I’m delighted to welcome Mark Hanks to the blog today, to talk about his latest book, the top ten best seller, ‘Mum Knows Best‘ (Square Peg – Random House). It’s an excellent book, useful and fun (even my mum thinks so, which is some endorsement), but I’ll let him tell you about that – and more, including his expert tips on writing non-fiction…
Welcome to the blog, Mark. It’s pleasure to have you here. So, your book ‘Mum Knows Best’ – could you tell us a little about it? Who’s it for? What’s it about?
Hi Nik, pleasure to be here! The book is subtitled Exceedingly Helpful Household Tips, and harks back to a time when we didn’t use flashy and expensive products to keep our houses running smoothly. There are sections on cleaning, cooking, clothes care, mending things and generally keeping things tickety-boo!
Why did you (and your wife) write it?
We’re both fairly clueless when it comes to household chores, and thought it would be fun to find out how people did things in the past. It’s funny, once you start to discover novel, time and money saving methods of doing things, they become a lot less dreary. Also, we felt a book like this would go down well in the current economic climate – thrift is most definetly ‘in’ right now.
According to amazon, it’s ‘the perfect gift for every mother’ – do you really think that it’s something only mums can enjoy?
Not at all – anyone who has a life to lead and wants to put a bit of fun into household chores and save a few bob will find plenty of useful hints and tips in the book. It’s one of those books you can read to learn from or just dip in an out of.
What are your favourite couple of tips from the book?
Cutting delicate sponge cake with dental floss works a treat, and rubbing your hands with used coffee grounds in an amazing exfoliator! Also, pouring leftover cola down the loo will clean it amazingly. Also, a thick slice of bread is great for picking up small shards of broken glass from the floor. If your jewellery is dirty, toothpaste makes a great cleaner!
Could you tell us a little about your writing process?
It was simple really – first of all we asked our mums for old-fashioned tips, and secondly we acquired tons of books from the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, read them and picked out tips that are still relevant today. Household manuals were much more common and popular back then so there was a wealth of information. We simply took the most interesting tips and put them into our own words.
Any tips for those who’d like to get into writing non-fiction books?
Yes. Number one is work hard on your synopsis and make your idea as clear as possible. Agents and publishers are very short on time, so if you can sum up your book in a sentence you are far more likely to catch someone’s eye. Also, you don’t need to finish a book before you submit it – a synopsis and decent first three chapters is often acceptable. It’s very hard to get published without an agent, so finding one will greatly increase your chances. They should not ask for money up front, nor take more than 15% of your advance or royalties. Agents understand contracts and will ensure you get the best possible deal for your book – Publishers can offer cheekily low advances to new authors, so it’s often worth negotiating!
Anything you’d like to add?
Write because you want to, but don’t think a publishing deal will make you rich, or bank on big royalty cheques. I’ve been writing for years and manage to earn a living, but have learned to assume an advance on any book will be all I receive. It’s a good idea to think of royalties as a nice surprise rather than a certainty.