with publishing of any kind. So, I have no idea what format to present to an agent, how many words my book should have (ideally), etc. I would like to know what an ideal submission would look like, and if my lack of credentials is a deal-breaker. It is possible I could find a collaborator with some credentials before submitting the work if it is truly important to have the stamp of P.H.D., or some prior works having been published in order to catch the eye of the agent.

    I may be jumping the gun assuming that an agent is in fact the best way to go. I am willing to pay the percentage in return for what I assume would be a better chance to catch the eye of a traditional publisher, to get a better deal, and even to possibly get a deal outside the U.S. I have little interest in doing the legwork to get a book deal as well, so the agent route seems ideal for me, but I would consider advice from anyone who thinks there is a better way to go.

    Thank you in advance for any advice.
     
  2. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    most agents will have submission guidelines on ther websites - they will all be different so it is difficult to give definitive advice.

    i would say that non fiction tends to be shorter than fiction - in the 40-50k area rather than 70-80, but there are outliers that are much longer
     
  3. chewybrianq

    chewybrianq New Member

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    That is a huge relief to read. I am sitting at 40k right now, and it feels like everything has been said and it is ready to go. But, I was worried it might be too short, and considering ways to expand it if needed. I definitely could expand it, yet I doubt that I should.

    Thanks!
     
  4. chewybrianq

    chewybrianq New Member

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    Well, after doing some more research, everything points to the idea that my fear was well-founded. It seems that for non-fiction, the author's 'platform', or what I was calling credentials, is more important than the actual quality of the writing. So, I suppose my instinct was on the mark, and I should perhaps be searching for a collaborator who has a name to add to the work.

    From www.janefriedman.com:

    "For nonfiction authors: Don’t go looking for a publishing deal because you need the authority or platform that a book can give you. Rather, you must already have the platform and authority, and thus be qualified to write a book. YOU bring the audience to the publisher, not the reverse."

    Does anyone agree/disagree? Would some smaller publishers consider a self-help book from an unknown author?
     
  5. OB1

    OB1 Senior Member

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    What is the title of the book? Is it specifically about philosophy in an academic or practical framework. Is it general philosophy? How would you describe the premise or objectives your book is trying to achieve with the reader?

    Philosophy is such a vast subject and not sure that one can be a prolific figure in it unless you are very niche and/or Plato, Socrates or Voltaire!

    Give more details of your book and we will try and help you! .


    It might be the case that you self publish this book or an intermediate book and get the readership up that way which may make publishers take you more seriously but it really depends on the subject matter and the objectives of the piece.
     
  6. chewybrianq

    chewybrianq New Member

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    Well, I don't have a title yet that I like.

    The idea is that the principles of philosophy can be applied to help the reader work through common but serious mental health issues like depression or anxiety. I try to express difficult concepts of philosophy in simple terms for an audience that may not have much if any exposure to philosophy. I link the ideas to the methods of psychology, to show their effectiveness. A couple examples early in the book are the stoic principles of the dichotomy of control and the idea that opinion effectively determines reality. I start out with the most simple concepts and build to tougher ones, always trying to express things in a way that a non-philosopher can grasp.

    It's difficult to summarize because it covers a lot in a short space, but it all seems to build at a pace that can be handled, and understanding each idea hopefully gets you ready to understand the next. Along the way I offer many suggestions for sources of further study within philosophy that are appropriate to the goals of the book, yet also easy enough for a beginner to digest. For example, I suggest "Existentialism is a Humansism" by Sartre, rather than "Being and Nothingness".

    I'm trying to show people that philosophy need not be abstract, weird, difficult to understand and virtually useless. To the contrary, the best philosophy is simple, practical, and meant to be lived rather than studied. Following along, someone who suffers from a problem like anger should be able to see how they have constructed their own problem, and therefore have the means to take it apart and remove its power over them. I take care not to discourage a trip to the doctor or the therapist, but only to make people aware that philosophy is another tool they can use to solve their problems, and that it comes without harmful side effects.

    In my opinion philosophy is the best and most useful tool for solving problems and getting along in the world, as our outlook on the world determines our perceptions of, and experiences in the world. All the logic and science in the world won't make you happy if you begin with faulty assumptions about the world before you begin to perceive and judge things. If there is one theme that defines the book it is that there is no harsh reality. Reality simply is, and you have no need or right to judge it to be harsh. Doing so is a self-fulfilling prophesy. The goal is to encourage the reader to use philosophy to create a more positive (or at least neutral) view of the world, others and themselves, which will generate a new and better experience for them going forward. They can effectively create a kinder world in which to live by carefully guarding their assumptions about the nature of the world.
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2020
  7. matwoolf

    matwoolf Contributor Contributor

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    The ‘Going to Prison Guide’ was published with the photocopier @ the x1000 setting, and a stapler...

    Read in police stations, and passed hand to hand - actually they have their ways...

    A 2nd press was more conventional through a traditional publisher.

    I like that story...the book itself is okay to read: blue toothbrush for example, not pink, pyjamas/supernoodles/copy of Radio Times etcet guidance, common sense
     
  8. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    For the most part, nonfiction books are sold on proposal. Typically, a proposal is about 50 pages plus a few sample chapters. Honestly, the proposal can be harder to write than the book. And part of the proposal is why you are the best person to write this book. If you got a convincing argument for why you can write this book like nobody else and you've got something good, I think that's more important than a platform.

    There's a lot of talk about having a platform. It might help you to try and sell some essays to credible and known publications. That gives you some credentials and maybe a little cash.

    In the past I've worked with two agents without much of any platform. One agent said to me, "I love a blank slate." (me being the blank slate at the time). I had published a few pieces related to the book I was trying to sell. My book didn't happen for reasons outside the publishing world. But I'm just saying it can happen, and don't be afraid to try. But to try you are going to need a book proposal. Even if you've written the book already you are still going to need a proposal. That's what your agent is going to take to publishers to get you a book deal. Good luck! It's not a hopeless situation.
     
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