Would you like to write a book?

You may be interested to know that, as of RIGHT NOW, we’re accepting proposals for future 33 1/3 books, to be published in 2010 and 2011. Please read the information below carefully – I’ve tried to outline the process as clearly as possible.

You can send in one proposal, about one album. Multiple submissions will not be accepted. Draconian, but true!

The “one book per band/artist” rule no longer exists. Therefore, we’ll consider proposals for books about any album that hasn’t already been covered in the series, or isn’t already under contract.

You can find a list of titles already published in the series here, and the books listed as “Coming 2008” and “Titles Announced for 2008 and 2009” are also off-limits. On the “Unknown Status” list, none of these are under contract any more (some of them never were!), with the exception of the books about Kate Bush, Lucinda Williams, and the Clash. So, just to be clear – if you send in a proposal for a book about Pink Flag or Loveless, it’ll be ignored. But if you send in a proposal for a book about The Basement Tapes or Chinese Democracy or Kid A, we’ll absolutely consider it.

The deadline for submission of proposals is midnight on Dec 31st. So you have until the last minute of 2008 (New York time). Any proposals received after that time (and I’ll be watching – drunk, but watching) will not be accepted.

If you have written a book for this series already: we love you, but we’d like to give others a chance. Spreading the wealth, kinda.

If you have submitted a proposal before, but have been turned down, you’re very welcome to have another go.

Regarding your choice of album: this is entirely up to you. I don’t, sadly, have the time to answer emails asking “would album X stand a better chance than album Y?” – so use your best judgment here. My advice would be this: we are looking to sell some books. That’s the bottom line. If you are absolutely convinced that we could sell 4,000 or 5,000 copies of a book about your chosen album, then go for it.

All proposals must be submitted via email. The address for submissions is as follows:

The subject line of your email must use this format: “Proposal for Big Country’s The Crossing”. (This will really help me keep it all organised: thank you in advance.)

Please don’t send proposals to my regular work email. And if you have any questions about this process, ask them in the comments section below. We’ll do our best to answer them.

Your proposal should take the form of a Word document attachment. Don’t include it in the body of your email.

All proposals that we get at the yahoo account will be acknowledged within a few days of receipt – except towards the end of December, when I may be offline for a little while. I’ll acknowledge those ones as soon as I’m able.


All proposals need to include these simple things:

Your name and contact details;

An outline (up to 2000 words) of how you would approach your album of choice. (This is key. Don’t assume, just because you’ve chosen a no-brainer record, that you don’t have to convince us about it. The best proposals have a real clarity to them, a purposeful angle, and a sense of determination. Why do you love the record? What’s fascinating about it? Why will thousands of people want to read about it? In this section, include any details as to whether you would contact the band/artist in question, or other people connected to the record in some way. Artist involvement isn’t essential, but it can certainly help.)

Up to 500 words about yourself, outlining why you’re qualified to write about this record;

A couple of paragraphs on how you would help us promote your book: we do everything we can, but an active author makes a huge difference;

And finally, which book in the series would you hope to emulate, in terms of style and content?


A few more random details…

Absolutely anyone can submit a proposal, except for authors already under contract for the series. You don’t need to be a professional music writer or a legendary rock flautist to be considered.

Will we accept proposals about compilation albums? Yes. About live albums? Yes. About jazz albums? No. (Nothing personal!) About an album that hasn’t been recorded yet? Go ahead, convince us.

The books themselves are between 25,000 and 35,000 words. Almost invariably, this sounds easier than it is. So please only submit a proposal if you’re serious about writing one of these, and if you’re able to commit to it.

Also: I’d advise against doing this for the money. We can’t pay very much – there’s a modest advance against royalties. But if your book ends up selling nicely, you’ll get some decent pocket money for several years to come, and we try to supplement that with translation deals, audiobook deals, etc.

This is hard to predict, but I’d hope to have a yes/no decision for everyone who sends us a proposal by some point in March. It really depends on how many we receive.

Last time around (in early 2007), we received about 450 proposals, and ended up offering contracts to about 20 of them. So the odds aren’t great, when you think about it. If you bruise easily, you might want to think twice about trying this. On the other hand – go for it – it’s fun!

I sincerely hope this covers everything. If you have any questions, leave them in the comments section to this post, and we’ll do our best to answer them. As we discovered previously, this system isn’t perfect, but we’ll do everything we can to make it fair, and as open as possible.

Oh, and if you want to share this posting on message boards, facebook, other blogs, go ahead and link to it. Thanks!

56 thoughts on “Would you like to write a book?”

  1. Ah, I know this is from an old announcement, but when will the next round of proposals be allowed?Is there a rough timeframe or window when you guys will accept them? x

  2. I sent in my proposal two minutes before the deadline and had an error message come back saying that 33 Yahoo address had fatal errors. Perhaps you got the proposal, I hope you did but if you didn’t what would you suggest I do?I can prove that the email was sent before the deadline.

  3. Just wondered what version of Word you’ve got? I just sent mine in Word 2007 format, but am worried that you won’t be able to open it and I’ll find that out too late!Cheers,Erik Stein.

  4. I am no writer by any stretch of the term but for any potential writer out there might I suggest ‘Throwing Copper’ by Live. It was an influential album for it’s time.

  5. I thought you accepted these all year and so I sent a proposal many months ago. Do I need to re-send it to you, or would you have saved it to respond to after 1/1/09?

  6. Has it happened in the past that the same album has been proposed by two authors at roughly the same time? Given that the album was of serious interest,would the proposal be a deciding factor in such a case? How would that be resolved?I can answer this.Yes, it has happened. I also submitted a proposal for the Minutemen’s “Double Nickles” last time around. The album was indeed chosen, but Michael Fournier’s proposal was chosen over mine. While I do not know the exact reasons for the choice, but for whatever reasons, they liked his submission better.

  7. Two very important albums in which the recording processes were publicized just as much as the albums themselves have yet to be covered by the 33 1/3 series. The two albums have developed cult status and widespread success, but have achieved different levels of that success in their own unique way. The two albums which I worship at their altar are none other than Chicago’s Smashing Pumpkins’ Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness and Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. I believe a through analysis of these major works would be a great addition to the 33 1/3 collection.

  8. Here’s a question. Who would buy a book about a modern post-hardcore/emo band like Brand New (any of their records), Say Anything (…is a Real Boy), or Thrice (Vheissu, The Illusion of Safety)?I have serious plans to write either a Brand New or Say Anything book. I believe these boos would be awesome, but I also believe they’d sell a lot of copies.

  9. Has it happened in the past that the same album has been proposed by two authors at roughly the same time? Given that the album was of serious interest,would the proposal be a deciding factor in such a case? How would that be resolved?

  10. Sorry, everyone, I’ve been lagging a bit on these questions, so let me try to catch up here.* Yes, anthologies/compilations are acceptable.* Us arranging interviews for your book – sadly we don’t have the time or resources to do this.* The album does not have to be in print.* Good proposals by new authors definitely have a shot. * If we get a great proposal but think it’s not quite right for the series, we would absolutely be open to discussing another way of publishing it. With the proviso that most of our non-33 1/3 music publishing is scholarly in nature.* It varies, but normally I’m not too involved in the editing process – unless I really think the manuscript needs a lot of work.

  11. Any non-33 1/3 music book proposals should be emailed to me at my regular email: david at continuum-books.comMy idea might work better as a book outside the series — though it does fall within the guidelines for 33.3 — but I don't want to let another two years go by without proposing something for this series. :>)So if you liked a proposal and thought it could be a separate book outside 33.3, would you contact the writer and go from there? Or are you being strict in this process and looking for a # of new 33.3 books and that is that?

  12. I’m a bit intimidated to compete against professional writers. Do good proposals by new authors have a fair shot? On the one hand I don’t have quotes about myself from the LA times, I’m not a critic at a national paper, or running my own pop culture journal but I DO have a great album and angle that will appeal to 33 1/3 readers.thanks

  13. Not to be technical, but I must ask because I have already begun my proposal and research.You said that we could not do a jazz album. I wanted to drop a Roy Ayers piece. But he is considered a jazz artist, although I am sure you are well aware that he is also a funk, and disco musician as well. I just wanted to double check and make sure that Roy was cleared before I moved ahead.Thank you.

  14. Poetry: not opposed at all! (You’d need to include samples with your proposal, though…)Two authors on one book – not a problem. Maybe explain the rationale in the proposal?

  15. Hi David, Just wondering, is it okay to have 2 authors (both whom have never been under contract in the series) working on 1 book? Thanks!P.S. I hope to fill the Canadian writer quota on this!

  16. Any non-33 1/3 music book proposals should be emailed to me at my regular email: david at continuum-books.comAs for what kinds of books/approaches work best, let me put it this way: Choose the approach that best suits your own writing skills, rather than try to fit in with what you think might be the best formula for the series. If you’re brilliant at tracking down producers, session musicians, etc and getting people to talk to you and open up to you, then base your book around that. If you’re much stronger at lyrical analysis/interpretation, absolutely make that the key part of your proposal. We’re open to all manner of approaches – what you should try to convey in your proposal is *how well* you can get it done. (Hope that answers your question on some level…)As for the “collected works” angle, I wouldn’t recommend that. If it’s an artist’s first or second album, there’s some merit in telling the story of the early years, but generally – no.

  17. I realize these books are album specific. I was wondering what your level of enthusiasm would be regarding a collected works approach. Or a specific time period in the life of the band as it translates over the course of their existence

  18. Would it be possible for you to give some guidance on what kind of approach(es) to writing about the record you are looking for? I realise that the books already published in the series use a wide variety of approaches, but maybe you have thoughts on what kind of book works best. E.g. do you want a lot of stuff on the writing of the album? The recording of it? Do you want lots of lyrical analysis? Do you want lots of biographical detail about the artist? I guess what I’m really asking is this: you say the best proposals have a “purposeful angle”, but what angle is the most purposeful?

  19. Good question. It’s quite possible that in the past I’ve said “no” to proposals about blues records (for complex reasons to do with how some booksellers shelve and categorise their music books), but let’s flip that around and say “yes” – so, bring it on.

  20. I have a proposal for a music book that I think would be great for 33.3 readers, but isn’t a 33.3 book. Where should I e-mail this proposal?thanks!

  21. Timeline: we’re pretty flexible. All we ask is that an author selects a deadline, and then sticks to it. But the average gestation period for these is about 12-15 months. And regarding other book projects: absolutely not a problem, as long as it’s not directly competitive.

  22. Sounds awesome, my mind is already running fullspeed on this!Two Q’s– What is the general timeline for a first manuscript to be produced?– Are there any clauses in the contract with 33 1/3rd that once signed, the author cannot work with other publishers on other book projects (non-related, of course).

  23. I’m excited that you are once again accepting proposals. I thought the anticipation of getting an interview granted by my band of choice was too much for me to handle, but waiting for the green light for proposal submission has been more agonizing 🙂 I will send my proposal in soon.

  24. The 500 words is on top of the 2000 words. Writing sample attachments: we’d rather not have these – unless you’re proposing a fictional approach, or a graphic novel, or an epic poem, in which case a piece of sample text could be pretty handy. As for jazz books, I’d love to do a whole separate series about jazz albums – just not sure how viable it is.

  25. Is the 500 word count maximum about the submitter on top of the 2000 word count book proposal maximum, or a part of it?Do you prefer, not prefer, or are you neutral about writing sample attachments? How many might turn you off (on top of the attached book proposal)? How about 3?Thanks for opening the gates!

  26. Given that some of the earlier books were fiction and creative non-fiction, would you consider a graphic novel submission (formatted for the series’ page size/length, of course)?

  27. It’s not essential that you do that, but if you’re able to get a band to say they’d be up for being involved, it certainly won’t do your proposal any harm.

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