“Do you have any advice on writing a controversial, non-fiction book?”

I had a reader send me a message about book writing after he purchased and read my recently released book, Smart and Sexy: The Evolutionary Origins and Biological Underpinnings of Cognitive Differences Between the Sexes:

Dear Sir

Surely you get a lot of correspondence such as this, so hopefully you won’t mind if I begin by thanking you for your book (I wrote the first review on [trademarked website name]) and for the subreddit. It was good to find a place where the rationalism that breaks the taboos of Western society is not tainted by the emotional vitriol of simple hatred or conspiratorial explanations.

If you are willing to offer me some advice with regards to writing a non-fiction book it would be gratefully received. I am not an academic, so I could not hope to write something similar to your work. However I wonder if I might publish a shorter work perhaps of a similar length and style to ‘The Manipulated Man’.

Having looked into publishing non-fiction a year ago, the advice seemed to be consistent: Write a book proposal, find an agent interested, hope they find a publisher. Agents are looking for accredited academics, or public personas with a media presence, willing to endure media appearances to promote the book. None of these things applied or appealed to me. I certainly did not want to be the regressive left’s piñata.

I was aware that there would be no money in writing the book, and given the controversial flavor the truth has these days I saw no personal benefit alongside a fair degree of personal risk. Knowing the West cannot be saved as the values it defines itself by are what has caused its downfall, I thought there was little point attempting to publish a book that no one would read, that would change nothing, and many might hate me for writing.

Circumstances have changed for me in the last year, and having read your book I would like to contribute a work that might be of use for people and civilizations that come after me.

It is always nice to be appreciated.

He has given me some more specific details in later messages and we have been having an on-going conversation. That isn’t so relevant in general. However, I think that sharing my experience in a general way might be helpful for others considering whether or not to commit to a big project like writing a book. Here is my generalized response with respect to my experience with writing a non-fiction book:

As far as my own experience, I don’t think it was typical. I will elaborate a bit, but your mileage may vary. You might also look through my interview with amerika.org since I talked about my experience and motivation there too.

I am not, nor have I ever intended to be, a professional writer. Life is funny sometimes. I intentionally took the bare minimum of English or writing classes needed for my degree, which if memory serves is a total of 2. Freshman and sophomore English. This has a strong bearing on how valuable or necessary these sorts of classes are. Probably not very. Obviously, there is an innate IQ threshold that comes first, but given that practice makes perfect. In my experience, getting better at writing is mostly about practice with reading and writing. Commenting on reddit was where I got most of my practice with writing. Reading requires finding and reading good writers. If you are smart, you will know them when you see them. (At the risk of sounding cliched, I actually really love the style of writing in books, fiction and non-fiction, from the 1800s and early 1900s. There is a quality of style in there that is absent today).

The book was a work of passion that I felt needed to be made and I was doubtful anyone else would take the time to do it. In the beginning it was nothing more than a slowly increasing collection of notes and citations used to argue with people on the internet. It wasn’t until it really started to grow that I seriously considered turning it into a book. Once I decided this, I more consciously started collecting data and citations.

Early versions of the “book” were nothing more than (1) comments I had written, mostly on reddit, that were related to the topic, (2) Study information (titles, authors, journals) that I wanted to read that I thought might be relevant and (3) bullet point notes from studies I had read completely and listed what I thought was important. As I went through (2) to generate more (3), I usually got anywhere from 5-15 more studies at stage (2) for each one study I took notes on and got to stage (3). Every study was like going down the rabbit hole in Alice in wonderland. Each one was a real chore in and of itself, and it was very daunting to think about how many more needed to be read both with certainty and in potentiality based on previous expansion rates.  I persevered, however, and after years of effort finally got all the studies at stage (3) because over time I eventually got every useful one listed.

I won’t lie, this was a very, very time consuming process and I don’t believe I ever want to do it again. Thinking back, I am still a little amazed I was able to stick it out. It takes a lot of dedication to go through. Fortunately, what most people wish to write probably won’t require anywhere near this level of research (300 or so peer reviewed science papers) so I wouldn’t get too hung up about that. This was probably very particular to this and only this book.

At this point, I launched wholeheartedly into (4) the “conversion” phase as I like to call it. Basically, in order to be a book, all the randomly organized data, commentary, thoughts, what have you, has to be written as a flowing narrative from beginning to end. Narrative isn’t exactly the right word since that has more to do with fiction, but it conveys my meaning here suitably well. Going from A to B to C had to make sense and feel natural. Comments and posts had to be rewritten or adjusted to fit in with the structure, bullet point data had to be pulled together based on topic, bullet point data then had to be written in sentence/paragraph/section form, transitions from one topic to another had to be smoothed over, and even the order of different topics had to be considered strategically. Several whole sections were moved around as this process went forward and I realized better organization structures.

Keep in mind that (1), (2), (3) and (4) were all happening pretty much at every point except in the very beginning and the very end. The relative focus on each one adjusted over time from almost 100% (2) and (3) to 100% (4) with (1) just happening randomly here and there based on my mood and morons to argue with. Morons are very, very helpful for providing motivation to work. They are the secret sauce that pushes you forward. If you want to write something, I highly suggest finding a topic that people are commonly wrong about and willing to engage you on. It is a helpful trick to convert the resulting conversations and research into a book. They also might inspire you (because you want to prove them wrong so bad) to go down a research avenue you wouldn’t have considered otherwise.

I found the division into stages of completion to be very useful to actually getting things done. It was psychologically very helpful to know and feel that I had “completed” something, even if only a small part of one stage. It also helped me focus more easily because I would zoom into and only focus on the very particular task at hand and know I would get that neurochemical reward after each “completion.” Otherwise the quantity of things needing doing at early stages would have simply been too overwhelming. I believe any writer could adopt a similar strategy to help them get through the massive project. Take that basic structure and tailor it to your own needs and project.

Like the reader said, a lot of non-fiction writing goes as such: Writer has an idea for a book; he sends proposals to publishers/agents; if interested the parties negotiate a contract often including an advance for the writer; the writer is given a deadline for completion and submits it when ready. Deadlines are both good and bad. On the one hand, you have a timetable keeping you on track and working. On the other, it could possibly limit how much you can include because at the end you just have to have it done and don’t have time to waste looking through things that may not end up being useful.

My book had an unorthodox beginning, so this wasn’t even a considered possibility way back then. Even after I took the possibility of publishing more seriously, I wanted to take my time and research at my leisure when I had time outside of the rest of life to do so. You can just write the book completely at your own pace and then try to get it published, which is what did. In the past that would have been risky because it would really suck to do all that work then never get it published. However, this is starting to change a bit thanks to online self publishing. Now anyone can publish their book without paying any costs up front and without worrying about rejection through this service. Well, except you want to get a review copy to make sure everything looks right which is like 7 bucks, and if you suck at art like me you will need to hire a designer to make the cover. I recommend upwork for stuff like this. [This trademarked website] also has pretty much the best royalty arrangements you can get anywhere including with traditional publishing so if you end up successful you will get paid way more. Best of all, if your content is especially controversial you don’t have to worry about pleasing anyone before making it available to the public.

The catch is that if you go this route you will have to do all the marketing and advertising yourself. That isn’t easy, and it requires a different set of skills than just writing. If you self-publish, be prepared to research and do a lot of work in this area. You will probably want to set aside an advertising budget.

If you go with a publisher, which is what I decided to do, they will work to promote your book for you. They obviously have lots of experience with this, or they wouldn’t be in business. Typically, they also already have a readership base they can make aware of your book. Even if you have a blog like me, I am quite sure that my readership base and Arktos’ only has so much overlap so it is helpful to have access to that community in addition to my own. If you are writing from the standpoint of reaction, then you already have a list of potential publishers who shouldn’t mind the content being controversial in that direction. Arktos, who I went through, Castallia house publishes Sci Fi mostly, but also has 2 non-fiction titles, and manticore press are three possibilities. There could be more, but I leave that to you to research.

At the end of the day, you have to make a decision to self publish or go with a publisher. Both have pros and cons. At the very least, though, it should be a relief to know that even if rejected by every publisher you can still make your work available.

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Smart and SeXy Kindle edition is now available for USD 6.95. Kindle Unlimited subscribers can download for free

Arktos has prepared and made available the kindle version of Smart and Sexy. Obviously this is available at a much cheaper price than the softcover version. However, the softcover version is also at a discounted price of USD 18.48 for the time being. I personally prefer having real paper to look at when I am reading, but it is hard to beat more than a 50% discount at USD 6.95. For those of you who wanted to take a look at Smart and SeXy, but thought it was too expensive, hopefully this option will be more amenable to you.

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