How do you write a non-fiction book? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 9 Old 05-20-2008, 02:34 PM - Thread Starter
 
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That may be a silly question, but I am looking for particulars (not that I need to set a schedule of writing, etc). Do you outline? Do you research all at once? Do you write in sections? Do you pitch the idea somewhere first?

I have a good idea but not a lot of time, so I need to be efficient and directed. Any suggestions are happily welcomed!!

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#2 of 9 Old 05-24-2008, 11:56 PM
 
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Well I just signed with an agent based on my non-fiction so I can offer what has worked for me....

1. Establish a platform or partner with someone that already has an established platform. This seems essential to sell non-fiction.

2. Write a solid proposal paying special attention to use the proposal as a sales tool. A proposal is like a business plan.... make publishers see the value in investing in your company (aka your books)

3. Get a great resource to help pave the way.... the one I used was Nonfiction Book Proposal Anybody Can Write by Elizabeth Lyon... I loved it!

Good Luck!

"There are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way and not starting." - Buddha.
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#3 of 9 Old 05-26-2008, 10:02 PM - Thread Starter
 
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LoveOhm, much of what you just wrote went above my level of experience. I have no idea what you mean by numbers 1 & 2. Can you elaborate?

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#4 of 9 Old 05-26-2008, 11:12 PM
 
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Maybe I can help too - I'm just finishing edits on my first co-written NF book...

1. Establish a platform or partner with someone that already has an established platform. This seems essential to sell non-fiction.

Publishers want to know you have a track record and know your subject - so you need to build a platform. This is literally just a history of articles, blogs etc about the subject. Most people who do NF books have a fair amount of experience writing about the topic.

So, if you have a book idea - break it down into a few different components and either start blogging on the topic or selling articles on it.

The other option is to find someone who wants to write the book with you who has a track record - this has it's own issues because you need to find a way to mesh writing styles.

2. Write a solid proposal paying special attention to use the proposal as a sales tool. A proposal is like a business plan.... make publishers see the value in investing in your company (aka your books)

You'll need to get a couple of books out from the library on how to write a proposal. Unlike fiction or creative nonfiction most NF is outlined in a proposal form. This is where you sell your idea to a publisher. It has a number of parts - what you want to write is just a small part of it. You need to know what other titles are out their, how your book would fit into the market, who would be buying it etc.

hths a bit.
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#5 of 9 Old 05-27-2008, 03:24 AM
 
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Diana I think you did an excellent job clarifying... I am hardly on this section of MDC so I am glad I saw this again.

To add yo what Diana said....with regard to platforms it does not have to be that you are published (articles, blogs, etc) while those help with your platform what is most important is that you know you subject and have a following of your own. In example if you are a college health professor at a reputable college then your proposal for a non-fiction health book is of more value than some with just a personal passion toward a healthy lifestyle. Publishers want authors now to be able to really help with PR pushes in NF.

"There are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way and not starting." - Buddha.
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#6 of 9 Old 05-27-2008, 08:47 AM - Thread Starter
 
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That helps to clarify; thanks. I have a very skinny platform (!), just a few articles on a website, and only related in a very general way (the overall topic). If you "sell" the book, how does money work? I realize that I will not make a living off this book, but do you generally get an advance, or is it all after publication?

With regard to the writing, do you outline? Treat each chapter as something separately and then connect them? Something else?

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#7 of 9 Old 05-27-2008, 01:47 PM
 
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Suzannah - there is no one sized fits all answers. I think your best path would be to read a book or two and see where your topic fits as far as approaches go. For example my book contract is something called "work for hire." A publisher approached me about doing one volume out of a series because it's an area I have expertise on. I got paid a lump sum payment and won't get royalties or own copyright - which is fine, it wasn't my idea or format. However - when I want to write another book, my platform will be expanded because I'll have the experience of promoting this title.

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Originally Posted by Suzannah View Post
That helps to clarify; thanks. I have a very skinny platform (!), just a few articles on a website, and only related in a very general way (the overall topic). If you "sell" the book, how does money work? I realize that I will not make a living off this book, but do you generally get an advance, or is it all after publication?
As I said this really varies. Some give you advances against royalties. You need to understand what everything means though and know what other similar titles earned.


[/QUOTE]With regard to the writing, do you outline? Treat each chapter as something separately and then connect them? Something else?[/QUOTE]

Everyone has their own method. Go look at similar books and see what worked for them.
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#8 of 9 Old 06-03-2008, 01:28 AM
 
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I have a really wierd method...my book is a sort of self-help type book and I had an idea, started a vague outline and I just write by hand as I'm inspired to do so and it's all coming together in chapters and sections and working out really really well....it's my first book of this size.

I read my topic daily, immerse myself in the topic completely and it's always on my mind in some way. I write little notes as inspiration h its..usually while I'm running or walking. I used to be all concerned i would forget ideas but now I find it just works out if I write a little "memory jogger" and then I can go back and write it any time. I call myself a "method writer" lol

I write every single day..even if it's ten minutes on my topic. Some of what I write may or may not get into this book. If not it will go into the next. Or the next.

The hardest part for me was refining it...I had a BIG idea and had to get it down into a more definite and refined idea.

It is going well and I should be ready to publish in about 6 mos. I have 8 but I'm aiming for 6. I want it done..lol.

Everybody has a different process.

Good luck. Don't get caught up in the details. Just start writing on your topic/idea and see what happens.
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#9 of 9 Old 06-11-2008, 01:05 AM
 
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1. Write a proposal with a kick butt idea. This will involve lots of research.

2. Get an agent. This involves lots of research and head banging.

3. Sell book. This also involves lots of head banging.

Welcome to the Real World she said to me, condescendingly, take a seat. Take your life; plot it out in black and white.
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