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Thinking of writing a book

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by SnarkShark, Mar 15, 2013.

  1. SnarkShark

    SnarkShark Well-Known Member

    I was approached today by a publisher and was taken aback when they asked me to write a book for them (a historical account, so basically a long journalistic piece).

    A book has always been something I've wanted to do eventually, but I'm driving myself crazy with all my writers' insecurities and I haven't even received a hard offer yet.

    The topic is something I know a lot about and is certainly worthy of a book, but there is no money up front and probably a year commitment for little royalty pay after the fact. They also don't want a ton of pages (160-200), which would be far from comprehensive on the topic and makes me feel like I wouldn't do it justice at that length.

    The biggest concern, though, is that I'm afraid I'm not ready. I've written 2,000- to 3,000-word, somewhat-long-form journalism pieces, but that's far from a book. I've been in sports journalism for about three years (if you count college, five). If I get a piece of crap published, it will haunt me forever.

    So, my question to all of you is, should I just suck it up and do it or let this opportunity pass and wait for another down the line?

    Also, I know practically nothing about the publishing business, so those who have written books and dealt with this process, is there any advice you would give me for dealing with publishers and/or the process?
  2. slappy4428

    slappy4428 Active Member

    No money up front and little royalty pay? Seriously?
  3. Baron Scicluna

    Baron Scicluna Well-Known Member

    Nothing stopping you from doing it anyways and shopping it around to see if you can get a better offer.
  4. SnarkShark

    SnarkShark Well-Known Member

    You got me! I was just pulling your leg!

    Yes, I'm serious. I don't know what is standard or what is a good deal. That's why I asked.
  5. Joe Williams

    Joe Williams Well-Known Member

    I've written two books but they were modest projects, not anything for "A" list publishers. I think the publisher was satisfied with the resulting sales, but the royalty formula never kicked in and the advance (against royalties) was small to begin with.

    One was built from largely independent chapters, stand-alone stuff that made it feel like writing a bunch of 2,000-3,000 features that happened to be bound together at the end. The other was a biography, but even that -- when broken into the bite-size chunks of various life stages -- had natural breaks that lent themselves to chapters.

    The quality of the writing? My hunch is that many "authors" cringe when they think of/read some of their earlier work, feeling they'd do better if given a fresh chance at the same material. I wouldn't let that dread put you off a project like this. Plus the saying "make your mistakes in the minor leagues" seems to apply, because it sounds like the folks behind your project aren't exactly big leagues.

    I'll piggyback a question onto this, though, related to the subject matter. Working on projects like this for an advance somewhere in the four figures is better than no $ up front ... but how do you find/get the projects that advance in five figures or even six (where you could actually devote yourself full-time to such a book)? I see a lot of working sportswriters who spin off a book every few years and I'm assuming they're not doing it for $4K-$5K. What is considered a reasonable advance from a mainstream publisher, and what sort of royalty arrangement comes at the back end? Appreciate any info.
  6. Mark2010

    Mark2010 Active Member

    Unless you are an established author or a big name (like a well-known coach or player), it is very hard to get money up front. No one knows if the book will be any good.

    I'm working as an editor on a book now and the author and I are prepared to put up the publishing costs in order to get it out there in print. We believe strongly in the content and that it will go over well with the target audience. Once she develops a following as a published author, we might have more success getting money up front for future books.
  7. Walter Burns

    Walter Burns Member

    I'm working on my second book right now. This is the first one for which I will actually get royalties (the first was a straight-up contract gig: 30,000 words for $2,500).
    If this is something you want to do, go for it. I can't say it any simpler than that. If it's the realization of a career goal, don't bank on the chance that an opportunity like this will waltz by again.
    And here's the thing: if you're looking to publish another book, publishers will look approvingly at the fact you've been published. They probably won't read the book, but they'll see you met deadlines and followed through on a project.
    You probably won't make a ton of money on it, but I noticed something after my first book came out: People tend to respect the publication of a book more than any work you might do at a newspaper. I've been working in journalism for 15 years, and I can't tell you how many people were almost awed at the fact that I wrote a book and got it published.
    My advice: Do it and don't look back.
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