How to find funding to write a nonfiction book?
April 10, 2013 5:44 PM   Subscribe

I have an idea for a non-fiction book that I am determined to write. How do I get financial support during the time it will take for me to research and write it?

I am not from academia, and while I have a bit of public credibility on the subject I wish to write about, I am not known nationally (yet.) Right now, I am doing some unpaid consulting in this field, as well as developing a blog that will talk broadly about the subject, with the hope of expanding my blog writing into more detailed articles for pay in national/international publications, to raise my credibility on the issue within the next few years.

My field of interest is a progressive idea that is widely contained within the field of economics, and is a subject that is starting to gain more public attention of late, but is not yet A Thing. I want to do this book to help make it one, though - this is a subject about which I am quite passionate, in which I have significant personal experience, and I want to leverage my professional background in advocacy and communications to advance this idea as a movement.

The book I have in mind details the global history of this movement, which will entail a lot of international travel to do research. I will quit my full time job to do this project, but meanwhile, still need some income so I can afford health insurance, to travel, and to eat. I'd like to start this project within the next two years, and as of this moment, I have no idea how long it will take for me to complete, so the more money I can find to support it, the better. As a non-academic, how do I find grants, fellowships, or other sources of funding for this project? Where should I look for potential sources of funding? What else can I be doing now to strengthen my background so I am a more attractive candidate to the funders with deep pockets? Any other relevant advice from anyone who has done a project like this would be deeply appreciated as well.
posted by deliciae to Work & Money (5 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Is there any initial research and writing you could do here before quitting? Having a sample chapter or two already written to show people couldn't hurt. And, you would be that much more "done" and may not have to spend as long unemployed.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:05 PM on April 10, 2013

You could try Kickstarter or Indie-gogo, but that's a crap shoot. If you don't have a publisher, and thus an advance, you need to do some freelance writing on the subject, so you get recognized as an authority on the subject, and then you submit sample chapters and an outline to an agent and/or publisher.
posted by Ideefixe at 6:07 PM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Is there any initial research and writing you could do here before quitting? Having a sample chapter or two already written to show people couldn't hurt.

Especially if you can use it to get a book deal. Then maybe your publisher will foot the bill for a lot of this. Or maybe start a blog to get attention, establish yourself as more of an authority, and then do the sample chapters and present this ready-made media-personality package to agents/publishers.

Be realistic about how much international travel is really crucial for this project. There is so much you can do from a distance these days, and then you could stay at your full-time job and work on this as a side project for a much longer period. I think you may be a little optimistic about how much money is available in grants floating around to do this kind of thing.
posted by town of cats at 6:19 PM on April 10, 2013

There aren't a lot of secret pots of money around for writers, period. You being an unknown writing about an unexplored area of progressive economics makes finding a deep-pocketed sponsor even less likely. These realities are why many go into academia if they want to write while being secure economically.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't do it. Just give up the idea that someone is going to pay you to travel and dedicate yourself to writing for years. Do as much of the research and initial writing of the book as you can before you quit your job. Writers who don't have access to large advances from publishers write while they are supporting themselves with a job. This means a lot of sacrifice and discipline. They wake a couple of hours early and write before work, write after work, write on weekends, vacations are research opportunities, scrimp, save, and write. Write every day.

Once you have a draft, you'll be in a better position to figure out where and when to go do primary research abroad. Save as much of your salary as you can for that. In the meantime, while writing your draft, carve out interesting pieces that you can publish as articles to make a name for yourself as a new expert in the field.

Published articles, a serious draft, a successful blog, demonstration of the work you've been doing as a consultant, and a relationship you've developed with a good agent will make you much more appealing to publishers and there's a much better chance that they'll give you a book deal with an advance to finish your research and final draft.
posted by quince at 6:41 PM on April 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

check your mefi mail.
posted by Muffpub at 7:34 PM on April 10, 2013

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