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Seeking advice on pitching a non-fiction film production book to publishers

Hi all. I'm looking to pitch an idea for a non-fiction film production book to UK publishers but I'm looking for some advice on how to do this, particularly from anyone with direct experience.

I've researched some publishers who may be interested in my pitch but I've not contacted anyone yet. Some seem to ask for an initial submission inquiry email and some ask for a lot of information immediately, like chapter details and marketing plans.

The specific area I'd be writing about can be presented in several different ways, most likely tailored for specific publishers' readerships.

Are there any Shooters who have pitched non-fiction film books to publishers who can offer any tips on best practice in this area? I'm an experienced, full-time film/TV journalist but I've not had a book published and I don't have an agent.

Drop me a line at nick.goundry*at*gmail.com.

Thanks, Nick.

  • Member Dan Selakovich (and humble apologies to Dan if I misspelled his name) has at least one successful factual film related book published, and I'm certain if he doesn't see your request here, he won't mind a message.

    As I recall, book piracy hit his sales really hard, almost overnight, so that might be a real concern for you too.

    8 months ago
  • I'd look to sneak in sideways. Because the main gate is where the gatekeepers hang out.

    As a journalist get a commission to write an article on "Non Fiction Author, what you need to know about how publishing works".

    Interview all the people at publishers who make those decisions.

    Publish your article.

    Then call them all back to pitch your project :-)

    8 months ago
  • Thanks for those responses. Marlom, I think I'll probably take a more direct approach, but there's always the indirect option. Can anyone else offer any thoughts?

    8 months ago
  • Hi Nick, (Thanks for the plug, Paddy!), I was in a bit of a different boat. I wrote a book on how to build your own camera rigs; dollies, cranes, stabilizers, etc. BUT I published it myself, originally. Back then (around 2003) POD was expensive and just grabbing hold. So I did actual print runs. So instead of making a small royalty, I made about $30 a book. And it sold like hotcakes until it was pirated. I then did an expanded 3rd edition to compete against the 2nd pirated edition, and let Focal Press take it over. They'd been after it for years, so it was easy.

    As for your question, different publishers look for different things. The first question you need to ask yourself is how is your book different than every other book on the subject? You need a good hook. Before contacting anybody, figure that one out.

    Next, you'll need a chapter by chapter breakdown. You don't need to have written these chapters yet, but they'll want to see them.

    You also want to write a sample chapter or two. They want to make sure you know how to write.

    Finally, let's say you're pitching to Focal, or any of Taylor and Francis imprints (Routledge is another one). Make damn sure you are submitting to the correct editor!! Since Taylor and Francis does technical books, which includes a shit ton of film books, I'd start with them or one of their imprints. But don't submit to the medical editor! I'm sure you can find the correct editor on their website.

    There are also publishers that specialize in only film books. Find out who they are and submit to them as well. But don't shotgun it. Wait for a reply from your first. If they reject it, move to the next.

    The thing about technical book publishers is they are more likely to consider your book than, say, a slush pile of novels at Grove Press. They are used to getting submissions from filmmakers, college professors, and the like.

    Lastly, if you're accepted, it can take a year to 18 months to see it on the shelves once you've completed the manuscript. Every now and again, Focal sends me books of other film authors to see if I can find where they fucked up. That takes time for their authors to read and comment on someone else's work.

    I'll leave you with this: have you considered offering it as a self publisher on Amazon? If it's successful there, a publisher will pick it up. (but you might say 'no' because your royalties will be MUCH higher than a traditional publisher). The only reason I let Focal take mine over was that the piracy hit me really hard. It just wasn't profitable any longer by the time you pay your corporate fees, warehousing the books, etc. Plus my heart just wasn't in it. But now, ebooks and Print on Demand is fucking awesome. You don't have to do anything but promote your book.

    Now if it's really popular, what a publisher can do for you is translations. Something you can't really do on your own without great expense. My rig book was just translated into Chinese, which is kinda cool.

    Hope this helped.

    8 months ago
  • One more thing: advances from publishers are extremely low now. Don't expect more than a few grand (in dollars). Thanks, piracy!

    8 months ago
  • Thanks for that Dan - some interesting pointers there. Assuming I can find an interested publisher, the ideal situation would be to get some advice on the right way to approach my subject, as there are different options depending on the preferences of different publishers.

    One other thing. My first instinct would be to contact publishers with a brief, 50-word pitch and ask if they're interested to read a fuller pitch with chapter break downs and everything else. Is that the right approach or should you just email the full thing immediately, effectively unsolicited?

    8 months ago
    • There's a middle ground - a couple of sample chapters to show you can write, as well as headings. My suspicion is that 50 words is probably enough to sum up what about your proposal is original/likely to sell, but without some sample writing, they'll just have to ask you for a writing sample.

      Out of interest, do you have a good unique angle? I've bought various technical texts over the years and tended to be quite specific where the author shows specific inside knowledge and experience.

      8 months ago
  • Yes, Nick, that is the right way to go, a letter of inquiry. There are tons of resources on the net for writing that letter. Follow their advice. And like I said, have a good hook for YOUR thing. There are tons of books like this on the marketplace. Before you have your letter of inquiry, I'd make sure you have a chapter written and a chapter breakdown with subheadings or a short description of what that chapter is about. If you don't have that ready to go, they'll think you'll take forever to write the book, and probably not be interested any longer. Again, get it to the right editor. If they want something specific, they'll let you know.

    8 months ago
  • Thanks guys. I have what I think is a good angle (that can be either very academic or more mainstream with lots of industry anecdotes) but I'm going to keep that to myself until I've done some more research into the competition. I very much appreciate the advice.

    8 months ago
  • An updated question here, perhaps for Dan, but for anyone who can offer advice. How do you find out how large a potential readership there is for a book idea? My thinking has been to try to find out book sales for for other production titles, but this information doesn't seem to be readily available. Other sources have suggested finding surveys into the number of film fans likely to buy a film production book in the next 18 months, but again it's tricky to pin down. Bottom line in that many publishers ask for a measure of the potential readership before they commit to a book idea, but I'm too sure where to start with working that out.

    7 months ago
  • A proper, specialist publisher should be the one telling you the sales estimate for their sector, not asking for it! How bizarre! They're the ones with other similar titles and sales records! Maybe get your first chapters and structure sorted then talk to Focal or whoever, forgetting the others? After all, there's only a few actual publishing companies with a shed load of imprints (brands for sectors).

    Alternatively, you could self-publish through Amazon/Lulu print on demand, or just pay to get a thousand copies printed and sell it yourself - if it sells well, publishers will find you (and you'll get a better deal). Nobody likes taking risk, but if you're‚Äčprepared to stand a couple of grand of print costs, you can start selling direct, and if you sell all thousand, there'll be a publisher wanting to talk.

    7 months ago
  • That's ridiculous. Who's asking that? As I said, publish it yourself. Keep all the money. Promote it on film forums. The best way to do that is to not tell people you have a book, but give them excellent advice with a link to your site after the advice.

    7 months ago
  • Thanks for that feedback. I think it actually sounds pretty reasonable for a publisher to ask the size of your potential readership, but that's from reading a lot of online advice columns and sample pitch letters that state you need to bring the audience to the publisher. BUT, I think it's perhaps more common from publishers who cover a broad range of subjects, rather than specialist publishers.

    7 months ago
    • Maybe I'm old, but in my day, that was the publisher's job.

      7 months ago
  • Hi Dan. It sounds as if 'piracy' has cost you a few bob. It seems frustratingly unlikely to such as myself that the 'authorites' = police etc - cannot identify the pirates and then take the necessary steps to identify (one assumes) the existing 'rules' to nick them. But then you've done the probable gnashing of teeth bit. It would be interesting to know what you've done (assuming something is possible) already. Over here just this week our health service IT systems were hacked and closed with (surprisingly modest) bribes to 'unhack' them and this on a huge level. And it seems there is nothing that can be done about it. There's got to be a conspiracy theory of some description here. Could make a movie.

    7 months ago