By Amy Karon
At AMWA's recent national conference, attendees chuckled and scribbled notes while authors and former journalists Alisa Bowman and Debra Gordon dispelled myths and offered practical tips on breaking into the book business.
The two know the market. Bowman spent several years as an editor at Runner’s World magazine before her husband negotiated her first book contract during a magazine gala at FAO Schwartz.
“I loved my job at Runners World,” said Bowman, who has since ghostwritten* and co-authored seven New York Times bestsellers. “But it was apparent to me that I could make much more money working for myself.”
Gordon’s titles include When Sex Hurts and The Idiot’s Guide to Type 2 Diabetes, and, with her husband, a fellow enthusiast, Wine on Tuesdays. “We managed to do it with our marriage intact,” she grinned.
Read on for Bowman and Gordon’s advice on taking nonfiction health and medical books from inspiration to publication.
Tip: Books published under your own name often pay little.
In traditional publishing, Gordon said, authors receive only about 15 percent of book sales, and that first goes to repay the publishing company’s advance. “The vast majority of authors never receive royalties,” she added. “Write a book because you want the experience and exposure.”
But self-publishing and e-books have gained popularity as potentially lucrative alternatives. Authors pay a self-publishing company for services they choose, such as copy editing and printing, Bowman said. Because no agent or publisher are involved, the author earns 100 percent of the sale price of every book and can still sell it on Amazon.com.
Another way to make money by writing books is to ghostwrite or co-author with someone else, an accepted practice in the publishing world.
“Most of the bestsellers out there are written by people like Alisa and me,” said Gordon, adding that she just signed a $70,000 contract for a book on mobile health.
To break in, tell clinicians and academics you can help them write books for consumer audiences. If you see a study you think can make a book, contact the authors and pitch the idea.