Erica Gies—Water Always Wins: Thriving in an Age of Drought and Deluge

January 02, 2024

Cover of the book Water Always Wins: Thriving in an Age of Drought and Deluge by Erica Gies, showing the title and author’s name superimposed over an image of the sea, with two fish swimming from left to right.

Water Always Wins


Erica Gies
University of Chicago Press, June 2023
Hardback, $26, paperback, $20, Kindle, $14.99
Head of Zeus/Bloomsbury, May 2023
Zhejiang People's Publishing House, November 2023
ISBN-10: 02271960X, ISBN-13: 978-022719603

Gies reports:

Water Always Wins is about the Slow Water movement: people who are changing their relationship with water from control to collaboration.

As a Californian, I always have had a low-key obsession with water. While writing about nature-based solutions, I kept hearing from engineers and politicians, “These projects are nice, but they can’t be a significant part of the solution.” But scientists said that was a fundamental misunderstanding of scale. We need thousands of decentralized projects to compensate for the vast space we’ve taken from water. Research is showing these approaches are effective, inexpensive, and typically require less maintenance than hardscape engineering. I wrote this book to share that information.

Portrait photo of Erica Gies by Jill Beale

Erica Gies
Photo by Jill Beale

I talked to author friends for advice and googled “how to write a book proposal.” I was able to include two published feature stories rather than writing two chapters from scratch. I wanted an agent, so I signed up for Publishers Marketplace and Agent Query to research them. The agent I found, Alice Martell, has been amazing. She got me two North American offers and sold separate rights for the audio book, U.K., and Chinese editions.

I applied for a National Geographic Explorer grant, which paid for reporting trips to Peru and Kenya. Traveling home from Africa, I arranged a reporting layover in England. I sold a story to bioGraphic to fund reporting in India and included material from a previous reporting trip to China and Iraq with funding from Scientific American and bioGraphic. I was incredibly lucky to return from the last trip in early March 2020. Writing the book became my pandemic project.

I absolutely loved the creativity that book length affords. But focusing on a subject rather than a person or specific story makes narrative more challenging. I settled on a chronological structure, following water’s relationship with different entities through time: rock and soil, microbes, beavers, older humans, then present and future humans.

An experienced author told me to expect to do most of the promotion myself and to spend six months doing little else. I thought I couldn’t afford that, but I’ve been offered numerous speaking engagements for which my agent has negotiated good fees.

Contact info:

NASW members: will your book be published soon? Promote it by submitting your report for Advance Copy.

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.


View Advance Copy archives at

Thinking of writing a book? If you are a NASW member, you may access a list of more than 200 books and online resources to help you craft your book proposal, find an agent and funding sources, negotiate your contract, learn about self-publishing, publicize and market your book, and more at

View the recording of a recent Advance Copy Virtual Business Chat, A Primer for Authors on Book Publicity. NASW member login required.

Mark your calendar now for the next Virtual Business Chat: Writing Wikipedia Profiles, Thursday, March 7, 2024, 10 a.m.-11 a.m. PST, 11 a.m. MST, noon CST, 1 p.m. EST. NASW member login required.

Send book info and questions about book publishing to Lynne Lamberg, NASW book editor,

Follow @LynneLamberg on Twitter for news about science/medical books, writing, and NASW authors.

Banner image adapted from original photo by Erica Gies.

Advance Copy

The path from idea to book may take myriad routes. The Advance Copy column, started in 2000 by NASW volunteer book editor Lynne Lamberg, features NASW authors telling the stories behind their books. Authors are asked to report how they got their idea, honed it into a proposal, found an agent and a publisher, funded and conducted their research, and organized their writing process. They also are asked to share what they wish they’d known when they started or would do differently next time, and what advice they can offer aspiring authors. Lamberg edits the authors’ answers to produce the Advance Copy reports.

NASW members: Will your book be published soon? Visit for information on submitting your report.

Publication of NASW author reports in Advance Copy does not constitute NASW's endorsement of any publication or the ideas, values, or material contained within or espoused by authors or their books. We hope this column stimulates productive discussions on important topics now and in the future as both science and societies progress. We welcome your discussion in the comments section below.