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An Interview with Jack R. Bialik upon receiving an offer of representation.

Jack R. Bialik (jbialik on QT) has signed with agent Krista Goering of The Krista Goering Literary Agency LLC.

Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you’ve found representation? What inspired you to write it?
This book is a non-fiction book titled WHY WE KNOW NOTHING. It is a look back over the eons of the technology and knowledge we have lost, forgotten and destroyed and a look into the future at our propensity to repeat the same thing over again. The book also touches on some potential solutions.

My purpose in writing the book is to make people think about what we are doing with our knowledge and in the hopes that we can do something positive about not losing what we have.

How long have you been working on this book?
I started research for the book about one year ago.
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
No, I have always been on track for completion. Think that my belief in the topic helped me to stay committed.
Is this your first book?
Do you have any formal writing training?
I do not have any formal training but I employed a professional writer to assist me.
How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
I am currently working on the second revision.
Did you have beta readers for your book?
Not yet. Since nonfiction is marketed prior to the book completion, that is not necessary yet. I will have others read it prior to publication.
Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
There is a fairly detailed outline with the content for each chapter defined.
How long have you been querying for this book?
From the first query to the signed contract took two months.
About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
I sent 10 queries. I had interest from agents after the sixth and tenth query. There is one outstanding reply.
On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Initially there was a list of 340 agents for my genre of book. I was eventually able to cull the list down to 46 of which 17 were selected for a high priority first query. The information in QueryTracker along with additional research of each of the 46 agents was used to get the list of 17.
Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Wherever possible the query was tailored. Some agents have more tailoring information on their web sites than others. What they want to see may differ from agency to agency significantly so it is important to check. If there was a way to focus a query for an agent, it was done.
What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Two points are important. First, prepare and research of what is required for a good query letter. I primarily used two books, GETTING YOUR BOOK PUBLISHED FOR DUMMIES and THINKING LIKE YOUR EDITOR by Susan Rabiner and Alfred Fortunato. The second step is selection of the agents to query. There are so many agents to query that you could spend a considerable amount of time sending emails to people that may not be interested. I believe that if you spend the time up front doing some preliminary selection you are likely to have a better chance of finding someone quickly.
Would you be willing to share your query with us?
Sure, here is an example of one that was used:

What if our knowledge vanished overnight? What if you could no longer read the e-mail queries people send--including this one? As shows like "Life After People" gain popularity, now is the time to think about lost knowledge and the future. I am offering you a look at WHY WE KNOW NOTHING. I speak as an engineer.

As an engineer, I write a book that is...

  • A slap in the face. It is a wake up call. As to why we, as a human race, think we know everything. We don't. We have known things over the years that rival what we know today yet we feel that people over history knew less than we know today. We can show that knowledge continually gets discovered, then lost, destroyed or forgotten and then rediscovered over and over again. The book will also show that we are doomed to repeat this again in an even more efficient way.
  • About facts. It is about what actually has occurred with our knowledge.
  • About things that might surprise you that you didn't realize, for example, that Ford maybe wasn't the first guy to have an assembly line, or that cataract surgery is not a new technique and was performed in 500 BC.
  • A look at how we are about to lose all of our knowledge in the future in a most disastrous and expedient way.

Project Summary:

WHY WE KNOW NOTHING is a history of science and technology--as well as a search through the lost years and forgotten eras such as the Harappan, Chachapoya and Caral Supe civilizations. The book also shows that, similar to scenarios such as "Life After People," our own civilization, and the computer on which I write this, might disappear along with all our knowledge. I mention "Life After People" because this book targets the Science, History and Discovery Channel audience. This book is intended to be a fun, interesting and thought provoking read. It is targeted to the leisure and business traveler and should be a good book to sit back on a weekend to enjoy.

I have documentary movie tie-in ideas in development, and WHY WE KNOW NOTHING will kick off a three-book series: WHY WE KNOW SOMETHING and WHY WE ASK QUESTIONS. WHY WE ASK QUESTIONS will bring the trilogy full circle, examining our need and desire for knowledge, and exploring the common questions we as a species have asked for centuries.

Thank you in advance for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely, Jack R. Bialik