How's the book coming?

April 14, 2009

More than three months have passed since I returned home from Africa, determined to write a travel memoir.

As I hole myself up in my home office and coffee-shop hop with my laptop, friends and family ask, “How’s the book coming?”

I know what they’re really thinking: What has she been doing all this time?

So, here’s what I’ve been doing. I’ll expound on each of these tasks in the next dozen or so posts:

1. Figuring out how to write a book proposal — and writing it.

This ain’t no small job — It has taken the bulk of my time. A nonfiction book proposal includes an overview of the book, promotion plan and detailed summary of each chapter. Basically an outline of the book, which means I actually had to figure out what I’m going to write, then give it structure and theme. Not to mention a working title, a challenge in itself.

2. Learning how to write a query letter — and writing it.

To attract an agent, I need a beautifully crafted query letter that explains who I am, what my book is about and why they should represent me — all in one page.

3. Researching literary agents.

I’m constantly reading about agents to figure out who might be interested in representing my type of book. I’ve come up with a list of a dozen for my first round of queries — let’s hope I won’t need a second round.

4. Reading about book marketing and picking strategies.

Why now? Because a large chunk of my book proposal must be dedicated to book promotion. To convince a publisher to buy my book, I need a plan for how I’m going to sell copies before it’s even written. (A publisher helps with promotion, but much of marketing is still up to the author.)

5. Networking.

I’ve joined all the popular social networking sites — and then some. I’m building contacts now so when my book is published, I’ll have a wide net willing to catch my promotion.

6. Picking the brain of anyone who will indulge me.

I’ve tracked down friends, friends of friends, and friends of friends of friends who work in publishing to ask for advice about this process. Same with authors and other writers.

7. Creating a personal Web site.

I’m going to need a site once my book is published, so why not build it now? Agents and publishers interested in my work will visit the page to learn more about me.

8. Applying to writers’ colonies.

Rather than write alone at home, I’m hoping to escape to several residency programs for writers. The catch: they have to want me. I’ve got to earn an acceptance, and these applications are time-consuming.

9. Writing.

I’ve spent only about a quarter of my time so far actually writing the book. For now, I’m channeling my writing energy into two sample chapters that will become part of my proposal.

10. Crossing my fingers.

This has slowed my progress considerably, since keeping my fingers crossed makes it nearly impossible to type, a skill required for steps 1 through 9.

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