10 Drafts Later: Making it to Amazon’s Top 10 Best Books!

By - April 16th, 2018

When I began writing Losing the Nobel Prize, I wasn’t sure I could complete it. I had a day job and a family and wanted to have a life. But I also had a contract to write a draft in under 16 months which I thought was insane. The saving grace: I “only” needed to produce 70,000 words.

I sighed a big sigh of relief and dug in figuring that, at a thousand-word-per-day clip, I’d be done in under three months. That wold leave me more than a year to edit, proof-read, and bask in the glory of a completed work.

Oh, how wrong I was!

It ended up taking ten drafts and more than 12 months to write, plus three more to edit. It finally weighs in at nearly 90,000 words and has over 60 pictures/illustrations that, all told, make up the book.

6 things I underestimated:

  • How hard it is to get permissions to historical images such as Hubble’s iconic “VAR” plate, Ansel Adams’ portraits of Margaret Burbidge, and many others.
  • How much work, (and money!), it takes to produce illustrations that explain the scientific ideas I was trying to communicate.
  • How long it takes to edit and proofread and copy-edit a manuscript, even one that’s only 90,000 words!
  • How much time it takes to properly acknowledge the ~300 people who played a fundamental role in the outcome of the book!
  • How much energy, resources, and time it takes
  • How much pride and fulfillment I would feel when I finally held the finished product in my hands — my first book — and found out it was ranked as one of the Ten Best Nonfiction Books on Amazon.com! When I look at the nine other authors on the list (all of whom have authored best-selling books before), I am truly humbled to be ranked alongside them…

4 things I overestimated:

  • The pain of the copyedit process. I was afraid that copyediting would feel like a cross between a proctology exam and an IRS audit. Thanks to the skillful work of the inimitable Allegra Huston, who’s also an amazing writer herself, the process not only wasn’t painful, but I learned a tremendous amount about writing from her. Plus, Allegra being a non-scientist, was able to point out aspects of my explanations when they might possibly confuse the lay reader.
  • How easy it would be to get some permissions, including the full color pictures of the Nobel Prize I use in the “color insert” in the middle of the book.
  • How agreeable my publisher would be to publishing 8 full pages of richly colored photos, and to adding color coded chapters so my readers could “Choose their Own Adventures”, skipping parts they might not be as fascinated with to get to the other stuff they are passionate about.
  • How hard it would be to get “blurbs” or endorsements for the book from almost two dozen of the world’s most distinguished scientists, writers, and thinkers. I’m overwhelmed at how positive their response was and I am forever in their debt for the advice and encouragement they provided!

In all this, I had help from a huge and experienced team at W.W. Norton. I can’t ever repay the fantastic folks at Norton, from my two editors Jeff Shreve and Quynh Do, to my publicity team Erin Lovett and Steve Colca. These are the hardest working people in the business and they exemplify the professionalism that is so rare in today’s cutthroat publishing world.

Now, comes the time when the book goes out in the world and has a life of its own. Look for some “book trailers” produced by my friend, the incomparable director Debra Kellner and some appearances on blogs and podcasts.

I hope my book will have a successful journey, and inspire all those who are on a quest for greatness. My hope for my readers is to realize what really matters, in life or in the lab, is not the golden prize you may (or may not) get at the destination, but rather the connections you make with your fellow travelers along the way. I’m so grateful for the chance to take this adventure with you! Please stay in touch via my mailing list, available on my website: BrianKeating.com, on Twitter, and on my Amazon Author website.


First Time Author’s Surprising Recipe: 10 Drafts + 1 Year of Writing = 1 of Amazon’s 10 Best Books of the Month!

One of the 50-plus custom-made illustrations made by graphic artist, Shaffer Grubb.
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