Monday, March 12, 2007

How to Write How To Books

Today I'm interviewing Brette Sember, an author of a wide variety of How to type books. She tells us how she comes up with her subjects and how she specializes in such a wide range of areas.

1). Tell us about yourself: I majored in English in college and went to law school. I didn't enjoy the practice of law very much, so I left after my second child was born. Writing was what I was meant to do and I enjoy my work every single day. I write about a wide variety of topics - pregnancy, business, credit, divorce, senior rights, gay rights, and I even have a textbook coming out. I also freelance and write for many magazines. I teach a book proposal class and enjoy presenting at conferences. I'm an expert for several web sites and also do copywriting.

2). Tell us about your book: My most recent release is The Essential Supervisor's Handbook: A Quick and Handy Guide for Any Manager or Business Owner (Career Press). I co-authored it with my husband who is a VP at a communications firm. It's this terrific, accessible book designed to help new and experienced managers communicate with their employees, create a productive work atmosphere, and move their own careers ahead. It's filled with tons of lists and checklists and I think it's a very useful guide.

The book I am writing right now is called Unmarried with Children (Adams Media) and I am really excited about this book. It's a comprehensive guide for parents who have never married - whether they are an unmarried couple, single mom or dad with no other parent involved, an unmarried couple that broke up, gay couple, and so on. This book is SO important because a home with two married parents is now the exception, rather than the norm (only one in four households have this) and a recent study predicted the numbers of unmarried parents is going to continue to skyrocket. So, I'm writing a guide to help these parents navigate things like paternity, child support, cohabitating, living apart yet parenting together, and being creative about how they solve problems in their family.

3). You have such diverse titles, from pregnancy to seniors to divorce to gay medical rights. How do you come up with your topics? The key for me is to look for a need. Since I write self-help and how-to titles, I look for information people are looking for, or a need that hasn't been filled. Even though a topic like pregnancy might be something that has been covered a lot, there are specific groups who need specific information, such as plus-size moms - so that's why I wrote Your Plus-Size Pregnancy. It's the same situation with the Unmarried with Children book. There is a gigantic group of people out there having and raising children outside of marriage and until now, everyone has ignored them. I want to help them understand their rights and offer them some support.

4). Your next three books are topics dealing with children, are you narrowing your focus? No, that's just how it's turned out. Parenting is definitely one of my interests and areas of expertise, but I'm not limiting myself in anyway. I've got a lot of different proposals out there about a lot of different topics, so I continue to explore a lot of areas.

5). Do you have an agent, if so how did you find them? Yes, I have an agent. I'm actually on my third. With the first two, I looked for someone who handled things in my interest areas. With my current agent, I was more selective. I wanted someone who would help me focus on my career and decide where to take it. I don't recall how I got her name, but I did intensive Google searches about her and followed up on the references she gave me. I interviewed her over the phone and asked some very hard questions. I've been very pleased with my choice. She's become a great friend as well as my trusted agent.

6). What is the most challenging aspect of writing a book? Selling it! I love coming up with ideas, writing proposals, and writing the book. Convincing a publisher to buy it is the biggest hurdle - my agent is so important for this. Publicizing the book after it's out is also hard work. It's a bit of a challenge for me since I have books in a wide variety of subject matters, but it's something I take seriously and work hard at.

7). When is your best writing time? Why? Mornings. I actually would love to start earlier than I do, but I like to take my kids to school and then I walk every morning, so I don't usually settle down to writing until about 9:30. I get a lot done between then and lunch.

8). What advice would you give to any other writer when writing a book proposal? This is something I talk a lot about in my class. A book proposal has to be much more than just an outline of your idea. A book proposal is a sales tool. Your job is to convince a publisher to buy it and the proposal is the material that will convince them.

9). Tell us one writing quirk about you that no one else (yet) knows. I love purple pens! It drives my husband nuts because I'm always writing checks and signing important papers with them, but I adore them. I painted my office purple, since purple is a color that inspires creativity and the purple pens just seem to go with that.

Brette's books can be found at any bookstore or through the major online outlets.


Blogger sylvia c. said...

This is a great interview!

I really enjoyed this post, and I, too, like to write with purple pens!


Sylvia C.

8:46 PM CDT  

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