Monday, May 2, 2011

How to Write a Book Proposal, Part One by Rachelle Gardner

Raise your hand if you love writing book proposals. Anyone? Yeah, me neither. Hey readers, Annette here. Though writing proposals may not be our favorite activity as writers, we still need to do them and having the right tools always helps. This Manuscript Monday, we welcome agent Rachelle Gardner back to Seriously Write. For the next two weeks, she's here to help us with our book proposals. Read on!

How to Write a Book Proposal: Part One
by Rachelle Gardner

There are several great books available on writing book proposals. My favorites for non-fiction are:

* Book Proposals That Sell by W. Terry Whalin

* Write the Perfect Book Proposal by Jeff Herman. I like this one because it contains ten real-life proposals that sold.

A good book for fiction proposals is:

* Your Novel Proposal: From Creation to Contract by Blythe Camenson and Marshall J. Cook

Here are bare-bones outlines of what a book proposal looks like.**

For Non-Fiction

Title page: Title, authors’ names, phone numbers, email addresses.

One sentence summary: It captures your book. It should be more hook than description.

Brief overview: This should read similar to back-cover copy. It should be exciting, informative, and make someone want to read your book. It tells the publisher in a succinct form what the book is about and who the market is. Three to four paragraphs.

Felt need: What needs will your book fulfill that your audience is already aware of? What questions are they asking that your book will answer? What do they want that you can give them?

About the authors: Half page to a full page on each author. Why are you qualified to write this book? List any previously published books or articles along with sales figures. Make a good case for YOU as the best possible author for a book on this topic.

The market: Whom do you see as the audience for the book? Why would somebody buy this book? How is this audience reached? Do you have any special relationships to the market? What books and magazines does this audience already read? What radio and TV programs do they tune into? Demonstrate an understanding of exactly who will buy your book and why.

Author marketing: This is where you'll talk about your platform. How are YOU able to reach your target audience to market your book? This is NOT the place for expressing your "willingness" to participate in marketing, or your "great ideas" for marketing. This is the place to tell what you've already done, what contacts you already have, and what plans you've already made to help market your book. A list of speaking engagements already booked is great; radio or television programs you're scheduled to appear on or have in the past; a newsletter you're already sending out regularly; a blog that gets an impressive number of daily hits. This is NOT the place to say that your book would be terrific on Oprah, unless you have documented proof that Oprah's people have already contacted you.

The competition: What other books are in print on the same subject? How is your book different and better? (There is always competition.) First, give a general discussion of the state of the marketplace as regards books of this topic. Then do a list of 4 to 8 books that could be considered most comparable to yours. List the title, author, year of publication. (Only books in the last five years are relevant, unless they’re still bestsellers.) Then write a couple of sentences explaining what that book is about, and how yours is different, better, and/or a good complement to it.

Details: How many words will your book be? (Words, not pages.) How long after the signing of a contract will it take you to complete the book? (This is usually 2 to 6 months.)

Chapter outline: This is where it becomes crucial that your book is well organized and completely thought-through. You will need chapter titles, and a couple of sentences capturing each chapter’s theme.

Sample chapters: This is usually the Introduction, plus one or two chapters. Make sure they’re polished and perfect!

Those are the basics, but I highly recommend you get a good book on proposals before writing yours. Mary DeMuth has a 50-page book proposal tutorial available for $10. Click here to go to her website and order it. (Mary writes incredible book proposals, and she knows what she's talking about.)

Next Monday, we’ll discuss fiction book proposals.


* This article (and Part Two) originally appeared on CBA-Ramblings, Rachelle Gardner’s blog. Click here for more info.

**For information specifically concerning submitting a proposal to Rachelle at WordServe Literary, see her blog for instructions.