Today's guest post is by Bella dePaulo, a social scientist and author of Singled Out, How Singles are Stereotyped, Stigmatized and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After, on the journey to her latest book contract. There's much to be said for traditional publishing, but it does takes a long time. Visit her blog at www.belladepaulo.com.
Last January was when I first decided, with lots of input from my agent, on the theme of my new book project. It is about the many creative ways that we are living now that Americans are spending more years of their adult lives unmarried than married, and only about 20 percent of all households are comprised of mom, dad, and the kids. These are huge changes from decades past. (See below for more on the theme of the book.)
Now, 17 months later, I will soon have a book contract. Several publishers made offers, and as soon as I sign a contract, I’ll say more about the publisher I chose.
Are you wondering what took so long? To have enough material to write a compelling proposal, I traveled the country and conducted 21 in-depth, in-person interviews. I also invited people to answer some questions online about their own living arrangements, and more than 350 have done so. Then I wrote a draft of the proposal, got feedback from my agent, and made revisions. Then another draft and more revisions, and so forth, until I had an 87-page proposal. Then off it went to editors at various publishing houses.
More on the background and theme of this new book project:
For well over a decade, I have been writing about single life, mostly busting myths, fighting singlism, and raising consciousness. Only in the past few years have I started to recognize that single people of all ages have been changing the contemporary landscape with their innovations in living arrangements. They are leading the way in finding and creating community, whether they live alone, share a home with other people, or live in a place of their own within an intentional community. Many single people, especially those who are single-at-heart, love their solitude, and they are finding ways to have time and space to themselves.
It is not just single people who are looking for new and meaningful ways of living. Everyone would like to have just the right mix of time alone and time together, of sociability and solitude. The voices of all sorts of innovators will be included in my book, including couples living together or apart, single parents, members of extended or multi-generational families, and even people in nuclear families who have found alternatives to those detached single-family homes in the suburbs.
The first time I wrote about the topic in a direct way was probably in the article, “Not going nuclear: So many ways to live and love,” for my Living Single blog at Psychology Today. It had the tag line, “Increasingly, households and personal communities are not anchored by couples.” The topic resonated with readers, who shared their some of their stories in the comments section and emailed me with others.
Then I was invited to write about that topic for the opinion page of the New York Times. The article was, “A new American experiment.” Right away, more than 100 people posted comments. Later, the Times interviewed me for a story about four heterosexual men who had been living together for nearly two decades. In the most recent issue of the AARP Bulletin, I was quoted in a story about boomer women living together.
One of the publishers making an offer on the book had sent the proposal out to reviewers. I especially appreciated what one of the reviewers had to say:
“[The book] begins with a simple but profound insight: Today people around the world are not only inventing new ways to organize their personal and family life; they are also experimenting with new ways of making places for themselves, from homes to neighborhoods, communities to cities. DePaulo’s concept of ‘lifespace’ perfectly captures the object of analysis…”
I think I like that even better than what I said in my proposal:
“[The book] is about the lives we envision and then build around our places, our spaces, and our people. It taps into Americans’ obsession with real estate and with the popular best-places-to-live features, but goes beyond that relatively narrow focus to incorporate the people who are important to us and our own psychological relationships to places and spaces and people. It recognizes that a place to live is also a way to live, and that we have never had as many choices as we do now.”
What’s the title?
Are you wondering why I have not yet mentioned the title of this new book? It is because I don’t know what it will be, and probably won’t for a while. The working subtitle has been “Finding our place, our space, and our people.” The main title was originally “The arrangements of our lives.” My agent and others liked “Friend City,” so the proposal was submitted under that title.
Moving forward with the project:
I will be spending the next 9 months doing more interviews and writing the complete first draft of the book. Then there will be revisions and more revisions, then the book will go into production and probably appear in print in the spring of 2015. If you have ever wondered why so many people are into self-publishing these days, this is one of the reasons – it can be much faster than traditional publishing!
I have a limited travel budget and I hope to use it to talk to a diverse set of people who do not all live on the coasts (where I did most of my interviews for the proposal). I’d also love to include an international component but that may be more than I can afford.
If you already completed the online survey sometime in the last year and a half and want to remind me of your interest (or let me know that you are no longer interested), feel free to send me an email, BellaDePaulo [at] gmail.com.
Many thanks to all of the people who have already been so helpful. That includes all those who have been offering encouragement along this long road to a book contract.