Launching a New Book Project

I’m not a fast writer. When I hear authors talk about how it took them two or three long years to write a book, I struggle to hide my reaction.

I can take two or three years to research a book. Even then, research continues as I start writing.

Since Angels of the Underground was published last December, I’ve been casting about for a new project. I really wanted to return to one I’d started before Angels, but every time I raised the subject with my agent, she was skeptical. I was amazed at how quickly she could run down a list of concerns about the commercial viability of the project.

Although my day job is as an academic historian, I want to write books that will sell well. I figure if I invest so much in creating them, I’d like to see a material return on that investment.

I spent the early part of the summer working on an abbreviated book proposal, to clearly map out for my agent my vision for the project she was skeptical about. And she still wasn’t convinced.

So it wasn’t until this month that I started pitching other projects.

And one stuck. A very good one, we both believe. It’s another story of a group of “ordinary” American women who make an extraordinary contribution to a U.S. war effort. (No more details at this point. I don’t want to jinx it.)

I’ve started work on the book proposal, which will end up at around 50 pages of overview, market analysis, and chapter synopses. Then it will go out on submission in hopes of finding an editor who thinks the book is as exciting as we do.

Stay tuned. It may be a long haul.

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9 thoughts on “Launching a New Book Project

  1. I still think the bio of Dale Evans would in fact be dynamite. Loads of retired boomer ladies out there who spend money on real books for their book clubs.

    That’s who I had in mind when I wrote my book, The Many Captivities of Esther Wheelwright. Especially women in their 50s, 60s, and 70s who were educated by nuns like the Ursulines, like my mother & aunt.

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  2. I haven’t totally, totally given up on DE. I’m planning some blog posts and maybe even an article to see what kind of interest they draw. You’re right about Esther’s target audience–nunstalgia.

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  3. Good luck on the new project! Question: In your proposal, how long are your chapter summaries? I’ve received contradictory advice — one says keep them to one paragraph, others say a 50-page proposal for a scholarly-researched but aiming-for-trade audience book is not unusual.
    And P.S. On year 8 of my project.

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  4. Congratulations on the new project! Question: How long are your chapter summaries in your book proposal? I’ve received conflicting advice — one says keep them to one paragraph, another says a proposal of 50 pages for a scholarly-researched but trade-audience book is not unusual.
    P.S. I’m on year 8 of my project. Two or three years — as if!

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    • Hi Beth: I think for a nonfiction project that is heavily narrative, like history, a 50 page proposal isn’t uncommon. For my last book proposal (also my first), each chapter synopsis ran 1-2 pages. I also included 2 sample chapters.

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  5. How’s the project taking shape? I always find it is a hard choice between writing and reading-they get in each others way a lot of the time! Hope sincerely that you are digging in and enjoying it, because that is what writing should be, a whole lot of fun. I am finishing up the polish on my next book and know the daunting task of looking at the next big thing….. Best wishes. Keep writing!

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    • Thanks for reading the blog, Nathan. I’ve been making slow and steady progress on the book proposal. I enjoy the research and the process of shaping that information into a story that makes a contribution to our historical knowledge. I hope you’re enjoying Japan. It’s a beautiful country.

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