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Patient-Centered Guides

Are you interested in writing a book for the Patient-Centered Guides series?

If you are thinking about writing a book on a medical topic, here is what we're looking for as publishers.

For topics, we're interested in:

  1. Life-threatening or life-changing conditions that
  2. Have an unmet need for information and
  3. Preferably have an active patient community.
For writers, we're interested in:
  1. Current/former patients, who have been active in their own treatment and in the wider patient community,
  2. Have respect for Western medicine,
  3. Look for other kinds of healing: psychologic, nutritional, spiritual, etc., and
  4. Have good writing skills.
In more detail, these can be described as follows.

Life-threatening or life-changing conditions

We're interested in conditions or diseases that people have to learn to deal with. For example, we'd be interested in a book on lung cancer or multiple sclerosis.

Naturally, we're interested in demographics. (If a condition applies to 250,000 people in the US, we have a better chance of making back development costs than if the condition applies to only 25,000 people.) However, that's not our sole criteria.

An unmet need for information

An unmet need might be a disease/condition that no one has written about in depth for patients, where participation in medical care is difficult because of lack of access to information from professionals, other patients, and print sources. The disease might have previously been thought of as terminal, but is now manageable for longer and longer periods as a chronic disease. The disease might have once been considered as rare, but is now affecting larger groups of people. The only information available on a condition might be the "medical party line" where it doesn't begin to match the entire experience of patients.

Whatever the description of the disease, an unmet need means that there is "information pain." (We don't want to publish in an area where there are a number of perfectly serviceable books, just so that we can have a title there.)

An active (or emerging) patient community

An active patient community means that there is an association for patients, conferences and seminars, a scattering of in-person support groups, perhaps an online discussion list. This gives us a chance–particularly for conditions that don't affect millions–to work with the community and build some grassroots support.

Writers who have been patients active in their own treatment and in the wider patient community

We'd like someone who has "been there, done that" as well as someone who is interested in other people's experiences. We want the book to describe what has happened with a large group of people; your contacts with other patients will help you find a range of interviewees.

We'd like authors to be interested in their subject for the long-term. As much as possible, we'd like to find authors who are interested in speaking at seminars, answering questions, and promoting awareness in living with the condition. We'd like you to help market the book: know who wants the information and why, and help us get the word out. We plan for our books to be in print for many years. Instead of just having a single splashy launch, we want an author who will be a partner in a long-term marketing and awareness effort.

With respect for Western medicine

Books in this series start with the premise that Western medicine has valuable things to offer, particularly for acute care of conditions and symptoms. For some diseases, such as childhood leukemia, Western medicine has a high rate of success. For some diseases–especially chronic conditions–Western medicine is less of a total answer; Western medicine might not be able to offer longer life or more quality of life than another, less invasive, treatment.

However, we start from the point that Western medicine is the prevailing paradigm and that we'll first look for what it can contribute to healing. (Conspiracy theorists need not apply.)

Who look for other kinds of healing

We do want authors who think of healing more broadly than x-rays and surgery. Complementary therapies are a part of any healing. Therapies like counseling, support groups, nutrition, or psychologic pain relief are used to help people cope with life changes or side effects of treatments. If therapies are not "proven" in the medical research to be effective–e.g., acupuncture to releive chemotherapy nausea–we can still give helpful information anecdotally through patient stories.

We applaud the approach and philosophy of Michael Lerner's Choices in Healing.

We are not looking for the latest "magic bullet" claims for a particular herb or therapy. There are other publishers who are. We want to reflect the importance of healing the whole person while taking into account the current medical landscape.

And who have good writing skills

We expect that you have writing experience and familiarity with managing a project schedule. Although formal experience isn't necessary–you don't have to be a journalist or published author– we do expect to see writing samples. (The samples would be explanatory text, preferably of the same general tone and complexity of material that you'd use in a book.) We'll also want to see signs that you know how to manage the structure of an extended work (e.g., can envision a detailed outline) and that you can manage a complex project over time.

The kinds of things that we'd want to see in a formal proposal are listed in our Author's Guide. This was written for authors of our technical (computer) books. However, it gives you a good idea of the components of a formal proposal for the book, and our philosophy of working with the author throughout the developmental process. We don't solicit completed manuscripts. We like to work with an author throughout the development of a proposal and of the book. We want the book to fit well into an established editorial program and series of books.

The next step

If you have a solid idea, where do you go from here? Send an email to med.proposals@oreilly.com stating what kind of project you're interested in. The first questions we'll discuss are what you'd like to do and how that might fit into our publishing program. If we both are still interested, we'll ask you for a more detailed proposal.

We look forward to hearing your ideas about a book that is needed by other patients.


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