In case you haven’t heard, Tenlegs has announced five new online art classes for our Spring semester starting April 29th. Registration is now open and is highly limited! These classes are at 25% of the cost they would normally be listed and offer students direct interaction with industry pros!
Over the next few days we’re going to introduce you to all five of the teaching artists running these classes. Today we’d like you to meet Mike Fillon, who is teaching Navigating the Nonfiction Book Publishing Minefield.
Tenlegs: Tell us a little about yourself and you background as a teacher.
I’ve been a science and health writer for more than 25 years. I didn’t start out as a writer. While working on my thesis in graduate school, I realized I enjoyed translating and writing about complex topics so the average person could understand what made things tick. I realized I enjoyed doing this more than learning about the subjects in my major. As John Lennon sang, “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.”
After complaining to my wife about how much I had to pay the university to write the thesis, she shrugged and suggested I try to get it published. I knew nothing about publishing, literary agents and the lingo of their industry. When I came across insider expressions such as “trade books,” SASEs, slush piles and query letters I drew blanks; I had no idea what they meant. I stumbled, sweated, and failed many times as I figured things out . But, I persevered.
Since those early bleak days, I have written 11 books – most of them on health – but also a book about identity theft, and a biography about Venus and Serena Williams. I’m also the founding Editor-in-Chief of Breakthroughs In HEALTH (BIH), a 100-page national newsstand magazine launched in 2006 featuring the latest scientific research on disease prevention and wellness. I also have extensive consumer magazine, newsletter and Web-based experience writing for consumers and professionals. I was one of WebMD’s first contract writers for consumers, contributing over 150 articles that helped build WebMD’s brand and library. I was under contract for over 20 years with Popular Mechanics, writing hundreds of articles including six cover stories.
I have been more than happy to share the secrets of my successes. I have been interviewed on TV and radio many times, and lectured about writing non-fiction and publishing to advanced/placement high school students and college students.
Tell us about your plans for the content of your course. What will be covered in the class?
How a book gets published is a mystery to most people, and there are many great books stuffed in drawers and getting moldy by authors who gave up trying to get them published. There are countless other books in people’s brains that haven’t even been typed yet because it’s so difficult to figure out whether they should stick a few toes in first or make a swan dive or cannon ball and hope for the best.
Every person has at least one non-fiction books in them, waiting to be told. Fiction? probably dozens! But that’s not the purpose of this course.
Everyone has an interesting life story. And I mean everyone; that is if they focus on what others would find interesting or compelling.
Maybe there’s a book in you centered on a key event; maybe a how-to/ self-help book, or a book devoted to your unique expertise.
But, even the greatest, unique insight that can literally save Mankind can go unpublished if the “query” or pitch is done poorly and elicits yawns instead of salivation.
It’s not my goal to help someone write a great book, but I can save “future authors” a great deal of time and anguish understanding and navigating the topsy-turvy world of publishing.
Why is now a great time to take this class?
Publishing is changing, and changing fast. There are many more possibilities to get books into print- and likewise- many more opportunities for mistakes and regrets. I have a good grip on what is happening now in publishing. While no one has a crystal ball – I certainly don’t – since I am actively involved in the publishing arena on a day-to-day basis, my vision is a lot clearer about this topic than most.
What do students need to have (backgrounds, equipment, etc) in order to be able to take the class?
Students don’t have to be great writers; I certainly am not. All they need is at least one idea for a book they want to share with others and a desire to see it in print.
What should students expect in how you plan to run the class & how the technology is used?
Since they want to write I’m assuming they don’t mind reading. They’ll be expected to complete simple assignments that will only boost their understanding of publishing; read the lessons and formulate questions to help them succeed. Besides my own lessons, I’ll provide them with top-notch resources, and outside reading suggestions. While there are never any guarantees in life, I can assure them that if they’re earnest, they have a great shot at book publishing success.