Dan on phone

2. Where the idea comes from
The editor's job

It starts with a phone call or an email ...

I find out about a new book when the phone rings or an email arrives. It's when an editor contacts me to ask if I'd like to write a book.

This is one of the biggest differences between authors who write fiction, and authors who write non-fiction.

If I wrote fiction, I'd come up with the idea myself, write the story, send it off to a publishing company, keep my fingers crossed ... and wait. I'd be waiting to hear if they liked my story or not. If they liked it, they might say they were going to make it into a book for everyone to read (great news!). But what if they didn't like it? Well, in that case, my story would never get made into a book (bad news!).

But that's not me! Non-fiction is the exact opposite of fiction. It's the editor who comes up with the idea, not the author. The editor works for a publishing company. Once he or she has decided what book they would like to make, they pick an author to write it – and that's when my phone rings or an email arrives.

John on phone

The brief

The editor for Journey of a Book is called Dan. He works for a publishing company and he knows lots of authors. It was Dan who picked me to write the book. Dan phoned me and talked about the book. He already knew a lot about it.

This is what Dan told me:

  • What the book title was (Journey of a Book).
  • How many pages it was going to have (32).
  • What age range it was for (7 to 11).
  • What size the pages would be (195mm x 220mm).
  • How many words each page should have (between 50 and 70).
  • That it would be illustrated with photographs.
  • That it must have a glossary and an index.
  • When it had to be written by (the deadline).

These were my instructions from Dan. A description like this is known as a 'brief'. It helped me to imagine what the finished book would be like – all before I had written a single word of it!

Does that mean I can start writing straightaway? Or have I got to do something else first – something that every author of every non-fiction book has to do? Turn to page 3 to find out what happens next.

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