Okay….I’m going to tell you a secret. I am a little nervous about sharing this with you, but I also feel that you can help keep me accountable to follow through now that you know…
I have officially started researching what it takes to get a book published. Because I plan on trying to get MY book published. About what it was like to uproot my life and live in China for a year. Whew! Glad to have that off my chest.
I originally thought that it was as easy as sending off a nice little note to Penguin or Little Brown or the like, but I have since found that it’s much more complicated than that. There are several specific points that I would need to address in a query letter, plus I would also need to write a book proposal, explaining everything you could ever want to know about my book, which could be anywhere from 10-50 pages long (according to the research I’ve done). And instead of directly sending it to a publisher, I need to decide whether I should first send it to a literary agent, who would then try to sell my book on my behalf to different publishers…I just really had no idea what I was getting into. But I am going to give it a try!
The good news is that I don’t even actually need to be finished with the book yet. Non-fiction authors merely propose an idea for a book, and then once they actually land a book deal, they have several months to a year to write the book before the publisher expects to receive a first draft. That’s great, because all I really have right now is a blog from that year spent in China, and it really needs a lot of work (A LOT) before it’s going to look like a book. If I have someone accept me on the basis of that idea, they may be able to help me figure out how exactly to format the book, and possibly give me guidelines on what material to focus on and what details to skim over (which is what I really have the most trouble with when I write… I tend to be a little wordy, don’t you agree?). 😉
My goal is to have a proposal letter written and sent out to a bunch of different agents and/or publishers by the end of this year. In January I will be getting busy with starting grad school, and I’d rather be at the waiting-to-hear-back stage by then so that I can focus on my classes.
In the meantime, I’m trying to think of a new title for my book (Lost on Planet China is already taken! Can you believe that! No thanks to you, Mr. Troost!). And I’m also taking the advice of multiple self-help books and I’ve joined a critique group. I wasn’t sure how to even find a critique group, but thanks to MeetUp.com (saving the day, again!), I found a group of authors who meet at Panera Bread once a week to give each other feedback on their writing. This past Saturday, I met up with this critique group for the first time, and I was a little bit nervous…
It was nerve-wracking enough walking into Panera, looking at different groups at different tables and wondering which table held the group of authors. (Easily enough, they ended up being at the table drowning in stacks of paper. When I approached with my notebook in hand, they recognized my searching look and they beckoned me over.) 🙂 But I’m not sure if there are many things scarier than handing a piece of your writing (a piece of your SOUL!) over to a group of strangers and asking them to critique it for you. I read quite a few of their pieces, too, but it was hard to avoid glancing at the other critics out of the corner of my eye, watching them cross things out and write notes in the margins of my paper.
When it was all over, though, it was relatively painless. I went home with several critiqued copies of one of my blog entries, with a lot of helpful suggestions on how I should format my writing, what I should focus on, and what I should leave out. Overall, no one hated it. Many of them seemed interested by the topic, and that was my biggest concern. No one wants to find out that the premise for their future book is a snooze-fest! One guy said that my writing seemed a bit too “academic” (is that a compliment or an insult?) to be considered narrative. Maybe I need to do a bit more tweaking, because I really want it to read like a story rather than a textbook. But I think I’ll be back again next week with another excerpt from my blog! It’s a little scary, but it can only help me get better, right?