Do you have an idea for a nonfiction book but you’re not sure what goes into finding the right publisher and writing the proposal? In this post, Dennis Peterson, a W2I 2018 attendee, shares the backstory for his forthcoming book, COMBAT! Lessons on Spiritual Warfare from Military History.
CAROL: Please tell us about COMBAT! that recently went under contract with TouchPoint Press. What is the backstory behind writing it? What was your inspiration?
DENNIS: I’m a history buff with a special interest in military history and a student of the Bible. Those two interests merged as I saw parallels between the Christian’s daily struggles and military history. I thought that held possibilities for a book.
But I wanted my book to go beyond the typical treatment of Ephesians 6:10–18; there’s so much more to spiritual warfare. My book discusses parallels of chain of command and control, communications, logistics, weaponry, strategy, and tactics. It surveys the major military engagements of Israel’s history and modern warfare.
CAROL: That sounds fascinating! What qualifications prepared you to write this book?
DENNIS: I’m a Christian, study God’s Word, taught history for nineteen years, and have been published widely.
CAROL: What did you include in your proposal to TouchPoint?
DENNIS: The proposal included a synopsis, a statement showing my book’s uniqueness, my credentials, a market analysis, an annotated table of contents, a statement concerning documentation, a blurb about my artist, and three sample chapters. I sent out five initial queries simultaneously, but I sent a complete proposal package only to the publishers who requested one.
I researched various publishers to identify those that were most likely to publish material like mine. After several rejections from other publishers, TouchPoint requested a full proposal and later the complete manuscript.
CAROL: What attracted you to TouchPoint?
DENNIS: I liked the fact that they refused to consider manuscripts that contained what both of us consider “objectionable elements.” Only a short time earlier they had entered the Christian marketplace, and I figured that they might be “hungry” for new writers with a Christian message. They said that they published history and military as well as Christian living, and my book combines all of those topics. They are small, and I figure that they will have more time and motivation to promote my book than a large or mid-sized publisher would. I had studied their web site and the books they’ve already published, and I liked what I saw.
CAROL: Was the manuscript complete when you queried?
DENNIS: I had essentially finished writing the manuscript before I submitted it. I knew that if publishers were interested they would request sample chapters. Not knowing which chapters they might request, I decided to write the whole thing before submitting.
CAROL: What is next in the publishing process? Do you expect it will be edited?
DENNIS: I’m proofing the manuscript, writing captions for the illustrations and photos, and waiting for the artist to finalize his illustrations. Then I’ll scan and send them plus the completed manuscript to the publisher. I don’t know the level of edit the book will receive. I always aspire to write so well that the editor has an easy time of it.
CAROL: Can you tell us about some of the illustrations? Is the illustrator also doing the cover art?
DENNIS: The illustrator I hired is creating nine watercolor illustrations of such things as military vehicles, armor, weapons, and other equipment, both ancient and modern. I also plan to include several photographs of historical military subjects.
The illustrator will not be doing the cover art; the publisher will do that. They asked for my input–what I did and did not want the cover to show–and requested any photo possibilities. I did a mockup cover to show what I envisioned. Not sure if they’ll use it, adapt it, or come up with something entirely different.
CAROL: Can you give us an example of one of your lessons?
DENNIS: Although I can’t provide the actual text, one of the lessons in my book deals with logistics, or the supplying of troops with food and equipment. In the Christian life, the individual “soldier” must eat properly and regularly on spiritual food. That includes the encouragement of communion, fellowship, and prayer with others.
CAROL: Do you have a pub date?
DENNIS: I’m not yet sure of the publication date. The publisher says “within 18 months of acceptance.” My experience with my first book indicates it might be sooner than that. The publisher’s editor is scheduled to begin work on my manuscript the first week of August and has scheduled two weeks. I suspect she has a built-in buffer and am hoping that she will get through it faster than that. I’m hoping that the entire production process will be completed by November or earlier. But who knows?
CAROL: How did your conference experience at Write2Ignite in 2018 help you move forward in your writing career?
DENNIS: The most important thing the Write2Ignite conference did for me was to motivate me to take a chance and submit my work. I struggle with the fear of failure. No one likes to be rejected! The conference sessions inspired me to submit despite those fears and to leave the results with God.
CAROL: We all struggle with that! Thanks for this interview, Dennis, and best wishes on your forthcoming book. I think it will be one that will inform and inspire adults and teens.
If you have questions about how to write a nonfiction proposal, leave them here and Dennis will do his best to answer them. Look for a review of COMBAT! next year.
Dennis L. Peterson is an independent author and historian and a former editor and educator. His first book was Confederate Cabinet Departments and Secretaries (McFarland, 2016), and he has had articles on historical, educational, and religious topics published in many journals and magazines, including The Writer, Blue Ridge Country, True West, Smoky Mountain Living, and Nature Friend. Find out more about Dennis’s books and the writing process on his blog.