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The Science Writers' Handbook: Everything You Need to Know to Pitch, Publish, and Prosper in the Digital Age Paperback – April 30, 2013


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The Science Writers' Handbook: Everything You Need to Know to Pitch, Publish, and Prosper in the Digital Age + A Field Guide for Science Writers: The Official Guide of the National Association of Science Writers + Ideas into Words: Mastering the Craft of Science Writing
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Lifelong Books (April 30, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0738216569
  • ISBN-13: 978-0738216560
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 7.2 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #75,781 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Writing about science can be exalting, enlightening, and rewarding. It can also be maddening, baffling, and terrifying. The Science Writers' Handbook is dense with sage advice on how to make your experience the former rather than the latter. These are lessons it takes years to learn on one's own; this book feels like a wonderful cheat sheet for the profession."
     - Carl Zimmer, author, Evolution: Making Sense of Life

"Each passing day science writing, like its subject, becomes more important to us all. Students and young professionals need a lot of advice and encouragement, and this book provides them."
     - Edward O. Wilson, University Research Professor, Emeritus, Harvard University, and author of Letters To A Young Scientist
    
 
"An ailing planet badly needs more skilled science writers. And this fine guide will help produce them, I'm pretty sure."
     - Bill McKibben, author, Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet

"Don't become a science writer. It's hard, and the competition is fierce. Just look at the authors of this book--they're great at it. But if you insist on ignoring me (probably because science writers get to learn the secrets of the universe, meet the most fascinating people, educate readers, and save the planet), then at least listen to them. I do not say this lightly: This book tells you what you need to know."
     - Adam Rogers, senior editor, Wired

"At its best, science writing weaves together quests for knowledge, personal struggles, rivalry and conflicts, and moments of great insight to reveal how science works and why it matters. This book shows you how to write science stories that count."
     - Siri Carpenter, senior editor, Discover Magazine and co-founder, The Open Notebook

"In a world growing ever more complex, people with a talent to explain are in demand. Nowhere is this truer than in science writing--a field that is entering a vibrant new age. Whether you're a beginner or a veteran, these reports from the frontline provide an invaluable guide."
     - George Johnson, author of The Cancer Chronicles: Unlocking Medicine's Deepest Mystery
and cofounder and director of the Santa Fe Science Writing Workshop

New York Journal of Books, 5/1/13

“Whether you are breaking into the field or a seasoned professional, this book is dense with advice from the SciLance workgroup, which boasts 225 years of combined experience.”




Knight Science Journalism at MIT (website), 5/3/13

“I found the book entertaining and enlightening, and that's coming from someone who's been at this for a while. You'd be smart to take a look.”



Infodad.com, 5/23/13

“A useful and even uplifting guide.”




Worlds of R.A. Hortz, 5/27/13


“The perfect tool for anyone seeking to break into the writing about science.”



ASJA Monthly, June 2013

“Superb.”



San Francisco/Sacramento Book Review, 5/31/13

“Has everything a writer will need to take the big step into science writing.”




Choice, October 2013

“This exceptionally timely resource illuminates many of the modern frustrations of science writing…This highly readable book will benefit anyone interested in the field of science journalism. Highly recommended.”



Choice, October 2013

“This exceptionally timely resource illuminates many of the modern frustrations of science writing…This highly readable book will benefit anyone interested in the field of science journalism. Highly recommended.”



Curled Up with a Good Book, 11/25/13

“A fresh take on the timeworn tactics of freelance writing…a valuable resource…It's not a silver bullet (there is none) but The Science Writers' Handbook  is a solid resource to get any intrepid reporter on the right path.”

Technical Communications, November 2013

“Offers abundant instructions, advice, and real-life stories that apply to all writers, particularly those interested in starting or increasing a freelance writing business…This book is a great guide.”


WomanAroundTown.com, 2/22/14

“Just what you need to enter this difficult and somewhat esoteric field.”

About the Author

Thomas Hayden teaches science writing, environmental journalism and sustainability science in Stanford University's School of Earth Sciences and Graduate Program in Journalism.  A former oceanographer, he also continues to work as a freelance science journalist and author. Formerly a staff reporter at Newsweek and a senior writer at US News & World Report, his cover stories have appeared there as well as in National Geographic, Wired, Smithsonian and many other publications. He has co-authored two previous books, the national bestseller On Call in Hell and the critically acclaimed Sex and War, and was lead writer for the 2010 9th edition of the iconic National Geographic Atlas of the World.

Michelle Nijhuis is a freelance journalist and a longtime contributing editor of High Country News. Her work has appeared in numerous other publications including Smithsonian, National Geographic, the Atlantic, the New York Times, Orion, Audubon, and the Christian Science Monitor. A lapsed biologist, she specializes in long-form stories about conservation and global change, but she has covered stories ranging from border security to wrestling. Her reporting on science and the environment has won multiple national journalism honors, and her writing has been included in the anthologies Best American Science Writing and Best American Science and Nature Writing. In 2011, as an Alicia Patterson Foundation fellow, she researched and wrote about the science and ethics of rescuing critically endangered species. She lives off the grid in rural western Colorado.

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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I've learned a lot in that period, most of it the hard way.
Pendragon
Among the many things I liked about the book was the authors' willingness not only to tell of their triumphs, but also their failures and what they learned from them.
Dennis Meredith
This book is a fantastic resource for novice and experienced science writers.
Roberta

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Tho on May 22, 2013
Format: Paperback
I happened to crack this open during an especially challenging week of freelancing. I was dealing with a difficult editor (see Working with Editors--and Their Edits, Chapter 8) and had signed on for too many dead-end projects (Multilancing, Chapter 10, and Sustainable Science Writing, Chapter 26). It didn't help that a few acquaintances had landed great gigs that same week (Beyond Compare, Chapter 14). This book really helped me move on with its clear, practical advice and reminders that these sorts of troubles aren't so unique or hopeless. As a new freelancer, I found the chapters on the business of writing (Chapters 19-26) especially helpful in laying out a plan for making this a sustainable career. Reading this book helped me to put everything back in perspective, and I keep it on my desk to refer to whenever I start to lose that.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jeremy Smith on May 23, 2013
Format: Paperback
Congratulations to the handbook contributors and editors -- I bought it, read it, loved it.

They do a great job of conveying their own intimate intelligent voice(s)/experience(s) without ever losing objectivity and authority.

Want to know the difference between "percent" and "percentage points"? The best thing a book contract gives you (hint: not money)? How to query editors and when to follow-up? The most important notes to take when reporting on scene? How to deal with rejection -- and jealousy of another writer's success? It's all in here.

As a reference text, how-to, inspiration, or master class, the handbook is great for just about anyone writing about just about anything. I've published plenty and I still found something to learn (and re-learn!) on every page.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Dennis Meredith on June 21, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
While this excellent guide is titled The Science Writers' Handbook, it will be be helpful to any freelancer. It will be a great addition to any journalism curriculum. More broadly it will benefit scientists contemplating writing for popular media, and in fact any scientists wanting to understand the freelance journalists interviewing them for stories. The book uniquely goes beyond covering the techniques of freelance science writing, which it explains extremely well. It also offers invaluable advice about the business, personal and ethical complexities of the career, told by a cadre of savvy freelancers. Among the many things I liked about the book was the authors' willingness not only to tell of their triumphs, but also their failures and what they learned from them.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Roberta on May 18, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is a fantastic resource for novice and experienced science writers. What I appreciated most was that it addressed not only journalism issues such as reporting and constructing narratives, but also topics important to freelancers such as work-life balance, health insurance, and contract negotiation. A readable and witty guide for navigating the new landscape of science journalism.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Pendragon on June 23, 2013
Format: Paperback
I wish I had had this handbook when I first began my science writing career 35 years ago. I've learned a lot in that period, most of it the hard way. However, this book still held new and important lessons for me. In its 26 succinct, easy-to-read chapters, a group of experienced practitioners shares important insights into becoming a successful science writer. What is most impressive about this handbook is the personal, friendly tone, the telling of personal anecdotes, and the emphasis on concrete steps toward becoming a successful science writer. This book has useful advice on all aspects of this profession -- from identifying newsworthy topics to writing query letters to handling the finances of the business. Perhaps its most helpful material concerns taking advantage of social media to further one's career and to maintain contacts with other writers that can provide support and encouragement. Truly a book for every science writer's -- and every writer's -- shelf.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By R. Olson on May 12, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an outstandingly practical and useful book that every new science writer needs as the essential starting point in the profession. It covers a wide array of topics with an impressively large group of authors. Science writing has come a long way in the past three decades. This is the book that is needed for today's science writing world.

Not to date myself too much, but I remember the pivotal year for science writing in America -- 1980. That year saw the debut of two commercial, broad magazines for science (more broad than the stodgy Scientific American at the time) -- one that made it (Discover) and one that bit the dust (Science 80, which was eventually absorbed by Discover). At the same time several major science writing programs were launched including the one at M.I.T. that I had a close friend in the inaugural class. Science writing has come a long way since.

It's a new world with the internet and a world where prospective science writers desperately need the advice not of some dinosaurs (kinda like some of the professors I had in film school who hadn't made a film since before the age of computers), but of multiple working science writers of today.

This is exactly that book, and assembled by Thomas Hayden, who is the sort of veteran of both the working world (was a science writer with US News and World Report) and the teaching world (now at Stanford). It takes both sets of skills to make a book that will be useful and coherent, as he has done with this book.

The various chapters pretty much take you from start to full speed in a science writing career -- all written in very personable, conversational writing styles.
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