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Thinking Like Your Editor: How to Write Great Serious Nonfiction and Get It Published
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Thinking Like Your Editor: How to Write Great Serious Nonfiction and Get It Published

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  423 ratings  ·  55 reviews
Over 50,000 books are published in America each year, the vast majority nonfiction. Even so, many writers are stymied in getting their books published, never mind gaining significant attention for their ideas—and substantial sales. This is the book editors have been recommending to would-be authors. Filled with trade secrets, Thinking Like Your Editor explains:

• why every
Paperback, 288 pages
Published September 17th 2003 by W. W. Norton Company (first published February 17th 2002)
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Douglas Wilson
May 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: wordsmithing
A lot of good, sturdy advice here.
Charlene Smith
Sep 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
If you are going through the nightmare of writing a book proposal for a literary agent read this book first, write half the proposal - read it again; and now, just as you think you've finished the proposal, go through this again ... hopefully you have dog-eared some pages, or underlined relevant sections.

And good luck!
Tim Williams
Sep 09, 2021 rated it really liked it
This is a very helpful book about what it takes to get narrative nonfiction published by a trade press. While the authors emphasize trade presses, however, their advice is useful for academic publishing also. I particularly value the discussions about writing proposals and tables of contents. Regarding the latter, I learned that editors classify chapters: "context," "narrative," and "narrative-breakers." This classification is not surprising--and it is intuitive--but I have not considered precis ...more
Apr 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Thinking Like Your Editor is the best book on writing serious nonfiction that I have ever read. It is very useful when writing a book proposal. In addition, the chapter "Using Narrative Tension" is thought provoking and confidence inspiring. I highly recommend this book. ...more
Mandi Gray
May 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020-reads
I found the book helpful overall. Will recommend to any fellow academics who want to write a trade book.
Feb 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
So many helpful bits of advice! It is readable and a great guide to not only thinking like an editor, but thinking about argument altogether.
Aug 31, 2009 rated it really liked it
A good, carefully thought-out approach to designing a book project, writing a proposal, writing a nonfiction book that will sell, and selecting an agent and/or a publisher. The author's many years of experience as an editor and an agent are very evident, and the book is written with style, humor and grace making it a fun read. A sample proposal at the end gives you a good idea of what a winning proposal looks like. Unfortunately the book is slanted towards academic publications, biographies and ...more
Mar 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is an extremely useful book. The author's intelligence and good sense ooze out of every page. Highly recommended for anyone who wants to write serious nonfiction, or gain some insight into how agents and editors think, or learn how to make their own writing more interesting and readable, regardless of whether publishing a book is the ultimate goal. ...more
T.R. Locke
Oct 19, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So far this book is very surprising. It actually is much like my book for Hollywood, only it deals with the publishing industry. Although I've already experienced many of these issues first hand, it is fascinating to see that, with a little research, I might have been better prepared on my first foray into the world of books. So far so good. ...more
Text Addict
Feb 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Excellent and reassuring. Some of the most basic advice is no different from what I've read online, but the expansions and explanations make it all clear - and so much less intimidating.

At least for people who, like me, are more intimidated by ignorance than by information.
Jay Wigley
Jun 14, 2012 rated it liked it
Super practical. Which is fine if that what you're after. I wanted more. ...more
David Sasaki
Dec 26, 2012 rated it liked it
There are multiple ways to disseminate an idea. Like so many others, I've found the blog post to be my greatest vehicle. Over the past ten years I have published over 1,000 such posts, of which at least half set out to express an opinion, make some argument, or test out a hypothesis.

It's not the only medium — and it's certainly not the most compelling — but the blog post is the most frictionless channel to transmit complex arguments that build on the works of others. No, my writing doesn't show
This book takes readers/writers through the publishing process for trade (as opposed to academic) "serious" nonfiction: writing a proposal, putting together a submission package, contacting agents and/or editors, writing the book, and getting yourself "published well."

The chapters on the publishing-industry, how does this unfamiliar process work? stuff are clear, helpful, and nonthreatening.

The part on the writing process felt really weak to me, perhaps in part because I've taught writing for a
Aug 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: non-fiction writers
There is a lot of great advice in here for writers of non-fiction, no matter what stage of the process in which you currently find yourself. I am very glad I read it and took several pages of notes. This book is geared more to the perspective of trade non-fiction, which is a useful counter-point to the previous book I read by William Germano which focused more on academic books. If you're not sure which way to go, reading several books will help you get a better sense about what's different abou ...more
Apr 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
This was recommended to me by an agent (not the one who wrote it :D) and I found it incredibly valuable and insightful.

I've done plenty of research on how to write a nonfiction proposal, and I can honestly say that a lot of information in this book was fresh and new to me.

I found it a little challenging to read at times because it's very dense and wordy, and it doesn't always "flow." But that just meant I had to slow down and reread parts of it. And honestly, I already planned to reread it any
Oct 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book offers the author of serious nonfiction a lot of information about what editors (and agents) are looking for. It offers useful suggestions about how to present your work in a proposal and writing sample. I read it in small doses in the mornings as inspiration before going to my desk to write. Although some of its suggestions about finding an editor and marketing a book are outdated, most of them are spot on. For me, its value lay in the ideas it generated about the argument I am making ...more
Rhys Lindmark
Dec 14, 2020 rated it liked it
A bit dated (written in 2003).

But overall solid advice on what editors do. For me the key learnings were:

- Editors care about sales. You need a highly defined audience that will buy your book the moment they hear about it.
- Your serious nonfiction needs to be read in order to get the ideas across. To make sure it's read, make it fun.
- And, clearly define your question then go through your book slowly answering it. Your audience will follow you because they want to know the answer.
Eszter Hargittai
Aug 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a very helpful and accessible book about nonfiction writing. Although the focus is on book writing, much of the advice applies to article writing as well. For book writing in particular, there is lots of focus on how to write a good proposal, which is a crucial part of getting a book contract.
Fantastically helpful. If you're working on nonfiction book-writing, do yourself a favor and read this book. Even if you're not working on a book, you'll likely find good writing tips here. Highly recommended! ...more
Jan 06, 2021 rated it really liked it
Some of the info has dated - technology has changed a lot since this book was written. But the overall content of this book still makes it a useful resource. I’ll have to let you know later if the advice worked for me.
Danell Jones
Dec 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Absolute must-read for anyone writing--or thinking of writing--nonfiction.
Apr 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Great, practical advice.
Aug 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: on-writing
Excellent guide to thinking through your book proposal, especially for "serious nonfiction." Most helpful in thinking through the approach to a topic and framing of a book. ...more
Jason Kanz
Oct 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
Very useful, particularly the information on what to include, and not include, in a submission proposal.
Aug 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
The kind of book I should probably find at a used bookstore sometime and buy to keep, as it will come in handy once I finally get to the point of trying to write and publish history books. But this is also good just to read through ahead of time, as it will get the wheels turning in your head about how nonfiction books are put together and why some are successful and others, not so much. There are a lot of factors covered here that I hadn't thought of before, like the fact that a book isn't just ...more
Jun 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: self-help
Thinking Like Your Editor is one of the few books I bought in graduate school that is just as useful then as it is today as an associate professor and a published author. Rabiner says it took her 8 years to deliver under her contract, which is awesome because a) it makes me feel great about my delivery time and b) it made for an awesome book. It’s so concise and honest about a form and style of writing that no one ever teaches you. The two most important lessons—it’s about the audience and the s ...more
Josh Liller
Sep 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing
As an aspiring nonfiction author, I read this as a recommendation from Kevin Levin, a Civil War blogger and published author. It provides what seems like a pretty good overview of the writing and publishing process, specifically for those producing mainstream "trade" nonfiction. It's also a generally enjoyable read.

It is now 14 years old so some of the information may be a bit out of date due to changes in the publishing industry during that time. Also, if you read this book and realize your boo
Nov 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A very informative book! She (and I say she, even though there are really two authors--they explain the reasoning behind their decision to write it as though there was only one author) has been on both sides, as an agent and as an editor, and as a result has all sorts of insights on getting a non-fiction book out there and published. I think the advice on getting published, from finding an agent to understanding how and why bookstores place books where they do in the stores, is more helpful than ...more
May 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Thinking Like Your Editor is full of helpful advice on submitting one's work for publication - specifically, on crafting a book proposal. It is directed toward authors of serious. but not academic, nonfiction. Two particularly helpul sections focus on identifying the audience and central question of the book and identifying and constructing the book's argument. Additonally the book is entertaining and full of relevant examples. Here's hoping the advice works! ...more
Marlana Portolano
May 22, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
This is a helpful book for nonfiction book writers of all kinds, particularly academics who want to write a well-informed nonfiction book on an area of expertise, but for a general rather than university press audience. The advice on writing the book proposal -- before writing the book -- are, I think, worth reading. The idea is to think carefully about audience before you even start to plan your book.
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