Breaking into Nonfiction

Hello writers! Hope all is well with you on your writing adventures. I have a couple updates I’m proud to share. First, I’m pleased to announce that I am now an official member of the Dramatist’s Guild! A few years ago, I never would have dreamed I would be a playwright, but now, it’s official…or at least, my membership card says it is! Speaking of plays, my stage version of “It’s a Wonderful Life” just went up last week in Fullerton, CA to an adoring crowd. On the book front, “Towards the Moon with Fellini,” which I co-wrote, will be out in a couple weeks, marking the end (or at least next phase) of a three-year journey! There is also a book on Virginia Tech sports I edited that comes out soon, and progress is being made on my other books, including the final edits on the memoir of an old school Hollywood starlet.

But today I want to address breaking into the publishing world.

Over the past few consultations I’ve done, I’ve been asked about the easiest and toughest markets to break into when it comes to books, both in fiction and nonfiction. First, let me say, no matter the genre, if the book is good, unique, marketable and well-prepped, it will find a home. I absolutely, positively believe that. On the same note…it might take you a while to find the right home. The book industry is soooooo flooded these days, that even a potential Pulitzer Prize winner might struggle to get that publishing deal. That said, if you’re looking to get published, here are some places that you can start! This week, I’m going to tackle nonfiction and next time, I’ll take a look at fiction.

So, for nonfiction, you have a few different spots where things are a little easier. None of these are a slam dunk, mind you, but your odds are just a bit better.

RELIGIOUS/INSPIRATIONAL: We read to be inspired. That’s literally at the heart of all storytelling. And we love real life inspiring stories. So do publishers. If you have such a tale, especially one that got a little media attention, they want to hear from you. And if it’s got a bit of a religious/spiritual angle, there is a big niche audience––in terms of readers and publishers––that you can tap into.

CRAFTS AND COOKING: Even though there are more cook books on the market than any other kind of book, publishers are always looking for more. The trick is you need to give them something fresh and new, especially if you don’t have a celebrity name or brand behind you. What’s your specialty? As for crafts and hobbies, same deal. What’s a hobby that you have that isn’t covered much in print? That’s what you want to pitch a book on.

HISTORICAL: Now this is an area that has been covered a lot, be it American history, world history, classic or modern. This is a huge subset of the publishing industry so two things are critical when pitching a history book. One, at this point, it has to be about something not previously covered or you need to have a completely unique take on something that everybody knows about. Second, you need to show why you’re qualified to write about it. Being a fan of history isn’t enough. Show your expertise!

EDUCATIONAL: The other reason we read, after inspiration, is to learn. If you have something to teach, something to share, get it down and get it out there. I’ve helped a number of acting coaches write or edit their books and all of them have done well. If you have something you teach, there is a reader for you!

Of course, the most popular book first time authors want to pitch is the memoir, which is THE TOUGHEST type of book with which to break into the publishing industry. Everybody thinks they have a story, and of course they do, but finding one with mass appeal is a little trickier, especially in the eyes of a publisher. So, it needs to be dynamic! That said, if you have an interesting story, write it and throw it out there. It’s your life, it’s your legacy, it’s your story.

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