Sharon Guynup: Tigers Forever


Steve Winter, photographs, and Sharon Guynup (NASW member), text
National Geographic Books, Nov. 12, 2013, $40
ISBN-10: 1426212402
ISBN-13: 978-1426212406

Sharon Guynup tracking tigers

Guynup reports:

In 2007, while working on a story about poaching in India's Kaziranga National Park, I glimpsed my first tiger in the wild. I have a particular feline fascination, and began writing about big cats. Over the course of a decade, my partner, National Geographic photographer Steve Winter, worked on numerous stories in Asia that included or focused on tigers.

Last year, we decided to do a book together — his photos, my text — and signed on with National Geographic Books. Contractually, Steve was obligated to pitch to them first. The proposal was just a page plus his photos. They took the project. We signed without an agent, which was possible only because an agent had negotiated a previous NG Books contract for me, so I had a sense of fair royalties and rights.

Steve Winter

It was an intense project. Because 2013 marks the 125th anniversary of The National Geographic Society, NG Books wanted the book in print within the calendar year. We got the go-ahead three days before Hurricane Sandy hit, and our condo building was inundated with five feet of noxious water that knocked out all building systems and destroyed lots of personal property, including files, photo equipment, and 20 years of accumulated field gear.

Steve and I, my grown son, our 13-year-old Lab, our four-month-old puppy, and our cat lived in a motel room for two weeks. We spent days throwing out ruined belongings and dealing with contractors, and nights interviewing tiger experts in India, Indonesia, and Thailand on Skype from the hotel.

I did over 60 interviews in all, many between midnight and 3 a.m. because of time differences. I researched and wrote five chapters, 11 short profiles, and photo captions, cranking out some 45,000 words in four months. The book uses Steve's field stories as jumping off points to discuss everything from natural history to poaching and the international wildlife trade.

Because I detailed China's insatiable appetite for tiger bone wine and a growing market for luxury tiger skin furniture, Chinese publishers refused to take the printing job. The book was printed in Hong Kong.

It was a heartbreaking book to write. In the wild, these magnificent animals now number just 3,200, divided among five subspecies, and scattered in small pockets across Asia. These cats very well may be extinct in the wild within our lifetimes.

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Nov. 6, 2013

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.

NASW members: Will your book be published soon? Visit to submit your report.

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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