Writing a book is one of those brain-consuming things. I swear I mention it to everyone (“Could I get a medium dark roast, please, and did I tell you I’m writing a book?”), but of course nobody could be as obsessed with my book as much as I am, so it’s not always obvious if we’re casual friends or the like. So, here are some answers to questions people frequently ask me, to save some time and advice that (though well meant) can be a little frustrating to me.
- Q: You’re writing a book? What’s it called/what’s it about?
The book’s working title is Back Roads, Dark Skies: a Cosmological Journey. I have a webpage devoted to it, but to summarize: it’s a road trip across the United States with stops at a variety of labs and observatories. Those scientific visits and the road trip itself are entry points into the work of modern cosmology, the study of the whole Universe.
- Q: Do you have a publisher yet?
Alas, no. I’ve been shopping the book around to potential publishers since last winter without success.
- Q: Do you have a literary agent?
Yes, I am working with an agent since I’m fairly clueless about how publishing works. My agent was recommended by a colleague who is a successful author, and she has successfully negotiated publication of other writers’ work (lest anyone suggest I hired her from a Craigslist ad or something).
- Q: In that case, why not self-publish or publish as an e-book?
Since I spent a fair amount of my own money traveling around the country for background research, I’d rather not spend any more of my own money to publish the book. Also, despite a few exceptions, traditional publishing houses are still the best way to get a large audience for the book, including public library readers and the like. As for e-publication, I don’t even own an e-reader, so I can hardly expect my readers to. (My own mother and grandmother wouldn’t read it if it was electronic-only, which is a sad lonely thought.) Since cosmology isn’t remotely as popular as erotic fiction (and I refuse to call my book 50 Shades of Dark Matter), I suspect self-publication wouldn’t repay what I’ve already spent on the book.
- Q: Weren’t you stupid for taking the road trip without a book advance to pay for it?
- Q: What happens if you can’t find a publisher?
That I don’t know yet. I have two other book projects in my head, one which certainly is closer to a “normal” popular science book. If Back Roads, Dark Skies can’t find a publisher, I may set it aside temporarily for the sake of writing a book that will actually get published. I’m not ready to give up just yet, though.