Dear Readers: I did it again. I've got another book contract with W.W. Norton & Company for another edited book about practical uses of EMDR. People have been asking how that happened. Here's what you do:
1. Come up with an idea for a book that people would want to read.
2. Make an outline and write one chapter. Make the chapter as perfect as you can. You are trying to show your publisher that you know what you're talking about; you know how to write; and you will be easy to edit.
3. Read everything you can find online about non-fiction book proposals--at least 3 articles, if not more.
4. Go to your bookshelf and look at the books. Pay attention to the publishers. Which ones publish your kind of book? Make a list. Order it according to who you think would do the best job with the best distribution. If you don't have a big library at home, go to the University Bookstore, or cruise the Amazon.com or Mentor Books website.
5. Check out the publishers' websites. They may have specific guidelines for the book proposals. Write a book proposal for the first publisher on your list. The proposal should be slanted towards who and how many people will buy your book, thus making money for the publisher.
6. Don't send it!!!! First, call the publisher and ask, "Who is the editor for the kind of book I'm writing? Can I speak to that person?" Make sure you talk to that person. Explain your book, succinctly, and ask them if they want to see your proposal, and when. If they want it, write a cover letter, gather your proposal and chapter and send it directly to that person.
6. Practice those self-soothing techniques that you teach your clients.
7. Often, you'll hear something back from the editor fairly quickly. Ask when the editorial board meeting happens. On that day, you find out if it's a go, unless the editor turns it down before.
8. If one house turns it down, you get to ask why. It might be because it's not a "fit" for what they do. Or they hate it. Or mostly they think it's not going to make them money.
9. If you do get turned down, go to the next publisher on your list, and do it again.
10. It's a good idea to have people look at your book proposal before you send it. Typos are deadly. So is droning on. Make it snappy and to the point.
11. Don't give up. J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter books) got turned down by many editors and publishers before she got published. (I wonder about the suicidal ideation of the people who turned her down.)
12. Use contacts. If you know someone who has a publisher, ask them to put in a good word for you. If a "big name" in the field likes your project, have them write a note, or mention them (with permission, of course). Don't be afraid to network. That's how business works.
13. Don't expect to make money, if you're writing for therapists and you're not a "big name." The publisher has to pay for the editor, the copy editor, the office people, and for the office, printing, and distributing your book. You don't get much until after all that is paid for, then you still don't get much, unless your book really takes off. (Financially, I've made about $6 per hour for the work I put into EMDR Solutions, a "successful" book.) You are more likely to make money on your book if you write a self-help book. There are more clients than therapists.
14. Don't be the editor for an edited book unless you enjoy telling people what to do. (I hear that I'm whatever Enneagram # that is "the Boss".) You have to genuinely like people and be willing to correct them and to keep them on task. Some writers will follow the chapter guidelines and do everything on time. Some can't or won't. In the course of editing the last book, I took dictation and then put someone's chapter together. I edited another chapter over the phone, line by line. I walked someone through every reference. I made people credit other people in their references, when they didn't want to. And I used death threats, judiciously, on one person to get them to finish the chapter. Also, don't be the editor unless you really like words. Rewriting sentences can be like working a crossword puzzle- you have to find the write combination of words to fit the space. And be correctable. Your copy editor will not agree with every comma you put in.
I had a secret weapon in the editing process. My mother, Elly Welt, is a magnificent writer, and taught fiction writing for many years at various universities. She went over every word in every chapter with me. It's a better book for it. She's promised to do it again for this next book, after vowing that she wouldn't. I'm blessed.
15. Be clear about your motivations and your abilities. I wanted to help clinicians help more clients. I wanted them to know the great stuff that I've figured out to do and that other people have figured out. I wanted to make a readable therapy book. Signing books at the conference was a high point. But, hearing that the book fulfilled its purpose and helped people do better therapy has been the biggest payoff.