Top Tips for Non-fiction Writers

How to Convert Failure into Success
By Karen Scott

Listed below are a number of tips that will help you get a foot in the door. They are reliable and if you follow them you may be rewarded with a publishing contract.


  • Convert your failures in to success. I have had my first book published (A Writer’s Guide to the Internet) and am awaiting the publication of my second book, The Internet Writer’s Handbook 2001/2 published by Allison & Busby Ltd. Before this I had no previous publishing history, apart from a few articles and a short story. It can be done, but you must be versatile, put on as many different hats as you can. If you write fiction, try non-fiction and vice versa. Use your expertise in as many ways as you can. If you are experienced in a particular field set up a business. Translate all your failures into success by using the experience in positive ways. 
  • Find a gap in the market. Whether you are writing fiction or non-fiction it is not hard to establish that editors and publishers are looking for something original. They do not want repeats or re-hashes but they will immediately jump at anything that hasn’t been done before. 
  • Make sure your subject is big enough for a book. Biggest potential sales are in books on self-improvement, including health, diet, hobbies and anything with a slant towards the how-to genre. DIY, cooking, and gardening are subjects for books that are endlessly popular. 
  • Do not be put off by anyone who tells you that submitting to a publisher directly is a waste of time. My submission was unsolicited and did not end up at the bottom of a slush pile, only to be returned months later with a rejection slip, it was accepted, I wrote the first two chapters, and contracts were signed. 
  • Once you have identified your target market or found a gap in the market make sure your proposal includes an outline, a synopsis and a covering letter. This is standard procedure. The outline includes a working title, and a list of chapter headings with each of the points you intend to deal with in that chapter listed underneath. The synopsis must grab a prospective editor at the outset; it is your sales pitch. Set out the book’s proposed purpose, why you believe there is a need for it, the target market, identify any competition and state clearly why your book will be superior. 
  • Once you have written a proposal then submit it to a selected number of publishers, it is not necessary to submit material to one publisher at a time any more. 
  • It is not necessary to have written the book before you submit it to a publisher; in fact, it may work against you if you do. When I submitted the idea for ‘ A Writer’s Guide to the Internet’ it was intended to cover mainstream publishing and link it to the internet, however Allison & Busby decided that there were too many books currently available about mainstream publishing and wanted to concentrate solely on the internet. If we had written the book prior to submission we would have had to re-write it. As it was we were able to produce exactly what they wanted. While you are waiting for a reply you can of course write the first chapter, a publisher will probably want you to submit a sample of your writing just to make sure that you can write. 
  • Always try to identify a name to send your proposal to; if you are not sure then ring up the publishing company and ask. It is far better to address your submission to a specific person rather than use a broad title such as the editorial department.

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