Jason Goldman: Wild LA

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: Wild LA

Cover: Wild LA


Lila Higgins & Gregory B. Pauly, with
Jason G. Goldman (NASW Member) & Charles Hood
Timber Press; March 19, 2019; $24.95
ISBN 10: 1604697105; ISBN-13: 978-1604697100

Goldman reports:

My work as one of four co-authors of this book, produced by the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHM), began in 2017, when I was given a three-month deadline to complete a first draft of 10 chapters on the natural history of Los Angeles.

Jason Goldman, photo by Roy Dunn

Jason Goldman, photo by Roy Dunn

Having covered urban nature in Los Angeles as a journalist, I already had done most of the research. Still, because of the roughly one-chapter-a-week pace necessary to meet the deadline, it was the most challenging assignment I'd taken on.

The project itself began in 2012, when the acquiring editor at Timber Press queried the museum about producing a book on urban nature. The timing was serendipitous, as the NHM would open its Nature Gardens and Nature Lab exhibits in 2013, and then establish an Urban Nature Research Center shortly thereafter.

Two staffers–a herpetologist curator and a community science educator–were assigned to work with an external poet naturalist to produce the volume. I joined the team years later.

Wild LA has three sections: 10 chapters on the natural history of Los Angeles, over 100 field guide-style entries for species identification, and a compilation of 25 field trips to take in the LA area to observe nature and wildlife.

Taking the work of four contributors, molding it into a single coherent volume, and passing those drafts for approval through the scientific and administrative hierarchies of the NHM was an enormous task. It was accomplished only by having one person (NASW member Kristin Friedrich, NHM Communications Director) shepherd the project from start to finish.

Friedrich said she wishes NHM staff had had a more realistic understanding at the outset of the time and resources necessary to complete this project. She also would have liked to have had more detailed discussions, earlier on, about the book's overall voice and tone.

As my contract was with the NHM, not with the publisher, this wasn't a typical book deal. I negotiated on my own. If I were to do it again, I would consider asking a literary agent to negotiate on my behalf.

Contact info:

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NASW members: will your book be published soon? Take advantage of this opportunity for shameless self-promotion. Submit 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.

See https://www.nasw.org/advance-copy-submission-guidelines.

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Send book info and questions about book publishing to Lynne Lamberg, NASW book editor, llamberg@nasw.org.

Mar. 20, 2019

Drexel University online