Cover image for Damn! Why didn't I write that? : how ordinary people are raking in $100,000,00-- or more writing nonfiction books & how you can too!
Damn! Why didn't I write that? : how ordinary people are raking in $100,000,00-- or more writing nonfiction books & how you can too!
McCutcheon, Marc.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Clovis, Calif. : Quill Driver Books, [2001]

Physical Description:
261 pages ; 261 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library PN161 .M39 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



The elderly woman's adventure in solitude...
The housewife's battle with obesity...
The gay man's guide to pleasuring women...
The farmer's cookbook...
The teenager's solution to a puzzling national obsession...
The home baker's directions for giant cookies...
The gym teacher's belly flattener...
The alcoholic's chronicle of addiction...
The elementary school teacher's encyclopedia of all things disgusting...

Best-sellers all...
Ordinary people all...

More nonfiction books are breaking the 100,000-copy sale barrier than ever before. Amateur writers, housewives, and even high school dropouts have cashed in with astonishingly simple best-sellers.
This guide, by best-selling author Marc McCutcheon, shows the reader how to get in on the action by identifying lucrative publishing niches and filling them, not once, not twice, but year after year.

Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

The title says it all. This combination pep-talk/how-to guide by best-selling author McCutcheon (Roget's Super Thesaurus) offers encouragement to amateur writers who want to support themselves (and their families) by writing. Demonstrating how lucrative the publishing industry can be for the right idea at the right time, McCutcheon describes the process from idea, research, query letters, and proposals to agents, contract negotiations, and promotion. At each step, he offers insights from personal experience and shares the experiences of several well-known best-selling authors. Chapters provide suggestions to develop habits that will lead to successful full-time writing, with tips like reading trade journals on a regular basis and clipping articles from magazines and newspapers to jumpstart research. The summary of copyright law and ownership rights is outstanding in its clarity; also provided is a list of helpful magazines, web sites, and organizations and a descriptive sample of standard formats for manuscript submission. Not much is new here, but the commonsense approach is both upbeat and practical. A worthwhile addition for libraries supporting writing programs. Denise S. Sticha, Murrysville Community Lib., PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter One     Could You Have Written Any of These?     A select representation of the hundreds of titles that earn thousands and even millions of dollars for their authors every year     Sales figures given below were gathered from reports in Publishers Weekly , from publishers' catalogs, from book cover crowings (over 150,000 sold!), from book Web sites, or from the authors themselves.      Sales figures for many titles are for one year or less. Some are cumulative over several years. A few "copies in print" figures are also given, and actual sales are lower at press time but may exceed the number given in the near future. Some figures reflect sales of trade paperbacks, others hardcovers. Most are a combination. By the time you read this, the figures will, for most titles, be substantially higher.      These figures are accurate enough only to illustrate what kinds of books succeed in the nonfiction market. Due to the many variables involved, it's impossible to provide pinpoint accuracy for any book currently still in print.     This is only a skimming of the successful titles. Although I've included some books by famous authors, you'll notice far more from lesser known or unknown authors. I've left out many for space reasons.     You can search for the latest best-sellers by category (cookbook, religion, politics, self-help, etc.) at     • Celtic Needlepoint, Alice Starmore, 50,000 copies sold.     • Mark of the Grizzly, Scott McMillion, 50,000 copies sold.     • Your Baby and Child, Penelope Leach, over 50,000 copies annually .     • Stretching (fitness), Bob and Jean Anderson, over 55,000 annually .     • The Joy of Meditating, Salle Redfield, 58,000 copies sold.     • The Flat Tax, Richard Armey, 59,000 copies sold.     • How to Live With a Neurotic Dog, Stephen Baker, 60,000 copies sold.     • Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe's Guide to Better English, Patricia O'Conner, 60,000 copies sold.     • Surviving the Breakup (effects of divorce on the family), Judith Wallerstein, 60,000 copies sold.     • Miracles Happen When You Pray: True Stories of the Remarkable Power of Prayer, Quin Sherrer, 61,400 copies sold.     • Been There, Should've Done That: 505 Tips for Making the Most of College, Suzette Tyler, 62,000 copies sold.     • Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong, James Loewen, 62,000 copies sold.     • The Quotable Star Wars, Stephen Sansweet, 63,000 copies sold.     • Paint Your House With Powdered Milk, and Hundreds More Offbeat Uses for Brand-Name Products, Joey Green, 63,000 copies sold.     • Fingerprints of the Gods (evidence of a lost civilization), Graham Hancock, 65,000 copies sold.     • You Mean I'm Not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy?!: A Self-Help Book for Adults With Attention Deficit Disorder, Kate Kelly and Peggy Ramundo, 65,000 copies sold.     • 101 Best Home-Based Businesses for Women, Priscilla Huff, over 65,000 copies sold.     • The Western Guide to Feng Shui, Terah Collins, 66,000 copies sold.     • Breaking the Rules: Last Ditch Tactics for Landing the Man of Your Dreams, Laura Banks and Janette Barber, 67,200 copies sold.     • Case for Christ: A Journalist's Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus, Lee Strobel, 67,926 copies sold.     • Raising a Daughter, Jeanne and Don Elium, 69,000 copies sold.     • Do What You Are: Discover the Perfect Career for You Through the Secrets of Personality Type, 2nd Ed., Paul Tieger and Barbara Barron-Tieger, 69,000 copies sold.     • Almost Vegetarian (cookbook), Diana Shaw, 70,000 copies sold.     • 199 Great Home Businesses You Can Start For Under $1,000, Tyler Hicks, 70,000 copies sold. This is one of many similar home business titles Hicks has written, with total sales in the millions.     • The Bindi Body Art Kit (instruction book, bindi paint, and removable, self-stick jewels for 12, 13 and 14-year-olds), Beth Margetts, 70,000 copies sold.     • The Patient's Guide to Prostate Cancer, Marc Garnick, 70,000 copies sold.     • The Complete Potter's Companion, Tony Birks, 70,000 in sales to date, with 10,000 selling annually.     • From Panic to Power (anxiety control), Lucinda Bassett, 72,000 copies sold.     • Civil War Curiosities, Webb Garrison, 73,728 copies sold.     • A Woman's Guide to Tantra Yoga, Vimala McClure, 75,000 copies sold.     • Smart Love: The Compassionate Alternative to Discipline That Will Make You a Better Parent and Your Child a Better Person, William J. Pieper and Martha Heineman Pieper, 75,000 copies sold.     • 1001 Sex Secrets Every Woman Should Know, Chris Allen, over 75,000 copies sold.     • The Modern Man's Guide to Life, Denis Boyles, over 75,000 copies sold.     • 1001 Sex Secrets Every Man Should Know, Chris Allen, over 75,000 copies sold.     • DK Children's Illustrated Encylopedia, 76,000 copies sold.     • The World's Best-Kept Diet Secrets, Diane Crow, 76,500 copies sold.     • You Know You're Anonymous in Washington When ..., Anonymous, 78,000 copies sold.     • Wonderful Ways to Love a Child, Judy Ford, 79,772 copies sold.     • Starting on a Shoestring; Building a Business Without a Bankroll, Arnold Goldstein, 80,000 copies sold.     • The World's Dumbest Criminals, Daniel Butler and Alan Ray, 80,000 copies sold.     • Life's Little Frustration Book, Jerry McTigue, 80,000 copies sold.     • The Next Place (a juvenile title on death and dying), Warren Hanson, over 80,000 copies sold.     • 97 Ways to Make Baby Laugh, Jack Moore, 81,000 copies sold.     • Polish Your Furniture With Pantyhose, Joey Green, 85,000 copies sold. This is a book about alternate uses for common household products of all things. Note that he is also the author of Paint Your House With Powdered Milk; publishers love spinoffs!     • Make Your Own Time Capsule, Steven Caney, 88,000 copies sold.     • Reading People, Jo-Ellan Dimitrius, 89,000 copies sold.     • America's Dumbest Criminals, Daniel Butler, 91,000 copies sold.     • Places Rated Almanac, David Savageau, 92,000 copies sold.     • Keys to Drawing (art), Bert Dodson, 95,000 copies sold.     • Sports Illustrated (lampoon of Sports Illustrated ), Richard Sandomir and Rick Wolff, 100,000 copies sold.     • Are You Normal? Bernice Kanner, 100,000 copies sold.     • Worms Eat My Garbage (a self-published title on composting), Mary Appelhof, 100,000 copies sold.     • Galileo's Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith and Love, Dava Sobel, 100,000 copies sold.     • How to Clean Practically Anything, Edward Kippel, 100,000 copies sold.     • When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals, Susan McCarthy and Jeffrey Moussaieff-Masson, over 100,000 copies sold.     • Baby Signs: How to Talk to Your Baby Before Your Baby Can Talk (sign language for babies), Linda Acredolo and Susan Goodwyn, over 100,000 copies sold.     • Simply Handmade: 365 Easy Gifts and Decorations You Can Make, Carol Dahlstrom, over 100,000 copies sold.     • The Physics of Star Trek, Lawrence Krauss, over 100,000 copies sold.     • 35,000 Baby Names, Bruce Lansky, over 100,000 copies sold.     • The Straw Bale House, Athena Swentzell Steen, over 100,000 copies sold, but, according to the publisher, Chelsea Green Publishing, only 2000 of these houses have been built.     • Homemade Money: How to Select, Start, Manage, Market and Multiply the Profits of a Home-Based Business, Barbara Brabec, over 100,000 copies sold.     • The Bible Jesus Read, Philip Yancey, over 100,000 copies sold.     • Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys, Daniel Kindlon, over 100,000 copies sold.     • Creative Cash: How to Profit from Your Special Artistry, Creativity, Hand Skills, and Related Know-How,Barbara Brabec, over 100,000 copies sold.     • Letters of the Century, Lisa Grunwald and Stephen Adler, over 100,000 sold.     • The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, Betty Edwards, over 100,000 copies sold.     • Never Be Lied to Again, David Lieberman, 101,652 copies sold.     • Dogs Never Lie About Love: Reflections on the Emotional World of Dogs, Jeffrey Moussaieff-Masson, 103,000 copies sold.     • My Old Man and the Sea: A Father and Son Sail Around Cape Horn, David and Daniel Hayes, over 100,000 copies sold.     • Surfing the Himalayas: A Spiritual Adventure, Frederick Lenz, over 100,000 copies sold.     • The Complete Book of Juicing, Michael Murray, over 100,000 copies sold.     • 776 Stupidest Things Ever Said, Kathryn and Ross Petras, over 100,000 copies sold.     • Anatomy of the Spirit: The Seven Stages of Power and Healing, Carolyn Myss and Norman Shealy, over 100,000 copies sold.     • Guide My Feet: Prayers and Meditations for Our Children, Marian Edelman, over 100,000 copies sold.     • Attention Deficit Disorder, Thom Hartmann, over 100,000 copies sold.     • Prospering Woman: A Complete Guide to Living the Full, Abundant Life, Ruth Ross, over 100,000 copies sold.     • You Can Heal Your Life, Louise Hay, 100,000 copies annually at this writing.     • Ageless Body, Timeless Mind, Deepak Chopra, over 100,000 copies annually at this writing.     • Wine for Dummies, Ed McCarthy, over 100,000 copies sold.     • Beer Lover's Rating Guide, Bob Klein, 102,000 copies sold.      • The Truth is Out There: The Official Third Season Guide to the X-Files, Brian Lowry, 103,000 copies sold.     • Love Coupons, Gregory J. P. Godek, 104,000 copies sold.     • A Hummingbird in My House (hummingbirds and their behavior), Arnette Heidcamp, 105,000 copies sold.      • The Ditches of Edison County (parody), Ronald Roberts, 105,718 copies sold.     • Totally Garlic Cookbook, Ellen Siegle, 105,893 copies sold.      • The Duct Tape Book (humor), Tim Nyberg and Jim Berg, 107,878 copies sold.      • 365 Outdoor Activities You Can Do With Your Child, Steve and Ruth Bennett, 108,131 copies sold.      • Jesus CEO: Using Ancient Wisdom for Visionary Leadership, Lauri Beth Jones, 113,000 copies sold.     • 1001 Ways to Energize Employees, Bob Nelson, 114,000 copies sold.      • Don't Squat With Yer Spurs On!: A Cowboy's Guide to Life, Texas Bix Bender, 114,945 copies sold.      • Positive Discipline A to Z, Jane Nelsen, 115,000. (One of a series, with total sales over 1,000,000 copies.)      • The Very Best Baby Name Book in the Whole Wide World, Bruce Lansky, over 115,000 copies sold.     • The Tao of Inner Peace, Diane Dreher, 118,000 copies sold.     • Drinking: A Love Story, Caroline Knapp, over 120,000 copies sold.     • The Barbecue Bible, Steven Raichler, 120,000 copies sold.      • The Complete Book of Essential Oils and AromaTherapy, Valerie Worwood, over 120,000 copies sold.      • The Complete Book of Bread Machine Baking, Lara Pizzorno, 125,000 copies sold.      • The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, John Maxwell, 130,000 copies sold.     • Top Secret Restaurant Recipes, Todd Wilbur, 130,000 copies sold.     • The Self-Publishing Manual, Dan Poynter, 130,000 copies sold.      • Fat-Free and Ultra Lowfat Recipes, Doris Cross, over 130,000 copies sold.      • The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, Bob Schlinger, 131,000 copies sold.     • How to Study, Ron Fry, 132,400 copies sold.     • Overcoming Depression, Demitri Papolos, 135,000 copies sold.     • China Moon Cookbook, Barbara Tropp, 135,000 copies sold.      • Taxes for Dummies, 1999, Eric Tyson and David Silverman, 137,000 copies sold.     • What Would Jesus Do? (children's), Helen Haidle, 139,000 copies sold.      • How to Become a Successful Consultant in Your Own Field, Hubert Bermont, 140,000 copies sold.      • Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation, Jonathan Kozol, 140,000 copies sold.      • The Handbook of Short Story Writing, Frank Dickson and Sandra Smythe, 145,000 copies sold.     • How to Make Your Man Behave in 21 Days or Less Using the Secrets of Professional Dog Trainers,Karen Salmansohn, 147,000 copies sold.      • Oops! The Manners Guide for Girls, Nancy Holyoke, 147,000 copies sold.     • Golf for Dummies, Gary McCord, 150,000 copies sold.      • Blackbird: A Childhood Lost and Found (memoir of author from ages 5 to 12), Jennifer Lauck, 150,000 copies sold.      • Organizing From the Inside Out, Julie Morgenstern, 150,000 copies sold.     • Buying Stocks Without a Broker, Charles Carlson, 150,000 copies sold.      • Bear Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance, Stephen Herrero, 150,000 copies sold.     • Lawyers and Other Reptiles, Jess Braillier, 150,000 copies sold.     • Monster Cookies, Helen Witty, 150,000 copies sold.      • Mindhunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit, John Douglas, over 150,000 copies sold.     • Pasta Light, Norman Kolpas, 150,000 copies sold.      • Looneyspoons (a humorous cookbook featuring such dishes as Jurassic Pork Roast and Yabba Dabba Stew ), Janet and Greta Podleski, over 150,000 copies sold.      • Bodybuilding: A Scientific Approach, Frederick Hatfield, 150,000 copies sold.      • The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II, Iris Change, 150,000 copies sold.     • The Gifts of the Jews, Thomas Cahill, over 155,000 copies sold.      • Practical Feng Shui, Simon Brown, 155,000 copies sold. (One of many similar titles on this red-hot fad topic that peaked in 1998-1999.)     • The Internet for Dummies, John Levine, 160,000 copies sold.      • 40 Common Errors in Golf and How to Correct Them, Arthur Shay, 160,000 copies sold.      • Raising Self-Reliant Children in a Self-Indulgent World, H. Stephen Glenn and Jane Nelsen, over 160,000 copies sold.      • The Best Night Out With Dad (Chicken Soup series), Jack Canfield, 165,000 copies sold.      • The Hungry Ocean: A Swordboat Captain's Journey, Linda Greenlaw, 168,000 copies sold. (This saga of a female seaboat captain is a spinoff title of The Perfect Storm .)     • The Book of Golf Disasters, Peter Dobereiner, 170,000 copies sold.      • The Demon-Haunted World (science vs. pseudoscience), Carl Sagan, 170,000 copies sold.      • The Seven Worst Things Parents Do, John and Linda Friel, 170,000 copies sold.      • Really Important Stuff My Kids Have Taught Me, Cynthia Lewis, 172,000 copies sold.     • Miracle Cures, Jean Carper, 175,000 copies sold.     • 1001 Beauty Solutions, Beth Barrick-Hickey, 175,000 copies sold.      • Complete Idiot's Guide to Windows 98, Paul Mcfederies, 178,000 copies sold. (One of many Windows 98 guides, six of which also sold 120,000 copies or more in 1998 alone. Windows 98 for Dummies, by Andy Rathbone, however, was the clear champion, with 648,000 copies sold in 1998.)      • Potpourri, Incense and Other Fragrant Concoctions, Ann Fettner, 179,000 copies sold.      • Why Cats Paint, Heather Busch and Burton Silver, 179,000 copies sold.     • Farmhouse Cookbook, Susan Loomis, 183,000 copies sold.     • The Sibley Guide to Birds, David Sibley, 200,000 copies sold.     • Jewish as a Second Language (humor), Molly Katz, 186,000 copies sold.      • Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West, Stephen Ambrose, 200,000 copies sold.     • Sinus Survival, Robert Ivker, 200,000 copies sold.     • Auto Repair for Dummies, Deanna Sclar, 200,000 copies sold.      • The Henna Body Art Kit (instruction book with body makeup for 12, 13 and 14-year olds), Aileen Marron, 200,000 copies sold.      • The Complete Guide to Foot Reflexology, Kevin and Barabara Kinz, 200,000 copies sold.      • 101 Ways to Tell Your Child "I Love You," Vicki Lansky, 200,000 copies sold.      • Away for the Weekend, New York (travel within 200 miles of NYC), Eleanor Berman, 200,000 copies sold.      • Zlata's Diary (a 13-year-old girl's war experience in Sarajevo), Zlata Filipovic, over 200,000 copies sold.      • I Kissed Dating Goodbye (Biblical approach to love and relationships), Joshua Harris, over 200,000 copies sold in 1998 alone.      • More Than a Carpenter, Josh McDowell. This book of answers to skeptics' questions about Jesus, in print since 1980, sold over 200,000 copies in 1998 alone.      • The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels, Thomas Cahill, 200,000 copies sold.      • Backtalk: 4 Steps to Ending Rude Behavior in Your Kids, Audrey Ricker and Carolyn Crowder, 200,000 copies sold.      • The Complete Guide to Offshore Money Havens, Jerome Schneider, over 200,000 copies sold.      • How to Regain Your Virginity, and 99 Other Recent Discoveries About Sex (humor), Patricia Marx, 203,000 copies sold.     • Fat-Free Holiday Recipes, Sandra Woodruff, 205,000 copies sold.     • Anne Hooper's Pocket Sex Guide, Anne Hooper, 210,000 copies sold.     • Wicked Spanish (humor), Howard Tomb, 217,000 copies sold.     • The Low-Carb Cookbook, Fran McCullough, 245,000 copies sold.      • The Wonder of Boys: What Parents, Mentors and Educators Can Do to Shape Boys into Exceptional Men, Michael Gurian, 250,000 copies sold. (Continues...) Excerpted from DAMN! WHY DIDN'T I WRITE THAT? by Marc McCutcheon. Copyright © 2001 by Marc McCutcheon. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. by Marc McCutcheon. Copyright © 2001 by Marc McCutcheon. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Table of Contents

The Don't Skip This Introduction Introductionp. 1
Chapter 1 Could You Have Written Any of These?p. 11
Chapter 2 Nonfiction Success Storiesp. 29
Chapter 3 What Kind of Nonfiction Book Should You Write?p. 41
Chapter 4 How to Know if Your Book Idea Will Flyp. 59
Chapter 5 Why You Don't Need a College Degreep. 76
Chapter 6 Do You Need an Agent?p. 92
Chapter 7 Toughen Yourself to Rejectionp. 111
Chapter 8 The Query Letterp. 115
Chapter 9 The Proposalp. 133
Chapter 10 Negotiating Your Book Contractp. 152
Chapter 11 Promotionp. 176
Chapter 12 Lean and Mean: The Secrets to Full-Time Writing Successp. 193
Chapter 13 A Grab Bag of Tipsp. 209
The Author's Bundle of Rightsp. 230
Standard Format for Book Proposals and Manuscriptsp. 232
Helpful Booksp. 233
Helpful Magazinesp. 234
Helpful Websitesp. 235
Organizationsp. 236
University News and Public Information Officesp. 238
Glossaryp. 245
Indexp. 250
About the Authorp. 264

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