Any advice on writing a book?
September 14, 2014 3:59 PM   Subscribe

With the encouragement of my significant other, what started as an article on foreign policy and international relations for a non-profit research centre is now being expanded into a book. I would like some advice on writing a book.

I started writing articles on current events, political economy, and foreign policy (mostly the latter because that is my area of expertise) for a Canadian newspaper and on my blog in 2012. Now my articles have appeared in a Canadian newspaper and a Canadian magazine, in the United Kingdom, Australia, and in a Canadian-based research organization in Montreal.

An article I was writing for that research organization was becoming too long, and with the encouragement of my significant other and my best friend, I would like to turn it into a book. Both of them said they would help me edit my book too (my best friend has a Ph.D and was a professor for 35 years and my significant other has a Master's Degree), but I wanted to ask some questions.

How do I know what to source material? Each book I read has a different method of sourcing in the material. In some books, the author will attach a small digit at the end of almost every sentence, with a reference to what source that number represents at the back of the book. In other books, the author only directly sources a quotation or a reference to a statistic, with everything else compiled into the bibliography. Can someone explain this?

How do you 'self-publish' a book? What does that entail?

Lastly, and this might sound like a stupid question, how do you cope with the time it takes to write a book? As of now I have completed the Introduction (around 4, 500 words) and have written close to 6, 000 words of Chapter 1, but it has taken me what feels like forever to do this while working full-time! To do the research, write the material, etc. takes much more time than I expected it too! Is writing a book always a lengthy process like this?
posted by 8LeggedFriend to Education (4 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Yes, it is a lengthy process. Do you have colleagues to discuss these issues with?

I think you want to talk to publishers of this kind of book before "finishing" it, with a proposal (including a discussion of its intended audience and market) and sample chapters, because many decisions about its organization, length, style, footnoting, and formatting will be negotiated with a publisher's editors. Your friends can give editorial feedback, but this is a business proposition.
posted by lathrop at 4:23 PM on September 14, 2014

I'm in a sort of parallel situation, and I just grabbed this book from the library:

Developmental Editing: A Handbook for Freelancers, Authors, and Publishers (Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing)

It's good. I feel like it's going to save me thousands on an editor... but I still may spend a lot of money on an editor.

Also, re self publishing, this book is dated, but I found it helpful to skim (and it's free):

The NEW Business of Self Publishing
How to Publish Your Books with Print on Demand and
Online Book Marketing on

I hope someone posts about speeding things up... I am literally taking a break from working, which is probably career suicide, and it's still unbelievably slow.
posted by zeek321 at 7:09 PM on September 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

Yes, writing a book for publication takes a long, long time. Especially non-fiction, since you have to do research. It's not a sprint, it's an ultramarathon. Best just settle in and write steadily; it'll get done eventually (I have written and had four nonfiction books published).

Attribution is just a matter of style, and you and your editor will decide the style you prefer to use (or, if you get a publisher, your publisher may have a house style). I recommend How to Get Happily Published (or something similar but more recent) and Writer's Market. Even if you self-publish, there is good information there.

Don't rely on your BF and SO as editors. They can be first readers and advisers, but you are much better off using a professional editor. There is MUCH more to book editing than professors and people with masters degrees realize.
posted by caryatid at 7:41 PM on September 14, 2014

Writing Nonfiction: Turning Thoughts into Books
Damn! Why Didnt I Write That?: How Ordinary People are Raking in $100,000.00 or More Writing Nonfiction Books & How You Can Too!

But keep in mind that it's *really* difficult to sell the kind of book you're writing without extensive professional qualifications and/or an existing following from either a regular newspaper column or popular blog.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:51 PM on September 14, 2014

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