How to Find an Agent for Your Nonfiction Book

By Jason Boog Comment

weiss.jpgEarlier this week, Forbes reporter David K. Randall scored a book deal for his new nonfiction book, Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange World of Sleep. The book will be edited by Jill Bialoskly at Norton.

Via email, the first-time author delivered a piece of simple, but powerful advice about finding an agent. “I found my agent, Larry Weissman (pictured, via), through perhaps the most boring way possible. I collected a bunch of books that I liked that had the same sensibility of the book I’m working on, and searched through the acknowledgments section to see who represented and edited them,” explained Randall.

He continued: “Larry’s name popped up in Michael Schaffer’s One Nation Under Dog, Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run and Sasha Issenberg’s The Sushi Economy, so I knew that he was open to books that unpacked parts of our everyday lives–like running and owning pets. I could see a book on sleep fitting into that sequence, so I sent Larry an email. He wrote back a few hours later and asked for a full proposal, and we went from there.”

Randall continued: “I freelanced for several magazines before I started working at Forbes, so pitching Larry wasn’t all that much different than pitching a feature story (though there was a lot more work beforehand, obviously.) … Larry worked to find editors who would be a good fit for this project, and then we sat down for meetings with several houses.

He concluded: “I’m going to be working with , who is probably the perfect editor for this book. She worked with Mary Roach on Stiff, Spook and “Bonk, all of which have a great combination of humor and science.”

He added: “We haven’t set a publication date yet, but I’d imagine that it will come out in late 2011 or early 2012. Readers of Dreamland will learn that almost all sleep practiced by modern human beings goes against the innate wiring in our brains, and that has some bizarre consequences ranging from sleepwalkers accidentally murdering their in-laws to the growing sub-specialization of therapists who work with couples who can’t sleep next to each other comfortably.”

Randall concluded: “I started working on this book when I learned that I have a sleep disorder and had an unnerving conversation with a doctor who told me that there’s a lot that we still don’t know about the science of sleep. I set out to find out why something that seems so simple is so complicated, and came away realizing that almost everything I thought I knew about sleep was wrong.”