Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Work Begins on a New Book

Below: A topographical map of a section of Montana wilderness. There are more big road-less tracts of wild lands in this country than most people can imagine.

I've recently signed a publishing contract for another book, and will begin work on it as soon as I have finalized the table of contents and structure with my editor. I'm keeping quiet for the most part regarding the subject matter of this project, at least until I'm further along in writing the manuscript. I'll just say that it's a work of informative non-fiction, timely in light of recent and current events and circumstances in this country, and something someone else was bound to write sooner or later if I had not thought of it first.

I came up with the idea back in April, my thoughts wandering while doing some mindless repair work and painting on an old house. Although the specific idea for the book materialized that particular day, I had often thought along similar lines about how I could put together some of the useful knowledge I had gained over the years while seeking out the wildest possible places to go backpacking, kayaking and canoeing. With more than twenty years of poring over National Forest Service and other wilderness area maps, and then trying to make my way to the emptiest blank spots on them, I knew there must be some way I could make what I had learned available and useful to others who might not have the time to do their own exploring.

After hitting on the idea for the structure of a book using this information, I quickly put my thoughts down in outline form and began searching on Amazon to see if there was already something in print that would compete too closely with my new book. There wasn't. Amazon.com is a great resource for quickly searching books in print. It is also extremely useful for searching supporting titles that help show a new book idea's viability. I found lots of such titles that were selling well and began work on a book proposal. The proposal went together quickly, and consisted of the usual overview and market analysis, author bio and expanded table of contents, or chapter-by-chapter outline. The sample chapter would come later, as I was in a hurry to get query letters out and get a feel for the idea's reception among book publishers.

Knowing this would be a title aimed at a national audience and with the potential to reach a lot of readers, I began my search in the Writer's Market for independent commercial publishers who had previously published works related to the topic. Although three of my previous books have been published by University Press of Mississippi, this project would not be right for their catalog, nor would they likely have the distribution capability to reach the intended audience.

The premise for the book proved viable when I quickly received requests from three publishers to see the complete proposal. I was already working on the sample chapter, but now had to really put in the hours to rush it to completion. When it was finished, the proposal was almost 20,000 words long, a fourth of the length of the completed book. The publisher who ultimately bought the manuscript made an offer in less than a week of receiving the proposal. The acquisitions editor for this company said that this was a book they had been looking for, and he wanted it with only a few minor tweaks to the content I had outlined.

The whole process, from idea to signed contract took place in less than two months - far faster than anything I've experienced previously in the world of book publishing. Another thing I'm excited about with this publisher is that they intend to publish the book within six months of receiving the manuscript. I've promised to write it in six months as well, so that means it will be available for sale in one year.

I'll certainly post more information here about the project when the time is right. The publisher, an independent press located in California, will also likely announce the book sometime in the fall, as they begin pre-selling to the bookstore chains in advance of going to press so they can determine how many copies to order on the first print run.

In the meantime, I have to set myself on a fairly rigid schedule of research and writing. The hardest part will be figuring out how to condense all the information I have available on the topic down to a 300-page (75,000-words) manuscript.


  1. This sounds facinating. We're looking forward to reading it.

    Ben & Syl

  2. I'm sure it will be an amazing book. Way to go Scott, you are a very talented writer.



Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.