Book Alchemy
The Secret Library Podcast
#29 Susannah Conway on Creating Non-Fiction Books

#29 Susannah Conway on Creating Non-Fiction Books

Susannah Conway knows how books get made.

Having authored two and co-authored a third, Susannah has seen the process through, from proposal to publication, three times. She shares about the creation of proposals, how the book evolves from idea to finished manuscript, and how different it is working on a written book versus one that is primarily about the images. I left this conversation so inspired, particularly having learned how much leeway there is to let the idea evolve once you get a book deal. You'll learn how the idea for Londontown and for This I Know changed from what she first envisioned to what finally got published, and how her publishers supported these changes. We talk about writing from the middle, the way books change us, and how to give a project space when you still have the rest of your life happening alongside writing.

And for all you journalers out there, Susannah is a huge champion of journaling as the foundation of her writing life, so get a peek inside her relationship to her magical moleskines as she creates books. If you've ever dreamed of a book proposal and wondered what it's like once you've got the deal, this will shed the light you've been looking for.

Show Notes for Episode 29 with Susannah Conway:

  • On writing different types of books - collaborations and alone (1:48)

  • Beginning Londontown and the philosophy behind it (3:00)

  • The trouble with covers & inside working with a sales team (4:30)

  • Photographing London and how locals see the city (5:15)

  • The evolution from proposal to finished book (6:00)

  • Working with a publisher that trusts your vision & the role of the book creator (8:30)

  • Seeing London through Susannah's camera (9:15)

  • Falling in love with Londoners (9:55)

  • Ethics of street photography (10:40)

  • The "real" city vs. the tourist city (11:30)

  • Go beyond Leicester square! How to get a feel for the city (12:15)

  • Making NYC her own and learning to blend in (13:40)

  • The book as an FAQ for the question "Where shall I go?" to cut down on e-mail (14:45)

  • The contrast of This I Know, a book that was primarily written (15:15)

  • The pressure of a book deal and getting the words down (15:30)

  • Writing as a job and work as a commitment (15:55)

  • A book deal from a blog post (16:40)

  • Writing a proposal & figuring out what the book was going to be (17:55)

  • Figuring out chapters, structure and writing (18:30)

  • The challenge of non-fiction and book deals (16:40)

  • Holding the details lightly (19:15)

  • Writing from the middle (19:45)

  • The joy of writing with Scrivener & the pain of tracked changes in Word (20:15)

  • Balancing a whole life outside of writing with a book project (22:40)

  • Editing down photographs for a book (24:15)

  • How much time a project deserves (24:15)

  • Journaling's relationship to writing a book (24:55)

  • Tarot's relationship to creative process & emotional support (27:00)

  • Fiction and tarot's potential guidance (27:15)

  • On writing from personal experience vs. fiction writing (28:00)

  • Choosing to go with strengths in writing & where her writing comes from (29:00)

  • Non-fiction and the desire to feel less alone (30:15)

  • How blogging changed her world and built community (30:45)

  • The vulnerability of books versus blogging (31:40)

  • Being critical of our own work (33:45)

  • Done vs. perfect (34:00)

  • Judging a book by its cover (34:30)

  • Hint on Susannah's next course (35:50)

  • Fantasy reading escapes (36:25)

  • No wireless! (37:45)

  • Book & Ink window (38:30)

  • Books as drugs (39:30)

  • Current gorgeous covers (41:20)

  • Kindle vs physical books (42:00)

  • Forthcoming books (42:25)

  • Self-publishing vs. going with a press (42:45)

  • Working with an agent (44:55)

  • Yearning for a written book (45:55)

  • The platform & what publishers want (46:50)

Show Notes with Links | Sponsored by Muse Monthly

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Book Alchemy
The Secret Library Podcast
Most people believe that books are created in cabins all alone, where authors pound away on some manner of keyboard. Then they hand this masterpiece off to a publisher and it feels very much like it goes down a tube and comes out the other side as a book. By speaking to authors and other book lovers, I'm diving into the mystery that is the book world today.