This is an older post from when my first book was published. Still relevant though…
PRELUDE: As far as I know, the only “brick and mortar” bookstore that carried “The First Brain” is the (sadly not in business anymore) Chester County Book Company. I will forever be thankful to them… It was a great feeling seeing it in a bookshelf there (:-). The physical book is of course available online and as an ebook.
I have thought about the factors that converged to make The First Brain a reality. There were a lot of things that had to happen, but here’s the main 10. Maybe you are thinking about writing a book. I hope this will help you!
1. I took up blogging. I have told you where I got the blogging advice from in this post. It truly was the first and likely the most important factor. It allowed me to gain writing experience and confidence. It also allowed me to test the proverbial waters to see if readers would actually want to read me. And some did! So thank you, faithful readers…
2. I wrote about something I really know about. I know science, I know neuroscience, I know pharmacology, and I know planarians. For the first three, I have formal training; for the fourth, I have practical, direct experience doing research with these critters (and quite a few papers on the subject under my belt). This is not to say that I know everything about these topics, but I knew enough to know exactly where to look to learn about the things I did not know (does this make sense?).
3. I absolutely LOVE the topics above. I had to. It is simply not possible (at least for me) to craft a 200+ page book on topics I do not like.
4. I love to read. An essential trait to efficiently look for the required information! Also, an avid reader gets a sense of how to write well from the really greats of the craft. I my case, I read A LOT of popular science, from Sagan to Dawkins via Gould as well as many others. That said, I have a few select favorites.
5. I inquired academic presses for proposal submissions instructions. Usually academic presses accept proposals directly from the authors, without an agent involved. I don’t have one (yet…(;-)…). I simply took the attitude of “If I do not ask, there is a 0 % chance that they will say ‘yes’…“, and as you know, this attitude paid off!
6. I crafted the book proposal with great care. I treated like a due report to be graded, following the specific instructions, etc.
7. By sheer chance, I met a “coffee shop friend” who turned out to be a senior editor at a BIG academic publishing company. He gave me invaluable advice in navigating through contracts, etc… You see why is a great thing to be friendly and talk to people?
8. I wrote at every possible opportunity. I intended to honor my deadline (I did!) and I adhered to a consistent yet flexible schedule.
9. I had simply awesome people on my side. Once the book was written I was fortunate to count on very talented editors and indexers. Their advice certainly improved the product. Literally closer to home, it is great to have a family that supports you, including my biggest fan shown below (take a look at the book’s dedication and acknowledgments section to see why).
10. I also had wonderful people who helped in many other ways. From the friend and colleague who came up with the book’s title to the friend and fellow blogger who read the whole thing and gave me invaluable advice; my brother, who drew many of the figures and a series of colleagues whom I interviewed over the phone or email. I also was blessed with people who sent me unique materials that simply enriched the book or helped me in other ways, as in translating Japanese papers into English. To all of you, thanks!
11. As George of the Jungle would say: “I’m just lucky I guess…” (:-D)
The are certainly more factors, which will be incorporated here as I articulate them. Tell me what you think!
With my biggest fan, when the book was published (2014). Credit: Baldscientist.
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