Antonia Malchik: A Walking Life

For this column, NASW book editor Lynne Lamberg asks NASW authors to tell how they came up with the idea for their book, developed a proposal, found an agent and publisher, funded and conducted research, and put the book together. She also asks what they wish they had known before they began working on their book, what they might do differently the next time, and what tips they can offer aspiring authors. She then edits the A part of that Q&A to produce the author reports you see here.

Publication of NASW members’ reports in Advance Copy does not constitute NASW’s endorsement of their books. NASW welcomes your comments and hopes this column stimulates productive discussions.

Cover: A Walking Life

Cover: A Walking Life

Antonia Malchik
Hachette Books/Da Capo Press Lifelong Books
May 7, 2019, $28.00
ISBN 10: 0738220167; ISBN 13: 9780738220161
Ebook ISBN: 9780738220178

Malchik reports:

In 2015 I published a longform piece with Aeon exploring how we managed to build an unwalkable world in less than 100 years. I’d previously published one about walking and freedom with Lunch Ticket, and thought that I’d said everything I wanted to say about the subject. But I kept having conversations about walking, and by the time an agent contacted me a few months later, I’d been mulling over a pitch for a nonfiction book.

My agent and I spent about six months developing the book proposal together. I felt very strongly that I wanted a book for the everywalker, a kind of Michael Pollan-for-walking book, instead of the usual literary or intellectual history. That required venturing into unexpected subjects like robotics, disability, social capital, and infant brain development.

In July 2016, my agent sent the proposal to about 40 editors. Around 28 responded, with 4 being interested enough for a phone call. The editor at Da Capo clearly understood what I was trying to do with the book, and I was thrilled when Da Capo made an offer.

Antonia Malchik

Antonia Malchik

I used my advance to fund the research, which involved travel to Denver, New York, and the UK, and to pay for two writing retreats at The Banff Centre for Arts & Creativity in Canada. This was my first book, and in the future I think I’d try not to travel as much. It added good material, but I live in Montana, so travel is expensive, and it was hard to cover childcare when I was away. Going to The Banff Centre was priceless, though. I spent three weeks there revising the final draft.

I wish I’d had a more fine-grained plan for the stories I wanted to tell, but the truth is that much changed as I wrote the book. Writing a book proposal was crucial, even though it was exhausting; it gave me a general roadmap every time I began to feel lost. I spent a lot of time reminding myself to trust my instincts—advice I wish I’d been given when I was younger.

Contact info:

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Tell your fellow NASW members how you came up with the idea for your book, developed a proposal, found an agent and publisher, funded and conducted research, and put the book together. Include what you wish you had known before you began working on your book, or had done differently.


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Image: Stuttgart Public Library, Germany by Tobias Fischer on Unsplash.

May. 8, 2019

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