Bijal P. Trivedi—Breath from Salt: A Deadly Genetic Disease, a New Era in Science, and the Patients and Families Who Changed Medicine Forever

Breath from Salt

Breath from Salt


Bijal P. Trivedi
BenBella Books, September 8, 2020, $28.95, Kindle: $20.08
ISBN-10: 1948836378; ISBN-13: 9781948836371

Trivedi reports:

Breath from Salt grew out of a Discover magazine assignment. My mission was to investigate the backstory behind a new drug, Kalydeco (ivacaftor), that was being touted as a revolutionary life-saving medicine for 4% of children with a rare and fatal disease, cystic fibrosis. That was in 2012.

While researching the story, I interviewed a couple whose son had died of the disease. Despite the heartache, they didn’t walk away from the cystic fibrosis community. Instead, they doubled down to help with efforts to find a treatment. They’ve raised more than $250 million for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, money that was invested in drug research.

Bijal P. Trivedi

Bijal P. Trivedi

Meeting them made me want to follow the story—and produce a book about it. Over the next seven years, I interviewed families, physicians, scientists, patients, philanthropists, and entrepreneurs.

By 2019, a pharmaceutical company had developed three more FDA-approved medicines for cystic fibrosis. There are now treatments for more than 90% of those born with this lethal hereditary disease. These medicines also made medical history: they launched the age of personalized medicine.

This was my first book and it took about a year to figure out the story and write a proposal, which I did by following instructions laid out in Thinking Like Your Editor: How to Write Great Serious Nonfiction and Get It Published by Susan Rabiner and Alfred Fortunato, along with insight and feedback from colleagues.

I shopped the proposal around to 10 agents. I went with Ethan Bassoff, who is now with the Ross Yoon Agency. Ethan garnered interest from three publishers, all with very modest advances. I chose BenBella Books. They were incredibly flexible and supportive during the entire project.

Since my advance was modest, I had to fund most of the travel, all of the transcription and the illustrations for the book.

For my next book, I’d hire a research assistant (a smart, young college grad) much earlier in the process and find an independent artist to work with rather than hiring a firm.

Contact info:

Bijal P. Trivedi,,,, @BijalPTrivedi
Publicist: Lindsay Marshall,
Agent: Ethan Bassoff,

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Nov. 18, 2020

Advance Copy

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.

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