For the last several months, many of us here at DGLM have talked about the necessity of preparing solid book proposals. A strong proposal is so important because it not only helps the editor and publisher to know what you are doing, it actually helps you, the author, to focus on your subject and the market you are trying to reach.
Many feel that doing this work is an “unnatural” act, and I admit that it can be very difficult. Once it is done right, however, it can be a very effective tool for everyone.
We work very hard with our clients to help them create their proposals. We send them basic instructions, sample proposals and then we review and comment on each draft until we feel the material is ready to be submitted.
Because we think this part of the publishing process is so very important, I thought I would share our basic formula for putting together a non-fiction proposal.
The proposal is broken down into several parts:
The first is the Overview. This begins with a brief dramatic anecdote which is meant to get the reader, in this case the editor at the publishing company, into the material. Immediately after this anecdote, you should describe in two or three sentences—no more—what the book will be about. This is followed by another brief paragraph on why it is being written and then another on why you are qualified to write it.
After this, you need to describe the different groups of readers who will buy your book—both demographically and statistically. The more numbers you have here the better.
The final element of the overview is a comparative section where you compare your book to others that would be found in the same place in the bookstore. In each case, book by book you must provide the author, the title, the publisher and the year of initial publication and, book by book, you need to tell us how your proposed book will be as successful or more so.
The next element of the proposal is the Annotated Table of Contents. This consists of chapter heads and no more than a couple of sentences on what each chapter will contain.
Then we need at least One Sample Chapter that matches a chapter described in your annotated table of contents. (I always suggest an early chapter, but the contents cannot repeat anything that has previously appeared in the overview of the proposal.) The sample chapter is meant to do two things: show off the writing and tell us things we don’t already know.
Finally, there should be a more formal narrative Bio of the author.
This is followed by links that serve as Support Material—reviews of previous books, recent articles by and about you from national publications, a schedule of speaking appearance, any national media appearances, etc.
So there you have it—my holiday present to you. I know this isn’t easy, but as I said, once this is done right, it is incredibly helpful in not only selling the proposed book but also in writing it.
Naturally, as always, I am open to answering your questions.