Freedman's Law: Start with a good idea
So, you want to write a book. If you've never been published, that's the biggest barrier, since you have a higher burden of proof, says Samuel Freedman, an author who teaches nonfiction book writing at Columbia University. But his students prove that it can be done.Skip to next paragraph
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"How to" books and articles about publishing overemphasize marketing, says Mr. Freedman.
"A book proposal is not a business plan," he says, although he adds that authors do have to show that there is an audience for their book.
Here are Freedman's tips on how to get a book contract:
*Get the right idea. It should be "both timely and timeless" and lend itself to a book-length piece. "One obstacle is understanding the difference between a great magazine piece and a book," he says.
*Read. Examine well-reported, narrative nonfiction books as models. Among the writers Freedman admires are Robert Caro and Alex Kotlowitz.
*Look at successful proposals. Get them from authors and agents. "The great proposals are not about markets, they're about the power of the narrative," Freedman says. His proposals include a sample chapter, and an overview essay that outlines the book, its characters, and significance.
*Block out time for reporting, researching, and writing a proposal. "It has to be something you love and are ready to sacrifice for; otherwise it's not the right idea for you," says Freedman, who spends three to 12 months developing a proposal.
*Get an agent. Find one who has handled similar work and send your proposal.
*Build a network of other writers, who can give you feedback and emotional support.
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society