Tag Archives: manuscript

Why a nonfiction book publisher won’t accept a fiction manuscript or comics publisher rejects a textbook?

2017-12-11

The variety of book proposals publishers receive is great: some proposals have been drafted so well that the author either has long experience or has attended a course where it was discussed, whereas others simply ask their memoirs to be published. Perhaps the most puzzling proposals are novel manuscripts in the spirit of Fifty Shades of Grey submitted to a nonfiction publisher, or an astrophysics book proposal submitted to a poetry publisher. Let’s see why this kind of random submission method is a total waste of time for everyone involved.
office desk, employee sorting inbox and outbox
It is so easy to submit a book proposal to a publisher (or agent in some markets) that even if the author has read the guidelines on the publisher’s web page, the author may think “You never know – maybe they still like my book”.

No, that’s not the case. The submission doesn’t even get a chance. A book proposal or manuscript that doesn’t fit into any genre specified in the guidelines will be swiftly moved into the receiver’s computer trashcan. The message and its attachments won’t even be read.

The reason is simple: publishers specialize in a specific genre in order to master the content and the business related to that genre. Small and independent publishers do it to focus their limited resources on a type of content and business ecosystem they believe they know the best. Big publishers who accept books of any genre operate the same way behind the scenes. They have separate publishing divisions for fiction, nonfiction, textbooks, and for all other categories they have decided to pursue business.

Let’s think of music: say, a conductor of a philharmonic orchestra wants to record Beethoven’s Violin Concerto with a new star violinist. The conductor doesn’t contact a punk rock or blues label, but a publisher that is specialized in classical music. The classical label knows the costs of a live recording, professionals required for post-production, and has the means to market the album to maximize sales.

Exactly the same applies to book publishing.

When an author submits his or her precious manuscript or book proposal to a publisher who has published, and wants to publish, books in the genre the author is targeting, the book proposal gets an opportunity. It will be opened, read and reviewed. Perhaps several individuals examine the submission, and discuss its merits and shortcomings. Above all, the proposal gets its moment of opportunity.

What if the author can’t specify a genre, and that’s the reason for submitting the proposal to many types of publishers? If the proposal is absolutely clear what the book is about, the genre can be specified. If not, more work on the proposal is required.

Free writing applications that let you focus on typing on a computer, tablet and smartphone

2017-11-15

The popular word processing software package Microsoft Word was originally designed for drafting documents required in an office environment. Word has, however, so many features that it is commonly used for writing book manuscripts and pretty much anything. There are very good alternatives for Word, and many of these applications are free to download and use. Here are the most popular free writing apps.

The Writing Cooperative collected the following list of free distraction-free writing apps.

WriteMonkey, writing application, screen shot
Before diving into the applications make sure to take notice where the app saves your text: locally on your device, or onto the cloud (on a server computer on the Internet). This is important to understand because it affects your choice. Some writers live in the cloud, whereas others want to have everything locally under their own control. Especially, if you travel and write, you should carefully choose your strategy.

Here is a collection of popular distraction-free writing applications.

FocusWriter
A distraction-free word processor with only a few formatting features. Timers, themes, statistics, and a spell-checker are included.

WriteMonkey
An application for distraction-free writing. Not even a menu bar is visible before you push the right button. This is for writers who want to quickly access all menu commands from the keyboard. Fast typists will like this because they don’t have to raise their fingers from the keyboard. WriteMonkey can also be run from a USB stick.

Q10
Q10 is small and fast writing app that is tuned to timed writing sessions.

Write!
A simple writing app for Windows and Mac.

yWriter
A distraction-free writing application that was designed for drafting novels.

Cold Turkey
An app that turns your computer into a typewriter until you reach your writing goal.

Calmly Writer
The application’s special focus mode only shows you the paragraph you’re writing, but it can used in a normal manner as well.
Simplenote on an iPhone
Simplenote
Simplenote has stolen our hearts for writing notes, ideas, lists, plans, book proposals, or anything that we are processing in our minds. The application is available for computers, tablets and phones, so it can be accessed anywhere. The texts are saved into the cloud so elegantly that you don’t have to worry about it at all. If you are using one of the Simplenote mobile apps, it remembers what you have written and saves everything on your account even if the connection was broken down while writing or the device happened to shut down because of battery problems. The text is instantly available on all your devices that are logged in to the Simplenote account.

It is worth noting that the publishing industry’s standard manuscript file format is the Word .doc (or .docx). If you are going to submit your book proposal or manuscript to a publisher (or an agent) you should import (or copy and paste) the text into the Word and save the document as a Word document.

An excellent alternative to the Word – that does exactly the same things as Word does – is the free LibreOffice software package. You have to download the entire LibreOffice suite, but for writing you only need the Writer app.

The Writing Cooperative lists even more tools that can be handy and helpful for writers.
Simplenote in  a web browser

Tips for making successful research work for a nonfiction book

2017-11-06

In order to write a nonfiction book manuscript, the author has to do research to make sure all the facts are correct. A motivational book on igniting a career is more about excitement than historical facts, but a book about the application of artificial intelligence in electric vehicles certainly must be based on facts. Research can be time consuming work, but it can be conducted effectively and without wasting valuable time.
man writing at office desk, stack of folders in front
Jeff Biggers, a narrative nonfiction author, has collected tips for research that he has learned during his long writing career. He has written nonfiction books, articles, radio stories and plays, and monologues. His published books include travel books, memoir, cultural and literary history, and investigative journalism. Biggers says that the research strategies he employs in one genre typically are the same for others, including fiction and poetry. Here are his tips.

Notebooks

Jeff Biggers recommends carrying a notebook (paper and pen) everywhere you go. Some writers may agree with the pen and paper strategy, while others prefer a tablet or a smartphone. The advantage of an electronic note-taking approach is that the notes can (and should) be copied to a safe storage instantly after new points have been written down.

Read

It is elemental that the author thoroughly understands the topic. Reading, listening and viewing all kinds of stories about the subject is helpful.

Interviews

Interviews of people who know something about the topic not only adds information to the research, but also adds color to the book. I couldn’t agree more. In addition, interviews can be the most fun part of the entire research project.

The scene

Movies are made of scenes, as well as many fiction books. Nonfiction book can also use the same techniques: have interesting characters, a plot and a conflict.

Folders

Jeff Biggers recommends organizing research material into folders. He uses physical folders, but the concept is the same if you use folders on your computer. Again, it is vital to backup folders to a safe place if anything terrible happens to your computer’s hard drive.

Enough research

It is likely that all nonfiction authors do more research that they can use for their books. It is inevitable. It is practically impossible to know in advance if a lead or a hint of information will lead somewhere that is valuable for the book.

I believe one of the best ways to restrict the amount of research work required for a nonfiction book is to really carefully plan its scope. And one of the best ways to quickly assess the scope is the Table of Contents of the planned book. It is even possible to show the TOC to someone else, say, an editor, agent or publisher and ask their opinion about the book’s planned scope.

10 items writers should include in a nonfiction book proposal

2017-10-21

Authors who are planning a nonfiction book can submit a proposal to publishers (or agents) once the book concept is crystal clear in the author’s mind. The manuscript doesn’t have to be ready. The potential of the book is evaluated from the information delivered in the proposal. This applies to nonfiction books only, and here are ten items that publishers and agents typically expect to find in a proposal.

eyeglasses on computer keyboard
These ten items for a nonfiction book proposal were originally outlined by Marisa Corvisiero

1. Title and Word Count

The title doesn’t have to be the final one, since it is often changed by the author or the publisher during the publishing process. Nonfiction books can have a title – subtitle structure which allows explaining quite a lot about the book.

In the era of ebooks, the traditional wisdom for the length of a nonfiction book (85,000 words, or about 300 printed pages) doesn’t apply anymore. For instance, we have published nonfiction ebooks that are about 50 pages, and also books that are about 500 pages.

Assuming that the author is still planning the book, the tentative word count indicates the scope of the manuscript and the amount of work required.

Many publishers also want to get a tentative idea for how many pictures, photos, schemas, tables and other elements besides text the author is planning to include in the book.

2. Tagline

A short, one or two line description about the concept of the book. The purpose is to make the product interesting and attractive.

3. Blurb

A short summary of what the book is about. What the reader will learn and the key points that will be made in the pages.

4. Structure of the Book

How the book will be organized and why. Often, however, it is better to include a comprehensive Table of Contents that shows the structure.

5. Target Market

A description of who should buy the book, who it is written for, and why they need it.

A list of competitive products belongs in this section, with analysis how this book will be different and/or better than books already in the market.

6. Author Bio

Readers will want to know if they can trust the author’s expertise. This is all about credentials.

7. Marketing Plan

Publishers want to know how large audience the author can reach. They will then add their activities to the mix. Any ideas for delivering the message to the world are welcomed by publishers. Authors must be ready to do book marketing as well.

8. Endorsements or Media Coverage

If an author can get endorsements from renowned people for the book, here is the section to mention it. Also possible media contacts, or earlier appearances in media should be listed here.

9. Table of Contents

The more detailed the Table of Contents is, the better picture the publisher gets from the book concept. This is the key element for many publishers when they consider what the book really is about and ponder its positioning in the market. For more information on the details publishers may expect to find in the TOC, read this article.

10. Sample Chapters

A chapter or two of the book should be included in the proposal. Many agents want three to five chapters, but it varies, as well as publishers’ requirements. Submission guidelines should be followed. A sample is important for publishers and agents in order to evaluate the author’s style, voice, and way of presenting the information.

It takes 5 drafts before a writer can tell the manuscript for a book is ready

2017-07-11

Writing a book is hard work that takes time, requires patience, and persistence. The process of writing is individual, and continuously develops as experience and the number of published books grows. For instance, my own process has always been to write multiple drafts, and edit them until the outcome is what I had envisioned.
a writer stares at her computer screen with a pen in hand
That’s why it is so inspiring to find out that author Jeff Goins has identified five stages in the writing process that each represent a draft for a manuscript that is continuously being improved. The number is very close to the number of drafts I tend to write. Another inspiring thing is that Goins is refreshingly brutal when it comes to describing how the process of writing a book really works.

Here is the summary of Goins’ five-draft book writing process.

Draft 1:
Ideas. Often unstructured, and may only make sense to the writer.

Draft 2:
Structure. The manuscript begins to take shape. If it doesn’t, something is terribly wrong.

Draft 3:
The rough draft. At this point, the text is readable and can be edited. The whole work can be reviewed if something is missing.

Draft 4:
Cut. It is time to make it simple and easy to read which means cutting all the excess words and paragraphs.

Draft 5:
Finetune. Final edits, and the last chance to show it to reviewers for improvements.

The good news for writers who have never had the courage to even begin writing a book is that the threshold is actually low. You are not going to write that book at one go, but it is a step-by-step process where you continue improving your text until the whole work becomes a finished manuscript.

The next step after the five stages of drafts is to work with a publisher’s editor who may have ideas how to further improve the manuscript. A good editor knows that he or she is not always right, and that it is a collaborative process to get the book finished. It means respecting the author’s opinion and voice.

If a writer is not working with a publisher, it is beneficial to get a professional editor to review the manuscript before publishing it.

Behind a book manuscript: How a travel writer experienced Helsinki

2016-05-21

The first impression: love or hate

In every relationship, the first impression is extremely important. The same applies to travel destinations that you are visiting for the first time. You can fall in love with a place at first sight, or it can take multiple re-visits before the poor first impression changes (if it ever does).

Now that I have written a travel guidebook on Helsinki and it is published, it is time to look back and evaluate my relationship with the city. I have lived and worked in Helsinki, the capital of Finland, for quite some time but what was my first impression about the city? Did I really like it, did it make me curious, was I unimpressed or even unmoved?

I believe it was late summer — August or September — when I arrived. The first images I can still recall were that it was green everywhere, lots of light, very clean, plenty of space and no fuss — everything just worked. Nothing was spectacular, massive, totally weird, or anything like that, but rather human-size and practical.

Local people kept their distance, and didn’t chit-chat (later, I found out that it is the norm). But if I approached someone, the response was overwhelming.

Helsinki made me curious. I didn’t quite know what it was and why it attracted me, but I wanted to know its secret. There had to be something behind those faces and facades that an average tourist didn’t see.

View video:

Helsinki, city streets

Reality check: How was Helsinki really like?

After you have spent a few days in a new destination, you realize that there are actually ordinary people who go about their daily lives in the city. Life in the destination is not all about seeing the sights, having meals in tourist restaurants and constantly carrying a camera that’s ready to shoot whatever comes in front of the lens.

Of course, a few days isn’t enough to learn how people live in a place, but a sharp-eyed traveler gets hints and impressions of the local culture. At this stage, things get interesting. If I am exploring a destination because I intend to write about it, after a week or so, I have visited and photographed the obligatory sights. Then, I can look around for things that I find different, interesting and outside the inner circle of must-see places. In Helsinki, it meant discovering places like Kaivopuisto, Itäkeskus, old Eira, touring the shores of the city on a bicycle, and getting to know the bohemian district of Kallio.

I must have taken more than thousand photos in Helsinki in winter and in summer time. Some of the images made it to the book, most didn’t. Let me show you a few pictures of Helsinki where I believe I managed to capture something about the true faces of the city.
cafe at Esplanade park in HelsinkiA cafe at Esplanade Park in the city center.

Erottaja, Helsinki, jugend housesHouses lining the Erottaja street.

helsinki, view from hotel torniA view of Helsinki from Torni. The city’s landmark white Cathedral rises above other buildings.

The bottom line: What does Helsinki mean to me?

After spending so much time in Helsinki, exploring its streets, discovering rarely visited places, studying its essence, asking stupid questions when chatting locals, photographing and writing about the city, how do I feel about it now after my Helsinki travel guidebook has been published? Would I want to live in the city? Do I feel that I want to visit the city next year and two years after that?

It is a universal up-and-down experience how a foreigner accommodates to a new country and culture. Many culture shock -books have been written about the phenomenon. Having lived long enough in Finland, I believe I have survived from my shock, and I can sit back and take a long, hard look at the city, its people and culture.

The things I most appreciate in Helsinki (and in Finland) are safety, how everything just works, rationality of the people, ample green space, human-size architecture, modern art, and large wilderness areas. For me, the ideal moment to travel to Finland is when I want to breathe freely, be sure that I can be alone of I want to be alone without anyone bothering me, not worry about officers or taxi drivers cheating me, and forget about the poverty and distress in many other parts of the world. If it is summer, I will sit down at Esplanade or Kaivopuisto Park with my ice cream and blend into the crowd. I will be quiet and think the same things as Finns do: when we head to the cottage next weekend, what will we grill after sauna?

Helsinki is one of the easiest city to travel to and explore. It is a pleasure to stop by even for a short layover. Staying in the city for a long period exposes people to the long and dark winter, but summer rewards those who survive the winter. (Locals actually enjoy winter by traveling somewhere where it is colder than in Helsinki and snow is abundant).

I actually think that Helsinki (and Finland) is a bit of a hidden gem. The world has started to take notice of the country and its capital after news of its school system, maternal packages, Angry Birds, Nightwish and talented race drivers have spread in social media. Scandinavian kitchen and literature are also trending, at least, in Europe.

At times, Helsinki may be cool, but it won’t leave you cold if you give it a few days.

This story was written by Kim Anton who has authored and photographed two travel guidebooks for Klaava Media.

Esplanade park ,Helsinki in summer
My favourite season in Helsinki? Well, everyone falls in love with Finland’s summer (as I did), but winter has its own, very special atmosphere and fun outdoor activities. The picture above and the one below show the same place in summer and in winter in the center of Helsinki.
snow storm at Esplanade park in Helsinki