Seven Steps to a Winning Book Proposalcomments (1) July 10th, 2008
As the author of more than 20 books, I often am approached by friends, family, and random strangers who want to know how to get their book idea published.
And you know what? A lot of the ideas are really good. Many crafters are talented enough to create ample projects for a great book. So how do you convey your concept to a book publisher?
Simple: You write a great book proposal.
And while writing a nonfiction proposal may not seem simple, it’s not as daunting as you might imagine. Don’t get intimidated. You don’t have to write the whole manuscript. Actually, many editors prefer that you don’t submit the entire text with your proposal. When I worked at a publishing house, the editorial department (which was 10 people on a good day) had to divvy up proposals and review them, all the while handling books already in progress. Needless to say, we were a tad overtaxed, like most editorial departments. Chances are high that an editor will not read a hefty manuscript, no matter how brilliant. She will probably use it as a doorstop. It doesn’t benefit you to submit the entire thing.
That said, there are certain elements that go into a successful proposal. You’ll be shocked at how quickly it will come together when you break the process down into these seven manageable pieces. After putting all of the elements together, you’ll be ready to shop it to your favorite craft publishers.
Elements of a Proposal
- Introduction: Explain your book idea in two to four paragraphs. Think of it as the proposal’s cover letter. You are getting the publisher excited about your idea, while introducing them to the general concept. Sell it.
- About the Book: What are the book's specifications? In other words, how do you physically envision the book in terms of trim size (dimensions), page count, paperback vs. hardcover, price point, color use, illustrations/photography, etc. Where will it be shelved in a bookstore (e.g., crafts, humor, history)?
- About the Author: This section has become increasingly important. Why are you particularly qualified to write this book? List all the ways you are marketable: media and industry contacts, media experience, actual experience with the topic, etc.
- Marketing: Detail special sales outlets, contacts, connections to stores and book clubs, as well as innovative, clever promotion and marketing ideas (postcards, stunts, events you can arrange).
- Outline: This can be a traditional outline or a table of contents with a paragraph about each chapter or section. I prefer to use a paragraph form (such as “Chapter 1, Tools and Supplies: I’ll cover the basics of what you’ll need for this craft, where to find the best and most-affordable materials, and how to set up your workbench”), as it’s much easier to read and follow.
- Sample Text: The introduction and one complete chapter are usually sufficient for a nonfiction proposal.
- Extra materials: This includes articles that show the strength of the market, more information about you, sample art or sample page layouts, sample projects, photographs, a headshot of you, basically anything to give the editor a more complete picture of your concept and you.