10 Things Editors Look for in Nonfiction

Olympic gold medalGot a terrific nonfiction project you’re trying to sell? Wondering if you have what it takes? Here are some signs of potential future success as a nonfiction author:
 
1. You’ve previously written a book that was at least mildly successful… maybe something like The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
 
2. You have a recognizable name. For instance, Bradley Cooper. Or Oprah.
 
3. You are currently a top candidate for President of the United States.
 
4. You have recently won several gold medals in the Olympics. In a sport people care about.
 
5. You have come up with a life-changing, magical method of organizing people’s stuff. And it involves talking to your stuff.
 
6. You are the founder of Microsoft.
 
7. You are the…. what’s that? you don’t like this list?
 
(Hey, Bill Gates might be reading this blog, you never know.)

 
Okay fine, here’s a list that might help you a little more.
 
10 Things Editors Look For in Nonfiction
 
(The dead serious version.)
 
1. Established platform (built-in fans and potential bookbuyers).
 
2. Expertise and/or credentials in the subject area of your book.
 
3. A new and exciting idea, with a terrific title. (Yes, they do exist.)
 
4. A fresh take on a familiar idea. (How many parenting books do we need? Make yours uniquely compelling, and it’s possible we’ll need at least one more.)
 
5. A strong writing voice that compels readers. Yes, the craft of writing counts, even when your message is primary.
 
6. Felt-need takeaways that matter to the reader. Answer the question: What will I get out of this book? What’s in it for me?
 
7. A sellable concept – something people can’t already get for free elsewhere. This can be a tough one considering everything that’s on the Internet.
 
8. An author’s availability and commitment to playing a strong role in the marketing process.
 
9. A concept that could birth logical, sellable ancillary products, should the book take off. (Study guides, DVDs, specialized editions, etc.)
 
10. An author who is already famous (at least in his/her niche or subculture), or knows the right famous people who will offer endorsements or write the foreword.
 
How many can you check off your list?

 

Utterly Original: A Rant

“To my knowledge, nothing like this has ever been written. Ever. It is utterly fresh, mine and complete.” That was a line in a query I received. It’s hard to explain how this sounds to agents and editors who get pitched everything under the sun, are typically well-read, and are aware of what’s going on […]

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Winners!

Chuck Sambuchino and the Writers Digest team have chosen the three winners of the Worst Storyline Ever Contest 2.0. Here are the winners, and their winning Worst Storylines. Drum roll please…   Linda Hofke After his wife leaves him, an old, bald, former 80s rock star goes on a quest to reunite with his first […]

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The Introvert’s Guide to Conferences

woman hiding behind book

Okay, so you notice there’s no shortage of advice out there about how to make the most of a conference. But what about those of us who are introverts? It can be even more difficult for us to navigate these social situations. Oh, how we envy our extrovert friends! Are there any special tips for […]

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The Worst Storyline Ever Contest 2.0

guide to literary agents 2016

Guest Blogger: Chuck Sambuchino, editor and writer for Writer’s Digest, and host of the Guide To Literary Agents blog.   Here’s Chuck:   September 2015 sees the release of three of my new books, the 2016 Guide to Literary Agents, the 2016 Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market, and the anti-clown humor book When Clowns Attack: A […]

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5 Things To Do Before Hiring a Freelance Editor

Self Editing For Fiction Writers

More writers are hiring editors these days, whether they’re going indie or just making sure the manuscript is polished before submitting to agents and publishers. If you’re a newer writer, unpublished, here are some things I think you should do before spending your hard-earned money on a freelance editor. (1) Get objective feedback. It’s best to have […]

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And to Whom Should I Reply?

I can never understand why so many writers have websites and/or blogs, but do not have their email address or a “contact me” link easily visible. It’s a frequent source of frustration for me. Why would you bother putting yourself out there without giving people a way to contact you?There are two circumstances in which I come […]

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Create a Compelling Book Title

I’ve been coaching several of my clients through the process of coming up with a good title for their book, so I thought I’d share my tips with you. Let’s start by acknowledging a few things. The publisher is usually responsible for the final decision on title, and in the query stage, it’s not that […]

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How to Write an Author Bio They’ll Remember

Sometimes it’s hard to believe how difficult it can be to write about yourself in a bio—after all, you’re a writer! But I understand it’s not as simple as that, so here are a few tips to make it easier. Write your bio in first person for query letters, third person for most other purposes including proposals, book jackets, […]

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What the Heck is Content Marketing?

Paper and pencil

I’m always talking with authors about marketing their books and growing their platforms. It’s a challenge for most writers, who are constantly trying to figure out the formula for gathering more fans (i.e. potential book-buyers).   While writers typically don’t love the idea of marketing their books, ironically they’re more suited to it than many other […]

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Your Elevator Pitch

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You are standing in an elevator and have two minutes to tell someone about your book. Today we’re going to talk about crafting that one-sentence summary, also known as a logline, a hook, or a one-sentence (elevator) pitch. This is not your book’s tagline! What: About 25 words that capture your novel, memoir, or non-fiction book. Why: To get someone interested […]

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Thick Skin: The Key to a Writer’s Survival

How many times have you heard the new-writer’s advice: Develop a thick skin. You’d think this would be even more of a requirement for an agent. It’s good advice for anyone who’s visible on the Internet, frequently giving their opinion on things. So all in all, you probably think I’d be a person with a thick […]

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OMG! What if B&N Closes?

Man freaking out

“The report of my death was an exaggeration.” So said Mark Twain in 1897, and I’m wondering if Barnes & Noble might be saying the same thing right about now.   Over the last week, an article by Michael Levin has been making the rounds, causing fear and trembling among certain groups of authors and […]

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Nobody Writes Good First Drafts

Crumpled paper

I spend a lot of time working with my clients to edit and revise their proposals and manuscripts. I give notes and suggestions for improvements. Sometimes I take them through draft after draft, until everything seems just right.   I know it’s tiring for them, and sometimes frustrating to be pushed to go over it […]

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