Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Catching-Up, Part One

I admit I feel a little guilty. I haven’t been posting here and the truth is there’s been a lot of good stuff to write! But I’ve just been swamped. Tonight, though, is my night to play catch-up. I’m going to break this up into parts, so that if you don’t want to read it all in one shot, you can just read the parts you want.

I guess I should start with the February round-up of materials received. Forgive me for being blunt, but please stop sending me material. I am currently closed to new submissions, yet in February I got thirty-three new queries. Interestingly enough, a couple of sample chapters that I requested so long ago that I’d already tossed the original submission letter also showed up...but weren’t what I’d hoped for, and got declined. I also rejected forty-seven total queries.

Now, since I’m closed to new submissions, you may wonder what I’ve been up to. Well, I’ve been finishing-up notes on several projects and making submissions! I currently have 224 active submissions of numerous projects through the world. Yes, the world. For example, there are some foreign editors who take submissions directly from the US. And plenty of UK editors. I submit throughout the world to editors directly or through my foreign agents, though that 224 doesn’t include the submissions my foreign agents may have outstanding.

Here’s a sampling of some of the projects I’m working on:


This is the true story of MSGT Jack Lynch, USMC, and his unique team of men and one woman that he put together to conduct harrowing, ridiculously dangerous convoy missions in Iraq. Like some real-life video game, this team mounted up and went out with one mission: Find and kill the enemy.

While other units routinely sought the safest routes and allowed armed militia to stroll by with impunity, Jack Lynch and his Maji Knights, took the offensive. This is action-packed combat, coupled with an underdog team that had to fight the higher-ups every step of the way for equipment and personnel in order to execute their mission in Iraq. This is a book America will find enraging, not at Lynch and his team, but at the government and the military commands who did not give these incredible men everything they needed.

From Lynch’s first day in-country, when he responds to a bombing at an Iraqi recruiting center, to the final days when senior officers conspired to break-up and weaken the team, readers will be drawn in and left amazed by the qualities that Lynch exhibits. His descriptions of the bombing bring home the everyday realities of the war in Iraq in a way no television footage ever could (only a horror movie director would dare to put on television what Lynch saw).

This is a nonfiction DIRTY DOZEN in many ways. The key difference is that most of this team fought to be included. No condemned men here. In fact, some of the team extended their tours in Iraq just for the opportunity to join the team and take the war to the enemy.

I think this book has all of the elements of a best-selling story: great characters, underdogs versus authority, life-threatening action, and powerful, evocative writing. And I trust more than one editor will also and hope to get some action on it soon.


This new proposal encompasses a book that will tell the story of Maurice Hilleman, the most successful scientist in history, and also the story of how nearly all of the major vaccines used today were discovered and the consequences, both positive and negative. Paul Offit, MD, as author of the acclaimed new book, The Cutter Incident (Yale), and Chief of Infectious Diseases, as well as Director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the Maurice R. Hilleman Professor of Vaccinology and Professor of Pediatrics, at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, is preeminently qualified to write this book. The book will be written for the general public, but will have strong course-adoption potential. From readers of such best-sellers as The Hot Zone to more serious works such as the author’s own recent book, The Cutter Incident, this book has the potential to reach readers from the corner Barnes & Noble to students in health policy, health administration, medicine, ethics, law and more.

We already have about four publishers showing strong interest in this book and I’m tentatively going to hold a closing on this in a couple of weeks.

A closing, for those not in the know, is sort of like an auction or just a “due date” by which I’m hoping all publishers will get back to me. In a perfect world, I’d be able to do that for every book, but the realities of the business are that you really only want to do it for books that have interest from several publishers. The hope, of course, is that once they all know there’s competition, they’ll be willing to bid more for the book. On the flip side, though, I’ve seen editors come into auctions with low-ball bids, in hopes that there won’t be that much competition and they’ll be able to get away with paying less. Unfortunately, when some publishers are faced with the question of buying a book at auction, they will choose not to bid, assuming—perhaps wrong—that the book will go for more than they’d be willing to bid, so why bother? Strange logic, eh? I guess we’ll see in a couple of weeks just how strange the publishers considering this book might be.


Few books have made me want to pack my bags and head north as much as George Erickson’s TRUE NORTH. Check out these great reviews:

“ entertaining romp through the north, through history, through science, through astronomy, through ex­ploration, through many interests and activities; a romp with something for everyone. ...a joyous voyage of ... aeronautics, exploration and history all wrapped up in one entertaining, readable book written with humility and humor by a pilot with the capacity to dream, and the ability to make the dream come true.”—Canadian Flight

“One of the top 100 books of 2000.... There are moments in True North when one suspects that Erickson made his wish [for omniscience] and it was granted. We’ve had far too few books like True North....”—Globe and Mail

Erickson is the spiritual descendant of the great explorers he writes about. A brave adventurer in his own right...he can also weave a good story.”—Chicago Tribune

“Talk about an ultimate adventure.... One of the top ten outdoor books of the year.”—Outdoor Canada

In this new book, George heads back north and once again gives us a wonderful look at the far reaches of Canada and Alaska. It’s the perfect “armchair adventure,” and I hope to see it in stores for next Christmas.

Just to give you a sense of what I do all day, STONEWALL & THE MAJESTIC TWELVE was submitted by email to about forty-five editors in the UK and the UK, and mailed to two. THE STORY OF VACCINES went to more than forty. And TRUE NORTH II went to about twenty in hardcopy and another twenty by email. Figuring out who gets it is a time-consuming process. An art, more than a science, I think. Getting the proposals edited, formatted, and whipped into shape is an even greater time-consuming process. Each of these proposals has well over a dozen hours of my time invested in editing, rewriting, or reformatting. In some cases, I sent several rounds of notes to the author(s), asking for rewrites. Then I had to read the revised. In the end, it will hopefully all be rewarded with a deal to publish the book, but I admit that’s not always the case. Hence, now you perhaps understand why I sometimes describe my job as “professional gambling!”


1 comment:

ADM said...

I wonder if TRUE NORTH II contains all of those barren landscapes that we saw in films like ATANARJUAT, The Fast-Runner (which was a Cannes sleeper, Norm Cohn, nice guy) and EIGHT BELOW or in books like HIGH LATITUDES by fellow Canadian scribe Farley Mowatt? I'm getting the imagery also of another book I read once (which for the life of me I don't know why wasn't optioned) called LEFT FOR DEAD by Buck Weathers.

Great title: evoking powerful imagery...STONEWALL AND THE MAJESTIC TWELVE.

Almost like: The Three Astonishing Lives of Dorothy Z.

My $0.02.

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