Today is the first official day of my first-ever sabbatical. Although I have been trying to get some over-the-summer momentum going into this one-semester break from teaching and service duties, now is the time that I really need to get (and stay) focused on my sabbatical project.
I want to write a popular science book about the tension in modern human societies between biological and cultural reproduction. I have never written a book before, so this is a new endeavor for me. I have been getting valuable advice from comrades who have written books (thanks Jennifer!) and who are experienced writer/editors (thanks Jeff!), but I also need to figure out how to get a viable book proposal into the hands of an agent/editor. So I have been looking for valuable resources to guide the process of writing a proposal. Below are some sites that I found to be really useful:
- ScienceBlogs Laelaps “So you want to write a pop-sci book, Part 1: From idea to agent“: This is a great overview of what needs to go into a book proposal, and the attitude and approach needed to get that proposal into the hands of an agent.
- Through the Sandglass “Thoughts on writing a popular science book (1): making it interesting, finding a publisher“: This overview does a nice job of explaining some of the key challenges to reaching a broader audience with your book, and how to reflect your ability to meet those challenges in your proposal.
- Scientific American Life, Unbounded “So You’re a Scientist Wanting to Write a Popular Science Book?“: This is a funny overview of the whole process of popular science writing that brings out some of the humility and general habits required to be successful.
- The Scientist “So You Want to Write a Book?“: This also gives a good overview of the process, including some pathways to consider as you think about what book you want to write.
- NatureJobs “Popular science: Get the word out“: Lots of good little tricks for determining what to topic to write about and how to write about that topic in a way that will spark readers’ interest.
- Writer’s Digest The Writer’s Dig “The 8 Essential Elements of a Nonfiction Book Proposal“: This is a good fast summary of the major points made by Jane Friedman about how to write a good non-fiction book proposal (see below for her full post).
- Jane Friedman “Start Here: How to Write a Book Proposal“: A great broad overview of proposal writing that focuses on the “business plan” identity of all book proposals.
- Writers in the Storm “Nonfiction Submission Tips — Agents Speak“: What I like about this blog post is that it features actual commentary from agents about what they look for in a nonfiction proposal. And, man, this and other sources above are really pushing back on my abstinence from Twitter and Facebook… I may have to re-consider my stance against these internet outposts.
- Publishing Talk “How to Write a Winning Book Proposal“: Although not focused particular on science writing — or even nonfiction — this gives a good overview of what your proposal will be subjected to in terms of review. I like the focus here on tailoring your proposal format to the needs of your project.
- BioScience “When scientists write books for the public“: This provides a good (albeit old!) account of why a scientist might want to write a popular science book. I find in these reasons some good ideas for what should go into a proposal… and what might end up being a pitfall in a proposal.