Try, Try and Try Again...

Saturday, September 07, 2013
To answer some of the questions from my last Muffin post, I'm going to detail the roundabout way I developed a nonfiction book proposal.

One of the many Idiot's Guide books available on the
marketplace.  Photo credit | PGHumphrey

The seeds of my Idiot's Guide book that will be coming out in January 2014 were sown in 2008. Not only is that the year that I started eating gluten free, it was also the year I attended a writers' conference in Florida. It was a small group of writers with a good mix of agents and editors. (It has been held sporadically since then and 2008 was the only time I've gone.)

Because the conference was such an intimate gathering, I managed to speak with several editors and agents. I continued to follow up with several of the folks. One of the agents I was in contact with would intermittently float tantalizing subjects for which I would write a proposal.

The Idiot's Guide proposals are not for the faint of heart. At one time, I was working on a television project and developing an Idiot's Guide based on the concept. I researched my heart out, but did not get the book gig.  (The TV gig took me to Texas, but not into viewers' homes.) I tried another time, but lucked out. The subject of that book has been banished from my memory.

Try and try again...

Along the way, a friend submitted and wrote her own Idiot's Guide. This year, when I found out the publishers were looking for a gluten-free author, I figured I'd try again and I called my friend for advice. She asked me some smart marketing questions that really helped frame my approach.

I'm passionate about the subject of gluten-free eating, but I don't blog it and I've yet to pitch a magazine story around it. Another catch: the book calls for recipes. In all my bag of tricks, I have not yet learned to develop recipes. The agent paired me with an experienced Idiot's Guide writer who develops recipes.

Try, try, and try again...

I wrote a chapter, based on the agent's request and the Idiot's Guide information, built out a table of contents, and the rest of the proposal. My collaborator helped me find the tone for writing it and fleshed out a list of recipes. For a while it did not look like we would get the contract. When we did, I continued to pinch myself and tried to think what I'd done differently this time. I'm still trying to figure that out.

To answer some of the questions of readers from my last post:

  • I'm still in the author's review process and the editors have been approachable and easy to work with all along.
  • There is manuscript formatting throughout the writing that becomes second nature after the second chapter.
  • It has been a fantastic project and I'm really excited to see it in print, especially because it is a subject dear to my heart.
Penguin and the Idiot's Guide folks have put a lot of information on the Internet (some of which I linked to above). Take a look and jump in!

I'll keep answering questions, so keep asking them! For next time, research.

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and editor living in southeastern North Carolina. Besides working with words, she enjoys coaching writers and designing books. Recipe development to come!


Unknown said...


Thanks for sharing your path. It was interesting to read how the idea just wouldn't let you go and involved one of your passions. I think those two factors are key in our journey. I think the third interesting and important key you bring up is being smart about researching and developing contacts. Lots of good information woven here. Thanks.

Sioux Roslawski said...

Elizabeth--Congratulations on the book. It sounds like a daunting task, but obviously you're emerging victorious. :)

Margo Dill said...

It must feel wonderful to have jumped through all those hoops and be successful! Please let us know when you do have the book out! :) I think at this point in my life it may all be too daunting, but I find it fascinating to discover how people received their book contracts. :)

LuAnn Schindler said...

Lots of solid information here, Elizabeth. Thanks for sharing!

It seems like the project is large in scope, but I imagine once the writing begins, it's easier to focus on the topic.

I'm interested in reading it! I have several students who are allergic to gluten, and when we are on field trips, it's difficult to find food they can eat.

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