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Question
I'm thinking about writing a book about drugs.  I believe the title would be Legalizing Drugs in the US.  I feel there have probably been a number of books already written on this subject.  I also feel that there is a ton of information about this subject on the internet.
Only problem, could be plagiarism involved.  I started writing about 6 days ago, got some info from the interent.  Then wrote to some of these internet websites.  A person wrote back to me this morning and claimed that books of this nature do not sell very well even if you are an experienced writer.  Any thoughts?  Thanks Steve Zimmett

Answer
Obviously the subject goes against popular thinking, which means one of several things can happen. It could hit a controversial note, catch a publisherís eye, get published, get a great deal of publicity, and sell many copies. A few controversial books have done so. At the opposite end of the spectrum, it could be too controversial and not unique, and no traditional publisher will want to touch it. How can you guess which it will be? Read on.

Hereís the thing to remember: Only one percent of all manuscripts written ever get traditionally published, but people keep writing books, and publishers keep buying them, so people who are passionate about their subject and diligent about polishing their writing and editing skills are still being successful, even in a tough market. Self publishing means you take all the risks, but you could reap the benefits if it becomes a hit.

The reason traditional publishers want a book proposal for nonfiction books is simple: Proposals make the author research the market and estimate the size of the market as well as the size and toughness of the competition. My suggestion is this: Instead of writing the whole book, write a proposal. Get a book on how to write a book proposal and perform all the research a proposal requires. Study the size of the market. Find other books on that subject and find out how they fared. Donít listen to one personís vague comment. Go to the publishers of similar books and ask for sales figures.

See what, if anything, you can do to make your book unique, better than others on the market, and more appealing to a broader audience. If you canít come up with a unique selling point, you may decide not to write the book, or you may decide to self publish a small quantity and test the market yourself, if you have an outlet for your book.

As far as the issue of plagiarism is concerned, research statistics and information is available to us all. You may use information as you see fit. Plagiarism refers to how you use it; that is, you plagiarize if you use the exact sentences and paragraphs other people have written or if you try to take credit for someone elseís idea, claiming it is your own, original idea. As a general rule, though, if you take research information and write it in your own words, you are not plagiarizing.

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Bobbie Christmas

Expertise

Book Doctor Bobbie Christmas owns Zebra Communications, a book-editing firm in metro Atlanta. She not only edits books, she also helps writers power up their prose to increase their chances of success. She is the author of Write In Style (Union Square Publishing), a creative-writing guide that won three awards.

Experience

Bobbie has spent more than 40 years in the publishing and communications industry and has run Zebra Communications, a book-editing company, since 1992. The editor of many publications and periodicals, she has worked with book publishers and trade magazine publishers as well as working in marketing communications and corporate communications.

Organizations
Past president, Georgia Writers Association; past vice president, South Carolina Writers Workshop; charter/lifelong member, Florida Writers Association; Southeastern Writers Association; Atlanta Writers Club; Society for the Preservation of English Language and Literature (SPELL); International Guild of Professional Consultants

Publications
Write in Style (Union Square Publishing), A Cup of Comfort (Adams Media Corporation), A Cup of Comfort for Friends (Adams Media), A Cup of Comfort for Mothers and Sons (Adams Media), Haunted Engounters (Atriad Press), Remembering Woolworth's (St. Martin's Press), First-Time Home Buyer magazine, HomeBusiness Journal, Apparel Industry Magazine, Edge Magazine, Atlanta Jewish Times, Time Travel Australia, American Writers Review, Points North, That's Entertainment, Atlanta Parent, Agnes Scott Alumnae Magazine, etc.

Education/Credentials
Journalism: University of South Carolina plus four decades of working in publishing, marketing, communications, advertising, newspaper and magazine production, book publishing, etc.

Awards and Honors
First Place, nonfiction, Georgia Writers Annual Contest, 2005; First Place, education, Royal Palm Literary Award, 2004; Best in Division, Georgia Author of the Year Awards, 2005; Finalist, Best Books 2005, USA BookNews Third Place, nonfiction, Georgia Writers, 1999; Nominated for Georgia Author of the Year, 1998; plus many other awards

Past/Present Clients
Capital Books, Sourcebooks, Olin Frederick, The Writer's Machine, Russell Dean & Company, Outskirts Press, and hundreds of writers.

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