Episode 60: Behind the Scenes of My Book Project (Part 1)
Have you ever considered writing a book? I’m sharing the inside scoop on the process for my own book project, from idea to submission.
I know many of you out there have entertained the idea of writing a book at one time or another. So I’m sharing my own experiences with the book process, from idea to proposal writing to submission. As of this writing, I am still in the process of submitting to different academic presses, so part 2 will come after I get a contract and start the next phase! For now, I’m sharing how I got to this point, including my fears, my process, and a few recommendations.
My project process started about 3 years ago with my idea for a writing guide for academics. I felt that through my business I had honed my message about writing and knew I wanted to put it into a book, but I had a lot of fear. I’ve written plenty of articles, and contributed to many edited volumes, but this would be my first monograph. Was I up to it?
“Can I really write a book? Do I have that many words in me?” -Cathy Mazak
I started to really develop and flesh out an idea during one of our own writing retreats, in 2019. I used the book “Thinking Like Your Editor” by Alfred Fortunato and Susan Rabiner to help me organize my thoughts. I highly recommend this book for helping to nail down your idea. In it, the authors pose these 5 questions:
- What is this book about?
- What is this book’s thesis (or argument) and what’s new about it?
- Why are you the person to write this book?
- Why is now the time to publish this book?
- Who makes up the core audience for this book and why will they find it appealing?
Next, I had my assistant LaToya copy and paste all of my blog posts into Scrivener, and I dragged them into the categories for the table of contents I had come up with during the retreat. While I didn’t end up using the content this way, Scrivener did give me a word count, and some confidence: I had plenty of words to say.
Then, I did nothing on the project for a year.
Starting Again – With a Coach
LaToya got me back into the project by finding me a book coach. If you can do it, I highly recommend getting a coach! My coach, Paula Diaco of Write Stories Now was an invaluable resource for helping me sort through what needed to be done.
Paula researched presses to submit to and helped me make the decision between academic, trade and independent publishers (we’re going with academic), sent me individual google docs to work on for each part of the book proposal, and kept me motivated with a weekly standing meeting. I can’t overstate how helpful she has been.
After getting the proposal going, I started writing out some sample chapters. Not only did I have plenty of words for a book, I realized I actually have content for 3 books!
Time to Write
Next, I really wanted to familiarize myself with all the chapters of this book; to start getting them written out, or at least outlined, and make some progress on the book itself. I decided to make my own writing retreat. Here’s how I did it:
- I rented an AirBnB for 5 days.
- I called on my support systems to help (my husband stayed with my kids and kept things running).
- I bought enough groceries so I wouldn’t have to leave the condo at all.
- I used my soar states to write like crazy and get 6000 words down during my first few days!
- When I started to lose steam and writing started to feel like a slog, I stopped.
Yes, it cost some money and time to make this retreat happen. My book coach was also an investment. But it’s worth it! I know this book will sell. And it might be worth it for you too, maybe as a stepping stone to a new position, or a raise, or for the connections it will forge for you.
Don’t dismiss opportunities out of hand just because they cost money or take time; investing in yourself and your career is worth it.
“It’s worth it to invest in something like a book coach or a writing retreat… because of that currency the book has inside of accademia.” -Cathy Mazak
The next step in the process was to start submitting! I narrowed down the top university presses I wanted to submit to, and Paula looked up the proposal requirements for each.
I’ve heard back from Princeton and the University of Chicago with the nicest rejection letters, saying they already had things in their catalogs that were too similar to accept my project.
I haven’t heard back from Harvard yet, and I’m still working on submitting to a couple of others.
At this point, I’ve paused my writing until I get a contract, so I can get feedback from the specific press I end up going with. I would say I am between 30% and 50% done with the writing.
I want to be transparent in this process, so let me say that I definitely had a freak-out moment, wondering if I should be submitting to academic presses at all. But I am back in my confidence, working through the process and ready to fill you in on Part 2 once the book sells!
If you are ready to start writing a book, I highly recommend Jane Jones at Up In Consulting for academic book coaching, and the book Thinking Like Your Editor to help you get traction with your idea. If you’re looking for career development and writing support while you work on a book or other academic writing project, be sure to check out our Elevate and Amplify programs.
Pulled in a thousand directions and can’t seem to carve out time to write? Download my 10 Ways to Make Time to Write cheat sheet for ideas to implement today!
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