While I have been a professional writer for more than 40 years (including at General Motors Corp. and for more than 25 years at Los Alamos National Laboratory) on hundreds of nonfiction topics, I have never attempted to publish a nonfiction book before.
So, I have approached this situation as I have other professional endeavors in my life: to research the hell out of it. (It’s been my way and it does pay dividends.)
I had considered the Nonfiction Authors Association (NFAA) in the past but was a bit hesitant due to the cost of membership. It does have a limited, free membership—but it is limited.
Why I decided to take the NFAA leap now
Book publishing has changed rapidly during the last several decades (and within my lifetime). The market for eBooks and what was once considered vanity publishing is now mainstream, and the “ask” on authors is much greater than it once was. For instance, agents and publishers want to know what YOU are willing to do to promote your books and you have to spell it out in your book proposal. (No marketing background? Good luck. You better be a quick study and knowing your nonfiction subject itself won’t help you.) Plus, the competition for the attention of agents and publishers is fierce (as it probably should be). And let’s not forget timing. Many an idea has tanked because the timing wasn’t right.
Given that I’m ramping up for the book America’s Biggest Miscalculation (as promised), I decided to take the plunge and join NFAA at a higher level than free to see what it had to offer—including accessing an online writers’ conference (for not much more than the yearly membership fee) that took place during three days in May.
[Since I’m now paying for all of these efforts out of my retirement pocket, I’ve have had to allocate my funds carefully. (Just so you know. I spend $100/year alone so you don’t have to see advertisements on this blog. I respect you and don’t want to waste your time with ads popping up in ways I can’t control.)]
NFAA has lots to offer. I will also say that Stephanie and her staff are outstanding. [For the record: I paid my money just like anybody else (no quid pro quo), but I am happy to promote people and organizations that I’ve found helpful with no strings attached.]
A metric system podcast?
A subject that came up several times throughout May via NFAA was podcasts. I’ve done lots of interviews so potentially recording one isn’t that big of an issue (I also have a professional AV background, so I know it’s lots and lots of work on the “production” end to do it seamlessly and well) but given the metric system project’s unique footprint, I question the ROI (return on investment) of such an endeavor.
Moving forward, I think my better bet is to try to get interviews on preexisting podcasts and see if I can get away with not having to hire someone to place me in those venues. (But it’s good to know those services are out there.)
One potential podcast that comes to mind is 99% Invisible. I don’t know if it’s considered a “gold standard,” but it sure is fascinating and I might be able to get my foot in the door.
Dear readers: Can you help identify appropriate podcasts for me to reach out to?
Are you aware of other podcasts I should engage with that are based on science or care about “breakthroughs” (even though we stare at this problem every day without seeing it)? If so, please send your ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org and help me by telling me why you think it might be a good fit for the project. (I can’t promise I’ll respond individually, but I’ll consider every submission.)
Lots of ideas flowed from the Conference
Frankly, I found talking to folks in the field during NFAA’s “Ask A Professional,” with one-on-one conversations, almost priceless.
Speaking with Jenn T. Grace was amazingly helpful. It’s important that you understand that these conversations don’t necessary lead to sales for the professionals involved (though some will pitch their services—be advised) so they are primarily volunteering to help new book authors and/or make sure they don’t miss a stellar opportunity that might present itself. I consider that a fair exchange.
Not only did Jenn offer insights during our, 15-minute-limited call, but she was kind enough to brainstorm with me for an additional 30+ minutes after the conference was over.
Big kudos to her.
These discussions prompted an astounding number of of ideas for me to mentally absorb, brainstorm about, and then try figure out how to leverage them to further the book project. If I want to do it right (and not piss my time or money away—or yours) I have to think about a lot of things in the right way.
Proof of concept
The thing that dawned on me is that I have to develop a “proof of concept” for the project. Frankly, that should be true for ANYTHING that’s big/important and you want others to buy into.
The problem I’m confronting is: Just how do I get buy in for a concept that basically shut down in this country back in 1982 when the federally appointed U.S. Metric Board dissolved after its funding was pulled under Reagan?
So, this is how I encapsulate my proof of concept for this project at this time*:
I’m competing for resources (time, money, attention) so that’s what I need to do—but with your help. None of this works without your help.
Part II of this entry (that I’ll post next week) will include how I view my work on the project’s proof of concept and why I think “Show me, don’t tell me,” is so vital to understanding, well, pretty much anything legitimate, and how important it is to base your work on substantive, verifiable, and external/independent sources.
I hope you’ll sign up for notices of new posts and share this information as you feel appropriate.
The more interest I can show in this subject, the easier it will be to “sell” to the publishing gatekeepers and you can help me in that way, right now. Thanks!
* 6/12/21 Note: Based on a comment I received after posting, I wanted to better explain what I mean by a “proof of concept” for this project at this phase. (See the big quote above.) I am not questioning the use of the metric system as viable for the U.S. Just whether there might be a large enough, receptive audience to get to the stage mentioned above. This is an initial, but massive step forward.