Frequently Asked Questions
About the Outwitting Series
How was the Outwitting Series developed?
The Outwitting series began with Outwitting Squirrels, which was published in 1988. The series is now a collaborative venture between Bill Adler, Jr. and The Lyons Press. You can see a list of Outwitting book titles on www.adlerrobin.com/outbooks.html.
What is the process for getting an Outwitting book accepted?
The first, and most important, step is to write a proposal. We have a guide to writing book proposals at www.adlerrobin.com/howto.html.
Once your proposal is finished, we'll review it and edit it, if necessary. You'll have a chance to revise your proposal.
In general, proposals should be between 15 - 50 pages. The proposal is your opportunity to show off your outwitting ideas. How do you plan to incorporate the Outwitting approach in your book? In a nutshell, the Outwitting books take a common, trouble-prone situation, such as cat ownership, and show how to solve the myriad of problems that accompany that situation in creative ways.
Pay special attention to the competition section of the proposal. Tell us how your book is different and better than the other books on the subject.
Your completed proposal will be reviewed by Bill Adler, Jr. and The Lyons Press. That part of the process typically takes four to eight weeks, but can take up to six months, depending on how many Outwitting books are currently being considered.
How much money will I make?
You will receive a modest advance of a few thousand dollars. You will also receive royalties on each book sold. The more copies your book sells, the more you can make. Bill Adler, Jr. received an advance of $800 for the first Outwitting book (that's $400 up front, $400 when the book was finished), which now has sold hundreds of thousands of copies.
Adler & Robin Books receives a 15 percent commission on the author's advance and royalties.
What if I already have an agent?
You can always use your agent. Adler & Robin Books' commission is a packager's fee -- something we get for having developed the series. Your agent's commission will be in addition to our 15 percent.
We use a standard contract for all the Outwitting books and there's not a whole lot of opportunity for negotiating changes, so using an agent who takes a commission on top of the existing 15 percent commission may not be worthwhile.
Can I work with a co-author?
Yes. Sometimes you might actually need a co-author who has professional credentials in your subject to give the book needed expertise. Having an expert as a co-author may be important in an Outwitting book about a medical problem, for example.
What is the best Outwitting topic to write about?
Write about what you know best.
Having said that, let us add that there are two basic categories
of Outwitting books: 1) Narrowly targeted and 2) broader, less-specific topics.
In the first category are books like Outwitting Deer, Clutter,
Back Problems, and
Toddlers. In the second category are topics like
Stress, The Boss, and Your Family.
The reason we make that distinction is because proposals for the second, broader group of subjects are much harder to write. You can really sink your teeth into Outwitting Clutter, but Outwitting the Boss? That's more difficult to get a handle on.
Are you looking for books about computers?
Yes and no. We have several Outwitting computer books in mind, but they're not a priority. The main reason for this is that technology is changing quickly and computer books need to be revised every year or two.
Do you accept electronic submissions?
Yes. We prefer proposals to be sent by email* as an attachment. Microsoft Word, Rich Text Format, or Adobe Acrobat are the best formats to send us your proposal in.
*You can email us at outwitting at adlerrobin [dot] com.
Why might my proposal be rejected?
Here are some reasons why we reject proposals: These are good points to keep in mind while writing your proposal:
Not enough detail or sample material. We need to see examples of how you plan to outwit your topic.
Too short a proposal. We can't judge a proposal in 5 pages. Stick to the guidelines: 15 to 25 pages works best.
The writing is not lively enough. We're not looking for a literary novel or a laugh-a-page, but the writing style for the Outwitting books should be more lively than academic.
Somebody else has sent us a better proposal. There's not much you can do about this, except to write the best proposal you can.
A proposal that's hard on the eyes. Fancy fonts, odd formatting, complicated pagination -- all these things make it difficult to judge a proposal, and sometimes lead us hit the "reject" button.
Subject not focused enough. As we mentioned earlier, some topics are more naturally narrow than others. Outwitting Food Poisoning is more sharply defined than Outwitting Cooking, for instance. If your proposal seems to wander, rather than zero in on specific problems and offer specific solutions to those problems, we may reject your proposal.
Sometimes we turn down a proposal because the topic changes over time and the book will have to be revised soon. Outwitting Windows XP is an example of that. We're more inclined to publish books that don't have to be revised often.
If you're not the right author, then we may turn down your proposal. Excellent organization and writing can sometimes compensate for a lack of expertise, but some subjects just need an expert, or at least somebody with professional credentials in the field.
The proposal has a strong point of view that's tightly integrated with a particular philosophy. Or the proposal promotes a particular ideology. For instance, a proposal for Outwitting Back Problems that only talked about alternative approaches --and not conventional treatments-- to solving back problems wouldn't work. A proposal for Outwitting Your Appetite that was anti-beef, for example, would also be rejected.
The how-to ideas in the proposal aren't in the outwitting style. In other words, all you've done is create an ordinary how-to book that could be sold with any title.
The proposal incorporates your perspective only. You may have a lot of experience outwitting a particular problem --clutter, husbands, appetite, insomnia, or traffic for instance-- but the book can't be based entirely on your experience or your point of view.
Do you have any tips for writing an Outwitting proposal?
Yes. It's helpful to read some Outwitting books, so you have a sense of the style, format, and approach these books take. You should also look at the proposals for Outwitting Toddlers Outwitting Writer's Block and Outwitting Stress, which we have on our website. There are a lot of differences between regular how-to books and the Outwitting books.
In your proposal, don't just tell us what you plan to write about, show us. Give real examples of how you plan to outwit your topic. An outline that says "In this chapter I will talk about the strategies for curtailing junk email," isn't nearly as effective as writing, "One way to cut down on spam is to create a filter (or email rule) that automatically deletes any email that contains your email address in the TO and FROM line -- after all, how often to you send yourself email? But spammers often put the recipient's email address in both lines."
Your proposal shouldn't read like a glorified Google or Nexis search. We can do that just as easily as you can. Your proposal needs good ideas -- no, great ideas. For this you may need to talk with people who have intimate insight into your subject. If you're already an expert, you're already one step ahead, but if you're not, simply doing online research probably won't yield enough insightful material to create a saleable proposal.
Take your time. If you're a brilliant stockbroker, one who's broken the "rules" and made millions, and you're a top notch writer, you may be able to prepare a proposal quickly. But unless you're a terrific proposal writer and you're an expert in that field, expect that the proposal may take a while to write. We do.
Edit your proposal. Have a second or or third pair of eyes proofread your proposal. First impressions count.
Should I send you a partial proposal so you can see if I'm on the right track?
No. We only want to look at finished proposals. It's perfectly fine to email us to ask if a particular topic is still available, however.
What if my Outwitting proposal isn't accepted? Can I sell it elsewhere?
If we reject your proposal, you can sell it to another publisher, as long as you don't use the Outwitting name, style, or any other elements of the Outwitting books or series. In other words, you can give your book another title, remove all the references to the Outwitting books, delete anything you have borrowed from an Outwitting book, and send your proposal elsewhere.
If my proposal is accepted, will I have a contract?
Yes. Your contract will be with The Lyons Press.
How long will I have to write my book?
That depends. Typically, authors have six to nine months to complete the book.
Will my name go on the book's cover?
Yes. And only your name, unless you have a co-author.
Will the book be copyrighted in my name?
Yes. But all rights to the Outwitting name and concept belong to Adler & Robin Books and The Lyons Press.
How long are the Outwitting books?
These are medium-length books -- normally about 70,000 words..
Where can I see some sample Outwitting books?
All Outwitting books are still in print and can be purchased at Amazon and elsewhere. There's no harm in taking a look.
The Outwitting books are different from traditional how-to books in that the Outwitting books offer creative solutions to ordinary problems. The Outwitting books often provide more than one solution for a particular problem -- abandoning the one-size-fit-all approach of conventional how-to books. Here's a review of Outwitting Toddlers from Publisher's Weekly, which may give you some insight into what the Outwitting books are like:
[The authors provide] a fresh outlook on the toddler years and approach their subject with practical yet humorous determination....The authors offer flexible strategies for overcoming a host of dilemmas, depending first and foremost on the child's individual personality. This is a playful yet sensible guide that covers every significant phase of toddlerhood, from potty-training to preschool. Parents who feel like the helpless hostages of a dawdling two-year-old will find plenty of fresh--as well as time-proven--ideas.
I have a co-author. How should we divide things?
Many books, especially those dealing with medical subjects, require co-authors. How you and your co-author work is up to you: Splitting everything 50-50 is a good starting point, but it's not the only way to work things, of course. If you have a co-author, it's important to have a written collaboration agreement between the two of you. We have a sample collaboration agreement you can download and modify to suit your particular needs.
Any last minute tips for an Outwitting proposal?
The easier you make your proposal for us to read, the happier everyone will be. A well edited, carefully proofread proposal does wonders all around. Before sending us your proposal, you should run through this checklist to make sure your proposal:
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Adler & Robin Books, Inc.
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Washington, DC 20008
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