Fail, fail again. My first book was self-published, which at least has the word “published” in it. My second book technically wasn’t even a book, just a bunch of sample chapters with a cleverly designed (if I do say so myself) cover.
My first attempt at non-fiction was inspired by my wife’s pregnancy with our twin boys. While she read the epic “What to Expect While You’re Expecting” (if you’re stuck on an icy road without snow tires, make sure you have a few copies of this in your trunk) I was at a loss for a guy-friendly read. Most of what I found was deadly dull and clinical or went too far in the other direction, turning the whole pregnancy into a big joke. I needed something in the middle—a splash of the medical, a dollop of humor—I needed “info-tainment” (complete with cartoons, naturally).
This time, I did several things wrong. Before I did any market research or looked into how to sell a non-fiction book, I wrote the damn thing, or at least a lot of it. Turns out, most agents and publishers don’t want a finished non-fiction book, just a book proposal. I could have saved myself a hell of a lot of procrastinating, and some actual writing and drawing time to boot.
Not only that, for about a year, I submitted directly to publishers. I sent a cover letter and a spiral-bound copy of my sample chapters, complete with a laminated, color cover. The height of unprofessionalism. One publisher gently told me the majority of pregnancy books are bought by women, so my strategy of appealing directly to men was…”misguided.”
After awhile, I went the agent route--which I recommend. Quite a few publishers won't even bother looking at "unagented" material. The most promising response I got was “Well, if no one else wants to represent you, call me back.”
How could I refuse? Yet I did. And that’s the story of Book #2.