Book proposals to look at

16 Jan 2008 - 10:24am
6 years ago
10 replies
1106 reads
Dave Malouf
2005

Hi Gang,

I know there are quite a few writers here.
Any chance one of you might be able to send me a book proposal you
wrote, to help me with one that I'm putting together in the next month
or so. I'm soooo new to this and I don't have a clue where to begin.
The publisher gave me some good guidance, but I have no idea how that
translates to expectations.

Also, is doing a book in 8months (20k words) a reasonable time frame
for someone with a fulltime job?

-- dave

--
David Malouf
http://synapticburn.com/
http://ixda.org/
http://motorola.com/

Comments

16 Jan 2008 - 11:05am
Benjamin Ho
2007

What kind of guidelines did the publisher give?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=24623

16 Jan 2008 - 10:44am
kimbieler
2007

David,

The best resource for help with query letters, proposals, and the
like is the Absolute Write forums:

http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/

I don't know about non-fiction, but many fiction writers turn out two
to three 90,000-word books a year. So, it's possible. 20k in 8 months
is only 2500 words a month. I'll bet you've written blog postings
longer than that.

-- Kim

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +
Kim Bieler Graphic Design
www.kbgd.com
c. 240-476-3129
+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

16 Jan 2008 - 11:57am
Ari
2006

yes, virtually all reputable trade publishers provide proposal guidelines
that you can use as a template (i've seen several and they're all basically
very similar).

also, if this is your first book, prepare to get screwed a little. unless
you are a real celebrity, your advance will be paltry because the publisher
wants to mitigate the risk that A) you even complete your book and B) it
sells. trade publishing (even in a hot area like UI and IxD) is very crowded
and margins are slim all around. unless its a seminal work, most trade books
have a shelf life of 3-6 months - if that.

once you do your first book, you can snag an agent who will get you better
deals, advances, royalties and publishers because you'd be a proven entity.

writing a book is hard. writing a book on deadline is very hard. writing a
book that sells well is extremely hard!

On Wed, 16 Jan 2008 08:05:27, Benjamin Ho <benoh2 at yahoo.com> wrote:
>
> What kind of guidelines did the publisher give?
>
>
> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
> Posted from the new ixda.org
> http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=24623
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> *Come to IxDA Interaction08 | Savannah*
> February 8-10, 2008 in Savannah, GA, USA
> Register today: http://interaction08.ixda.org/
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
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--------------------------------------------------
www.flyingyogi.com
--------------------------------------------------

16 Jan 2008 - 1:40pm
Robert Hoekman, Jr.
2005

And now for a more concrete interpretation ...

also, if this is your first book, prepare to get screwed a little. unless
> you are a real celebrity, your advance will be paltry because the
> publisher
> wants to mitigate the risk [...]

Writing a tech book is a labor of love. It's not going to be a golden ticket
to fame and fortune unless you happen to write another "Don't Make Me
Think", and there's exactly one author in all of the tech world that has
sold that many copies of a single book: Steve Krug himself. Nielsen has also
sold a lot of books—a huge amount, in fact—but from what I can tell, he
doesn't have nearly the numbers Krug has. Not even close.

In most cases, a book is a really good business card. It helps you get your
foot in the door for a lot of opportunities. It's not something you do
because you want to retire to the tropics. It's something you do because you
want to affect the industry, because you love it and want to take your
career further.

In the tech industry, from what I've seen, you can expect somewhere between
$8-12k for an advance against royalties to write the book, if you negotiate
it on your own. With an agent, you can get more regardless of whether you've
written a good book in the past, but the agent will also take a sizable cut.

If you view writing a book as a labor of love, as I've described, $8-12k is
pretty decent. If you think you're going to quit client work for six months
and do nothing but write, you might consider playing the lottery often while
doing it. Oh, and be sure to move into a very small, very cheap apartment
first. And abandon your family. And forget about eating for a while. You get
the idea.

Many authors assume their books will never earn out, and in *most* cases,
this is true. The small percentage of books that earn out are the ones
keeping the tech publishers alive right now. It's definitely a saturated
market. If you are confident that your book will earn out, go for the
standard advance, market the heck out of the thing at every opportunity, and
hope for future royalty checks.

unless its a seminal work, most trade books
> have a shelf life of 3-6 months - if that.

This depends on the topic of the book. If you're writing something that is
tied to a product release cycle, such as a book on Flash CS3, the shelf life
is definitely limited, and you'll want your book on shelves the second a new
version of the app is released to maximize your chances. If you write a book
on a broader topic that can stay relevant for a long time, such as some
aspect of interaction design, you'll have a much longer shelf life. There
are plenty of books not considered "seminal" that have a much longer life
than 3-6 months.

My book, Designing the Obvious, has an expected shelf life of 2-3 years. I'm
a little over a year into that now, and my book is selling more copies per
quarter now than it did the first two it was out. I don't know if this is
common or not, but it definitely illustrates my point.

writing a book is hard. writing a book on deadline is very hard. writing a
> book that sells well is extremely hard!

This depends on how comfortable you are with writing, particularly on a
deadline. I'm very comfortable, and I wrote Designing the Obvious during
nights and weekends over a 3-month period with little stress. A giant tome
like Designing Interactions (Moggridge) would have taken substantially
longer even if he is a very confident writer.

If you're not a confident writer, writing a book will be nothing short of
... well, nightmarish.

Writing a great book is not hard, per se. It's actually closer to "magic".
Even the most experienced publishers and editors have little idea how well a
book will do, if any. It's a guessing game, every single time, unless you
bring in someone who is already well-known, such as Zeldman, Meyer, or
Maeda.

All you can do is keep improving the structure of the book as best you can,
make sure you speak *to* your audience and not *at* them, come up with a
catchy or powerful name, and trust the publishers to do their jobs. Once
that's out of the way, you can speak at conferences, user group meetings,
build up your blog, etc—anything to raise your profile and build up
credibility to help sales.

It's not for the faint of heart, that's for sure. If most design projects
are like sprints, then books are like marathons. You have to love it, else
it can be a horrible experience.

That said, a book you believe in and communicates something of real value in
a very effective way can and likely will sell very well, and can lead to
many opportunities in your life. As long as you're prepared to ride the wave
while it lasts, you can do some great things with a book-shaped business
card in hand.

-r-

16 Jan 2008 - 1:56pm
Ari
2006

thanks for your points.
page count is a factor in writing a book. some publishers insist on a
minimum length of 300-400 pages because they're of the school that thicker
tomes mean greater value (think of all of the 'bible' books released in
years past).

a 200 page book that is heavily illustrated will usually take less time to
write than a 500 page book that is sparsely illustrated.

the subject matter being written about is also a big factor in determining a
book's difficulty. in fact, the books you refer to on Flash or Photoshop
usually fall into a category called "click and shit" books - it's an
industry term for books that are merely glorified user manuals. writing more
topic-specific books tend to be more difficult than these and will usually
have a longer shelf life because they're about something that can transcend
time better.

i think confidence in one's writing is definitely a factor in writing a book
but it's certainly only element.

let's face it, if someone can write, they can write. where i was going with
my comment is that even if you write a blog daily, it doesn't mean you can
tackle a project like a book. they're a bitch even if you write significant
amounts for a living (as I do). hell, even prolific authors like Tom Clancy
hate writing!

books are big projects. in many cases, you will wind up writing and editing
more words than you have ever written in high school, college and possibly
grad school!

the best thing you can do is focus on a subject you absolutely know and
excel in and come up with a very thorough outline. the better your outline,
the easier your book will be to plan and write.

On 1/16/08, Robert Hoekman, Jr. <robert at rhjr.net> wrote:
>
> And now for a more concrete interpretation ...
>
> also, if this is your first book, prepare to get screwed a little. unless
> > you are a real celebrity, your advance will be paltry because the
> > publisher
> > wants to mitigate the risk [...]
>
>
> Writing a tech book is a labor of love. It's not going to be a golden
> ticket to fame and fortune unless you happen to write another "Don't Make Me
> Think", and there's exactly one author in all of the tech world that has
> sold that many copies of a single book: Steve Krug himself. Nielsen has also
> sold a lot of books—a huge amount, in fact—but from what I can tell, he
> doesn't have nearly the numbers Krug has. Not even close.
>
> In most cases, a book is a really good business card. It helps you get
> your foot in the door for a lot of opportunities. It's not something you do
> because you want to retire to the tropics. It's something you do because you
> want to affect the industry, because you love it and want to take your
> career further.
>
>
> In the tech industry, from what I've seen, you can expect somewhere
> between $8-12k for an advance against royalties to write the book, if you
> negotiate it on your own. With an agent, you can get more regardless of
> whether you've written a good book in the past, but the agent will also take
> a sizable cut.
>
> If you view writing a book as a labor of love, as I've described, $8-12k
> is pretty decent. If you think you're going to quit client work for six
> months and do nothing but write, you might consider playing the lottery
> often while doing it. Oh, and be sure to move into a very small, very cheap
> apartment first. And abandon your family. And forget about eating for a
> while. You get the idea.
>
> Many authors assume their books will never earn out, and in *most* cases,
> this is true. The small percentage of books that earn out are the ones
> keeping the tech publishers alive right now. It's definitely a saturated
> market. If you are confident that your book will earn out, go for the
> standard advance, market the heck out of the thing at every opportunity, and
> hope for future royalty checks.
>
>
> unless its a seminal work, most trade books
> > have a shelf life of 3-6 months - if that.
>
>
> This depends on the topic of the book. If you're writing something that is
> tied to a product release cycle, such as a book on Flash CS3, the shelf life
> is definitely limited, and you'll want your book on shelves the second a new
> version of the app is released to maximize your chances. If you write a book
> on a broader topic that can stay relevant for a long time, such as some
> aspect of interaction design, you'll have a much longer shelf life. There
> are plenty of books not considered "seminal" that have a much longer life
> than 3-6 months.
>
> My book, Designing the Obvious, has an expected shelf life of 2-3 years.
> I'm a little over a year into that now, and my book is selling more copies
> per quarter now than it did the first two it was out. I don't know if this
> is common or not, but it definitely illustrates my point.
>
>
> writing a book is hard. writing a book on deadline is very hard. writing a
> > book that sells well is extremely hard!
>
>
> This depends on how comfortable you are with writing, particularly on a
> deadline. I'm very comfortable, and I wrote Designing the Obvious during
> nights and weekends over a 3-month period with little stress. A giant tome
> like Designing Interactions (Moggridge) would have taken substantially
> longer even if he is a very confident writer.
>
> If you're not a confident writer, writing a book will be nothing short of
> ... well, nightmarish.
>
> Writing a great book is not hard, per se. It's actually closer to "magic".
> Even the most experienced publishers and editors have little idea how well a
> book will do, if any. It's a guessing game, every single time, unless you
> bring in someone who is already well-known, such as Zeldman, Meyer, or
> Maeda.
>
> All you can do is keep improving the structure of the book as best you
> can, make sure you speak *to* your audience and not *at* them, come up with
> a catchy or powerful name, and trust the publishers to do their jobs. Once
> that's out of the way, you can speak at conferences, user group meetings,
> build up your blog, etc—anything to raise your profile and build up
> credibility to help sales.
>
> It's not for the faint of heart, that's for sure. If most design projects
> are like sprints, then books are like marathons. You have to love it, else
> it can be a horrible experience.
>
> That said, a book you believe in and communicates something of real value
> in a very effective way can and likely will sell very well, and can lead to
> many opportunities in your life. As long as you're prepared to ride the wave
> while it lasts, you can do some great things with a book-shaped business
> card in hand.
>
> -r-
>
>

--
--------------------------------------------------
www.flyingyogi.com
--------------------------------------------------

17 Jan 2008 - 10:43am
Chauncey Wilson
2007

One thing your publisher may ask for is a comparative analysis of
books that are already available against your proposal. For example,
if you were writing a book on Design Patterns, what would your book
offer compared to the topic 4-5 books on UI design patterns. Is there
some added value that you will provide or an area that the other books
didn't cover that has come up in the field.

Chauncey

On Jan 16, 2008 10:24 AM, David Malouf <dave.ixd at gmail.com> wrote:
> Hi Gang,
>
> I know there are quite a few writers here.
> Any chance one of you might be able to send me a book proposal you
> wrote, to help me with one that I'm putting together in the next month
> or so. I'm soooo new to this and I don't have a clue where to begin.
> The publisher gave me some good guidance, but I have no idea how that
> translates to expectations.
>
> Also, is doing a book in 8months (20k words) a reasonable time frame
> for someone with a fulltime job?
>
> -- dave
>
>
> --
> David Malouf
> http://synapticburn.com/
> http://ixda.org/
> http://motorola.com/
> ________________________________________________________________
> *Come to IxDA Interaction08 | Savannah*
> February 8-10, 2008 in Savannah, GA, USA
> Register today: http://interaction08.ixda.org/
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

17 Jan 2008 - 7:49pm
Ari
2006

really good point! this is a standard part of the book proposal process or
template offered by many trade publishers. in cases where you are proposing
a book that is on a topic where there are already several existing titles,
publishers will use this info to see if your proposal warrants further
consideration.
you really need to research the field to show the publisher how your book
will be different and how it will tackle the topic better than an existing
work.

On 1/17/08, Chauncey Wilson <chauncey.wilson at gmail.com> wrote:
>
> One thing your publisher may ask for is a comparative analysis of
> books that are already available against your proposal. For example,
> if you were writing a book on Design Patterns, what would your book
> offer compared to the topic 4-5 books on UI design patterns. Is there
> some added value that you will provide or an area that the other books
> didn't cover that has come up in the field.
>
> Chauncey
>
>
>
>
> On Jan 16, 2008 10:24 AM, David Malouf <dave.ixd at gmail.com> wrote:
> > Hi Gang,
> >
> > I know there are quite a few writers here.
> > Any chance one of you might be able to send me a book proposal you
> > wrote, to help me with one that I'm putting together in the next month
> > or so. I'm soooo new to this and I don't have a clue where to begin.
> > The publisher gave me some good guidance, but I have no idea how that
> > translates to expectations.
> >
> > Also, is doing a book in 8months (20k words) a reasonable time frame
> > for someone with a fulltime job?
> >
> > -- dave
> >
> >
> > --
> > David Malouf
> > http://synapticburn.com/
> > http://ixda.org/
> > http://motorola.com/
> > ________________________________________________________________
> > *Come to IxDA Interaction08 | Savannah*
> > February 8-10, 2008 in Savannah, GA, USA
> > Register today: http://interaction08.ixda.org/
> >
> > ________________________________________________________________
> > Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> > To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> > Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> > List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> > List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
> >
> ________________________________________________________________
> *Come to IxDA Interaction08 | Savannah*
> February 8-10, 2008 in Savannah, GA, USA
> Register today: http://interaction08.ixda.org/
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

--
--------------------------------------------------
www.flyingyogi.com
--------------------------------------------------

20 Jan 2008 - 2:57pm
Bruno Figueiredo
2007

Well, I don't know about book proposals, but when I published mine I
just sent the editor a summary and table of contents and some sample
content.

About the 8 months issue, I don't know how disciplined are you but
it seems very few time. The time you'll spend with the gathering or
design of illustrations is also something to take into consideration.
And don't forget that writing a book is not like writing a blog
entry. People will use it as reference. You have to be absolutely
sure that all that you write there is ironclad. And believe me
you'll spend a lot of time re-writing stuff that you're not
entirely happy with.

To give you an idea I wrote my first book (350 pages) in about a year
and a half, while working.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=24623

20 Jan 2008 - 3:13pm
Dan Brown
2004

A book proposal must do three things:
1. Prove that there's a market for the book. I went into my proposal
assuming that my publisher had tons of data on their readers. No such luck.
They looked to me to define the audience and prove that there was demand for
a book about documentation.

2. Prove that you can write competently about the subject. Ultimately, the
publisher isn't so much interested in the exact content, but more that
they'll have a product to sell to the market you identified. (Writing a book
made me cynical.)

3. Establish a vision for the book. While I don't think this is essential
for getting a proposal accepted, the sooner you can establish a vision, the
easier it will be to align the team toward an objective. I made my vision
clear late in the process. It worked out OK, but I wish I had articulated
the vision earlier in the project.

As for timeline, you have to be honest with yourself about how you write.
Two key questions are:

* How comfortable are you churning out words?
* How clean is that copy when it comes out?

If you worry about every word you type, it's going to take you a long time
to get your word count up.
If you can churn out a lot of words, but they're not "clean", your editor
will have more work to do.

My key piece of advice is to love your editor. Robert clearly has a good
relationship with his editor, and I had a great rapport with mine. This is
crucial because he or she is your primary sounding board. She needs to
understand how you write and what you need to write effectively. Amy (my
editor) was especially awesome because she insulated me from whatever was
going on at the publisher. She was, for the most part, the only person I
spoke to.

One other lesson learned:

When I wrote my book, I assumed I was the talent. I'm the A-list actor
showing up for my scene. There were other people behind the camera, so to
speak, that were more instrumental in making the project a success. This was
naive. As the author, you are the director and the publisher is the
producer. I wish I'd realized this at the outset.

Hope this helps! Happy to lunch with prospective authors in Savannah...

-- Dan

On Sun, 20 Jan 2008 11:57:15, Bruno Figueiredo <bruno.figueiredo at gmail.com>
wrote:

> Well, I don't know about book proposals, but when I published mine I
> just sent the editor a summary and table of contents and some sample
> content.
>
> About the 8 months issue, I don't know how disciplined are you but
> it seems very few time. The time you'll spend with the gathering or
> design of illustrations is also something to take into consideration.
> And don't forget that writing a book is not like writing a blog
> entry. People will use it as reference. You have to be absolutely
> sure that all that you write there is ironclad. And believe me
> you'll spend a lot of time re-writing stuff that you're not
> entirely happy with.
>
> To give you an idea I wrote my first book (350 pages) in about a year
> and a half, while working.
>
>
> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
> Posted from the new ixda.org
> http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=24623
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> *Come to IxDA Interaction08 | Savannah*
> February 8-10, 2008 in Savannah, GA, USA
> Register today: http://interaction08.ixda.org/
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

--
| work: eightshapes.com
| book: communicatingdesign.com
| blog: greenonions.com
| talk: +1 (301) 801-4850

20 Jan 2008 - 8:53pm
Pedro Neves
2007

A book release it's as posted by Dan Brown, a group of factors that
create the product. But above all the relation between the publisher
and the author it's essential, many of the great works, books,
films, music etc... comes from author creating it's publishing
conditions, the do it your self it's the guarantee of publishing
without any restrictions for the author. Personally this is my
experience, with some friends we have created magazines, movies in
dvd, and even books, all at our risk, and from our point of view
it's always worthy.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=24623

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