For some magazine writers, the thought of making the leap to non-fiction books seems like a daunting task. But many writers have successfully navigated the different approach needed to get a project greenlit and onto bookshelves.
The process of making the transition from magazine writing to book publishing will be explored at MagNet 2018 in a session called Making the Leap to Books. Panellists include Stephen Kimber, author of nine books and a longtime magazine and newspaper journalist. Kimber is also a professor at University of King’s College, in their journalism and MFA program in creative non-fiction.
“When you’re doing a magazine piece you are seeing it as a standalone piece and when you are thinking about a book, as a magazine writer sometimes you think ‘If I write this as a series of magazine pieces as I go along that will help underwrite the book,'” explains Kimber in the latest episode of AudioMag. “That doesn’t necessarily work in a book because somebody who reads a book is looking for a real narrative arc—a story that has a beginning, a middle and an end. So you are really looking to write a single story with lots of details. And it’s a lot more detailed than most of us focused on magazine writing tend to get into in terms of research and background.”
Two key areas that will be explored by the panel include finding an agent, and writing a book proposal.
Role of Agents
Agents play a key role in getting a book proposal into the hands of editors. For starters, they know what needs to go into a solid proposal, and they help writers find the focus and outline that will make a project marketable.
“Often times an agent will come back with things that they think need to be done to make this a saleable pitch to a publisher. Some agents are less involved on that side of it and some are very hands on,” says Kimber. “Once you have worked with your agent and come up with a version you are both happy with your agent submits it to editors.”
A good agent also knows which specific editors at which publishing houses would be best suited to pitch the book.
Tackling a Book Proposal
Key to attracting interest from publishers is laying out the vision for a book in a solidly researched and written book proposal. Many proposals can run 70 or 80 pages, and have individual chapter outlines. In the panel, Kimber and other panellists will unpack the process of creating one.
“It is absolutely essential—you won’t sell most non-fiction books without one, and you might have to write the entire book along with the proposal in order to sell it, but in any case a proposal will help you to understand your own book,” he says. “And from a writer’s point of view even without the selling aspect that becomes really important.”
The panel will look at the essential questions that need to be answered in a solid proposal.
“There are good websites like Jane Friedman’s (janefriedman.com) that offer good advice—but what you are essentially doing is you are trying to showcase the idea that you have for the book, why it’s a book, why it’s important, and why you are the person to write this book.”
Making the Leap to Books is co-presented with the University of King’s College MFA in Creative Non-fiction program. Panellists include non-fiction authors—and magazine professionals—Stacey May Fowles, Lauren McKeon, David Hayes and Stephen Kimber and will be moderated by Kim Pittaway. Register for MagNet 2018.
AudioMag is produced by Tina Pittaway, an award-winning independent writer and broadcaster. Tina has been a contributor to CBC Radio and Television for more than 20 years. Her radio documentaries have been recognized with honours from the Canadian Association of Journalists, the Canadian Science Writers’ Association, the New York Festivals, Amnesty International and the Gabriel Awards. Visit Tina online to learn more about her work.
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