Book Proposals: One More Down


I finally completed my latest nonfiction book proposal last week and sent it out to a literary agent. And let me tell you—composing it was no easy task in the least. Now all I need to do is sit back, relax, and wait for the sweet contract polite rejection letter.

After I drafted a rough version of the original proposal, an agent looked it over and gave her immediate thoughts on what needed improvement. Long story short, her feedback meant I had to go back and give the proposal a complete overhaul. With that in mind, let me pass on some things I learned this time around so I can spare you the “complete overhaul” step later.

  • First of all, be sure to read more than one book on book proposals. You can find several in any bookstore and many on Two Writer’s Digest Books titles addressing this are How to Write a Book Proposal and Bulletproof Book Proposals. Both have sample proposals for writers to review.
  • Stress timing, if you can. For example, if your book has to do with environmental issues or conservation, talk about how you will effectively market the book during days/months of the year devoted to celebrating conservation and Mother Earth. Has it been 25 years since a famous conservation plan was first released? Stress that. Has it been 20 years since a horrific oil spill? Say so. Know why your book will be attractive to the media when it comes out.
  • Write a thorough marketing plan. I can’t say how important this is. Unless your book looks like a bestseller, you are the publicity department, so spend lots of time talking about all your marketing ideas for print media, TV & radio, as well as the Internet.
  • If you’re proposing a book with a large visual component (lots of photos or illustrations), make sure you discuss the art qualities of similar/competitive books in the marketplace when listing them.
  • Of course, you’ll want to stress your platform. Discuss, in detail, all the ways that you are an aficionado on the subject and have the means to reach people who will buy your book. But more than that, lay out plans that show how you will further enhance your platform and reach new groups of potential buyers.

Best of luck! I will keep you posted on how this proposal goes concerning its adventure into the world of agents.

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6 thoughts on “Book Proposals: One More Down

  1. Jane Friedman

    One caveat on the marketing plan: Remember that no matter how great your ideas are, it’s all about whether you have the means to execute them.

    For instance, part of your marketing plan may be getting on local TV/radio (or even national TV/radio). How will you accomplish that? Do you have contacts in the media that will help you get on the air (or will you make a cold call)? Everyone would love to be on national TV touting their book, but few authors have the contacts that would make that possible.

    So your marketing ideas should concentrate on things you can actually do with the budget and time you have. You should not say, "I am willing to go on Oprah" (as an extreme example). Of course you’re willing–but do you have the power to make it happen?

    Also use as much quantifiable information as possible when talking about marketing or platform. Let’s say you plan to market your book to particular organizations or groups. Give membership numbers. Or maybe you’ll market through your own newsletters or publications. Give circulation numbers. Clearly, large numbers are impressive, but it’s just as valuable to show that you know how to reach the specific audience who will be most interested in your work.

    Jane Friedman
    Editorial Director, Writer’s Digest Books


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