Friday, August 10, 2007

Taking a Step into Print

A well-published friend asked me to contact the husband of another writer to discuss an idea for a nonfiction book. My friend and the prospective book author's husband are fiction writers. The man's book encompasses the world of designing houses for accessibility, which no doubt will be an interesting subject for the Baby Boomer generation as they begin contemplating whether their new Jazzy scooter should have chrome wheels and air-ride suspension.

"Once you have your outline and are few chapters into your book," I said, "you need to start working on a book proposal."

"I'm an engineer," he replied. "What's a book proposal."

It was easier to point him to the Web. Here are links to various nonfiction book proposals I discovered:

  • http://www.talewins.com/bly1.htm
  • http://www.absolutewrite.com/novels/book_proposal1.htm
  • http://www.spawn.org/marketing/bookprop.htm
  • http://www.shepardagency.com/writing_proposals.html
  • http://www.rusoffagency.com/non_fiction_book_proposal.htm

The final two are from writer's agents. When undertaking my project, I actually found the book proposal more troublesome than actually writing the book. The proposal takes an outline and some research. Many agents and publishers want to know that the work doesn't duplicate a book that is out there, but they want the writer to do that research.

I put in a couple of weeks of work preparing a proposal, but I did use it several times. Once the proposal is shaped up on the computer, you need to invest in a good ink cartridge for your printer, and, of course, some larger envelopes so that you can send the material without folding it. I was mailing 30 to 50 pages in my proposal. I skipped the envelopes and went to Fed-Ex/Kinkos. It was simpler to concoct the packaging there and use their shipping services.

The thing is, where do you mail them, right?

Here's an excellent resource to find an agent:
  • http://agentquery.com/default.aspx
At that site, a writer can search by "keyword" which is useful. For example, considering that fellow's subject matter, he might put in words like "architectural design," "home remodeling," accessibility modifications," or "accessible design."

Here are two more sources of agents:

  • http://www.writers.net/agents.html
  • http://www.booktalk.com/agents1.html

Next, I suggested comparing any agent found -- or anyone recommended -- to the list maintained by a Web site called "Preditors and Editors."

As Woody Guthrie wrote, "Some men rob you with a gun, other men rob you with a pen."

Be careful.

Finally, I mentioned to him the writing-publishing-marketing information so well described by Clive Warner in a recent blog post. If a person likes to market, to sell, to promote causes and people, a good opportunity might be to self-publish.

Actually, the self-publishing industry -- generally operating on a "print on demand" basis is not a vanity press. It's a chance for people who have the time and energy to get information out into the public arena. But it's work because everything you accomplish comes as a result of your personal effort entirely.

Here's an excellent read about the dynamic behind self-publishing

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