Mar 22, 2009

Tips on Timing

Tips from the book publishing session:

Journalists often underestimate how long it takes to write a book, book agent Tina Bennett says, because they're used to producing on deadline and think they can just get it out. But writing a book is a different challenge, Bennett said.

Nobody--nobody--can write a book in a year, one of the panelists said.

Jane Kamensky said that the right time to write a book proposal is not when you're still playing with the idea and unsure what you're going to do. Writing you book proposal should be a time when you can already write something substantive, when you know your material and can see the shape of your book. Kamensky said that writing her 45-page book proposal was incredibly rewarding: it's when the book really came together for her. But Kamensky also warned that it may be a bad idea to write too much of your book before writing a proposal. You'll lose your spark and excitement about the idea. You don't want to start pushing the book 5 years into the project, when the idea has already been in the oven at 400 degrees for hours, and "dinner" is getting dry and overbaked.

The moment for writing your book proposal, then: when you know enough to be convincing but are still excited about charging into the research territory ahead.

Tina Bennett had similar advice, "A project really benefits from a shaping editorial conversation," she said--how to structure it, how to pace it, how to tailor it to the market.

Wendy Wolf said that getting a full nonfiction manuscript makes her nervous. But when I get a full book, I wonder, who cut this book loose? Who did they write it for originally? she said.

But she qualified that some people just have a book in them and need to get it out immediately. If what you need to do is that, do it."

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