Non-fiction book panel recap

Do you have a non-fiction book in you? That was the central question behind Saturday’s panel, co-sponsored by our PWAC Toronto Chapter, HarperCollins Canada and the University of King’s College.

Expert panellists included Stephen Kimber, journalist and author of What Lies Across the Water: The Real Story of the Cuban Five, Dean Jobb, journalist and author of Empire of Deception: The Incredible Story of a Master Swindler Who Seduced a City and Captivated the Nation, both faculty members of the University of King’s College MFA in Creative Nonfiction; Jim Gifford, editorial director, non-fiction, at HarperCollins Canada; and Helena Moncrieff, PWAC member, MFA graduate and author of The Fruitful City: The Enduring Power of the Urban Food Forest. The panel was moderated by Kim Pittaway, executive director of the King’s MFA program in Halifax.

The panel was also live tweeted by PWAC Board member Leslie Wu, as captured below:

Kim Pittaway introduces the panel

The @PWACToronto and @kings_mfa Non fiction book event is about to kick off with @kimpittaway introducing the panel. Follow along as we live tweet today’s event. #pwacpanel

How do you know if a topic should be a novel or a magazine article? @PWACToronto member @hmcwriter says she felt that she left too much on the table when writing an article and there was more she wanted to know. Also, can you sell it or not?

Gifford says @HarperCollinsCa is actively seeking women’s voices and diverse authors for non-fiction books. #pwacpanel

We tend to think that we want to be published by a large scale publisher, but there are other ways that are effective and useful, such as smaller academic markets, says Steven Kimber. #pwacpanel

Remember with a book proposal, catch the attention of the editor with a solid lede, research and understanding of how the book will resonate with people, says journalist Dean Jobb. Ask: do I care about this story now? #pwacpanel

Jim Gifford has read over 100,000 proposals in his career and written 2…writing them is harder. He generally knows within the first page whether he will publish the book @HarperCollinsCa. #pwacpanel

Proposals are written in sand: they are meant to convince yourself and the editor you can write the book, says @JimGiffordEd. The proposal is a roadmap that can be followed in different directions. #pwacpanel

Both @deanjobb and @JimGiffordEd agree that writing a book generally takes about two years to write as a time commitment. #pwacpanel

A full house in attendance at Regent Park CSI

Let’s talk money: when it comes to advances, it’s not alchemy, it’s a business. Profit and loss statements and the sales team often determine a range for expected royalties, says @JimGiffordEd. Authors have to decide whether you can and will do a book on that range. #pwacpanel

It’s an important thing for authors to understand what an advance is, says @skimber. Your expenses and time are coming out of that amount, even with tax write offs. #pwacpanel

There’s math to be considered with advances, says @kimpittaway. It can be better to get a small advance on your first book and earn out your royalties than a huge advance which may make it harder to get your second book published. #pwacpanel

For those just joining us, it’s a full house and there’s an active Q and A session happening at the @PWACToronto and @kings_mfa non fiction panel today. #pwacpanel