I attended the UK Conference on Science Journalists yesterday. I want to say from the outset that – as well as being an excellent opportunity to hone my Teeline shorthand skills – the entire day was extremely useful, both in terms of my development as a writer and as a professional.
I’ll write up a few of the sessions over the next few day, but the one that got me most excited was the session on writing a science book.
Chaired by Anjana Ahuja, herself a published science author and journalist, the session brought together an agent (Peter Tallack of http://www.sciencefactory.co.uk/), Richard Lea of the Guardian Books Desk, and best selling Author Carl Zimmer, who joined us by video link.
First, some of Carl’s thoughts on why he wrote his first book. the most important driver is passion. At Discover magazine, Carl was researching stories about evolution for long features, but he wanted more space and time to develop the stories.
.@carlzimmer features are great but with a good book, you’re in someone’s head for 3 weeks.#ukcsj
Your platform: showcase any links you have with societies, publications, organisations or events that might help you sell the book. Publishers (and according to Carl Zimmer, US publishers in particular) are very keen on authors that bring an audience from social media with them. Carl thought this might have gone too far when he received the first copies of his new book, Science Ink. The “belly band” had not only his twitter handle but the url of his Facebook page too.
Blogging as an entrée also received this caveat:
Having a blog that has 300,000 followers, but a rubbish book proposal, it won’t work!!! #ukcsj
According to Richard, Bill Bryson’s book still beats all-comers in the science market place, but shortly behind we have: – The New Scientist Question Collections (Why Don’t Penguins’ Feet Freeze and so on)
– The God Delusion (which he argued is not really a science book…)
– Bad Science by Ben Goldacre
– Brian Cox’s books on cosmology and quantum physics.
The take home message was that you have to be passionate about what it is that you plan to write. I think the passion I have for the book I’m in the process of writing may have slipped out!
Comment at #ukcsj talking about debunking the idea that research isn’t done into swearing is because it’s taboo is ‘a fucking amazing’ idea