Susan D’Agostino: How to Free Your Inner Mathematician

Inner Mathematician

Inner Mathematician


Susan D'Agostino
Oxford University Press, May 26, 2020 (US), $32.95; Kindle: $18.99
ISBN-10: 0198843593; ISBN-13: 9780198843597

D’Agostino reports:

How to Free Your Inner Mathematician, a general-interest mathematics book, draws on my experience as a mathematician. I wrote the book in conversational prose, largely avoided math notation and formulas, and included more than 300 sketches that I drew. My book contains substantial content on advanced math topics as well as advice for persisting in math.

I had walked around with this book in my head for a decade before I approached an Oxford University Press editor at a conference to discuss it. After a lively conversation, he invited me to submit a proposal. I then spent a few months writing the proposal. Once submitted, it underwent review by the editor, peer reviewers, OUP marketing, and OUP delegates. As this process progressed, I got both more excited and more nervous. Approximately three months after I submitted the proposal, I received a contract, which was thrilling.

Susan D’Agostino

Susan D’Agostino

I had some of the book written and took another nine months to complete it. I relied on family, friends, and mentors to offer constructive criticism on drafts of chapters. Once submitted, the book went into production, which included proofreading and copyediting. My publisher designed the book’s front and back covers, though I was involved in those decisions. I appreciate the 2019 NASW meeting travel grant that allowed me to network with other science writers.

I loved everything about writing this book and have already begun my next book project, which no doubt is benefitting from my having been through the process once. I will not take a decade to think about my second book! Also, I am quicker to believe in my ideas, even the unconventional ones, such as my first book’s premise that I could present advanced math while largely avoiding notation and formulas. Finally, I am spending as much or more time writing the book proposal for this one as I understand the important role it plays in providing direction during the writing process.

My advice to those who are walking around with a book in their head? Take it out of your head, talk with others, and begin drafting a proposal today.

Contact info:

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.


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

Hero image credit: Susan D’Agostino, used with permission.

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.

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