Sunday, May 20, 2007

So You Think You Have a Book?

Donna Gehrke-White, writer for the Miami Herald and author of The Face Behind The Veil:The Extraordinary lives of Muslim Women in America, and Bill Celis, former education correspondent for The New York Times and author of Battle Rock: The Struggle Over a One-room School in America's Vanishing West, discussed the long process of getting a book published. A lot of reporters publish books about crime, politics and education.

“Write a book that has legs,” said Celis. In other words, write a book that will appeal and sell for a long time.

In order to get a book published, a book proposal must be written. Both Gehrke-White and Celis suggest getting an agent because an agent has insight to the publishing world. The book publishing world is a hard market, but it is possible.

“The book proposal is what’s going to sell you,” said Gehrke-White. “It needs to be strong.”

Gehrke-White noted that the introduction in the book proposal is key when submitting an idea to a publishing company. It needs to be dramatic and compelling. The most important question is “why is this important or should I read this book.” She suggests using the proposal as a road map to writing your book.

“It has to grab them by the throat in the first few paragraphs,” said Celis.

Another important part of the proposal is the author’s biography. Celis commented that this is not the time to be modest and you want to show you are an expert in what you are writing.

“If you won an award in kindergarten, include it,” said Celis. “Put where you grew up. You want to appeal to your hometown papers and schools; any way to identify to as many niches as possible will help you sell books.”

The final key component to the proposal is a sample chapter. It could be just a synopsis of your book idea, but it is a way for the publisher to see your writing style and get excited about your book.

When submitting your book proposal, look for books similar to the genre of your book, find out who the publisher is and submit proposals to them. Have an idea of who might buy your book and some statistics to tell the publisher. Marketing the book is pivotal to its success. After submitting proposals, remember to send a thank you note. The book publishing world is very polite and proper.

“Always be nice; book editors have long memories,” said Celis.

Gehrke-White was asked what she liked most about being book authors.

“There’s an entrepreneur in me, and I like the marketing part of it,” said Gehrke-White. “And that royalty check is pretty nice too!”

Donna Gehrke-White suggested these books for those interested in getting a book published:

Thinking like Your Editor: How to Write Great Serious Nonfiction and Get It Published
by Susan Rabiner, Alfred Fortunato, Alfred Fortunato

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
by Anne Lamott