Am I doing this write?
August 3, 2009 9:33 AM   Subscribe

In writing a research book, how far along should I be before approaching publishers, agents, etc? Help needed to get my nonfiction pop culture centric book into bookstores

I am working on a research book that is beyond the scope of what most part-time writers would do. The book covers a popular pop culture topic. I have interviewed over 30 people one-on-one for the research and plan to interview over 20 more. My end result will be something similar to the book "Crystal Lake Memories" found here

I have written the first few chapters of this book now and I'm wondering what the next steps are. Due to the amount of painstaking research and the trouble of scheduling some of these interviews, I expect the research portion will take at least another year, perhaps more, and the writing can in many cases happen in parallel.

I would like to ideally approach the publishing branch of the media corporation who's pop culture work I am covering to see if there is interest on their side in publishing it "officially". From my interviews I have relationships with many of the principles at said corporation (yet they don't know the scope of my project, the real reason behind all these interviews, and they help me set them up anyway), and if they were interested it would also open more doors on research; however, I'm also worried about them seeing the idea and using in-house staff to do it without me.

All my research and writing is unique and certainly falls under "fair use" so I am certain other publishers could publish this book, but from what I've read in other questions that would involve an agent, etc.

So for non-fiction works like this, what is the protocol? Should I continue to work on the book until done and hope afterward someone is interested in the work?

If you have more questions I've set up the e-mail

posted by anonymous to Writing & Language (7 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have an agent? Have you submitted proposals to publishers? That seems to be the logical place to start.

I want to turn my thesis into a book, so thanks for asking this! Good luck with it.
posted by futureisunwritten at 9:41 AM on August 3, 2009

You do not need to write the entire book. No editor would have time to read whole-book submissions, and writers would starve even more than they do now if they turned in whole books on spec.

Find a writer's book on how to write a query letter, book summary, and prepare sample chapters. You must make sure to do your homework in preparing a crackerjack submission and finding the right agents and editors to send it to. In your query, you must show how your book is similar to other published books on your subject, but also totally unique--not easy. Use Amazon to research what other books are out there related to your topic and use that research as a jumping off point for describing the unique approach yours would have.

Good luck!
posted by Elsie at 9:48 AM on August 3, 2009 [3 favorites]

And make sure you have someone proofread the hell out of your query letter and sample chapters before you submit them.
posted by runningwithscissors at 10:18 AM on August 3, 2009

I work at a major trade publisher in the US which is affiliated with a media corporation.

You've written enough of the book to start shopping it around to find an agent. Write a great proposal, do some comparative/competitive research, and send it to agents who specialize in that type of work. The agent should help you find a publisher.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 11:00 AM on August 3, 2009

Check out this link.....

I am just starting a similar thing!

Good Luck!
posted by keep it tight at 11:12 AM on August 3, 2009

It's not absolutely necessary to have an agent for this sort of thing, though an agent is going to be necessary to get it into any of the big, well known houses if you don't have other ins with them.

I sounds like you do have ins with the publishing house you're most interested in, so as people mentioned above, you need to write a query letter, detailed proposal, and clean up your sample chapters. As Elsie said, you need to research similar (the industry term is comparative) titles that are already on the market and then demonstrate how your book fills a unique niche that none of those other titles fill. It also helps to have a seriously punchy book summary; imagine you're writing the jacket copy for your book, because it may well end up being the jacket copy for your book. Finally, if you include a page or two with many or all the things you can do to help market the book once it's been published, that should impress most publishers.

Then, you can probably use your ins with the company you want to publish your book to get your proposal to the acquisitions editor of their house, by passing the need for an agent. For any other big house, you'll need an agent. For most medium and small presses (remember, there are tons of smaller, non-New York publishing houses out there), you can submit your proposal without an agent.

Finally, don't worry about them stealing your idea and doing it without you; that's just not done by any serious, non-sleazy house, and it sounds like you're working with one of the big houses, which definitely means it's not done. Pretty much all non-fiction books are accepted based on proposals like we're instructing you to write, and then completed after contracts are signed.
posted by Caduceus at 1:15 PM on August 3, 2009

Nth-ing that you need strong sample chapters, a good proposal, and a good "platform", but you don't need a completed book. (And please have someone else copyedit your proposal and query, because you've got quite a few errors in the post that spellcheck alone wouldn't catch: "who's" instead of "whose", for instance, and "principles" instead of "principals".)

The forums on might be helpful.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:08 PM on August 3, 2009

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