Literary + Media talks
about nonfiction book proposals.
“…There are lots of ways to think about book proposals. Some agents, like Jean Naggar, president of The Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency, think of proposals as a blueprint for what the finished book is going to look like. Other agents, like Richard Morris of Janklow & Nesbit think of it as an author’s first chance to show off his/her unique narrative voice. In this tough market—a market in which editors are looking for reasons to reject projects rather than reasons to accept them—I think of proposals as an argument for why an editor can’t afford not to take a book on. Any way you look at it, a book proposal is your first chance to prove that you’ve got all of the elements needed to spin your raw idea into a literary goldmine.
So what exactly are the essential elements that publishers and agents are looking for when they read your proposal? Five Things:
1. An original idea. What fresh, original and engaging idea will your book present?
2. But not too original. What published books share the same audience as your book? Why were those books successful, and why will your book appeal to the same readers?
3. A clear sense of what you want to achieve and how you’re going to get there. What’s the scope of your book? How are you going to set about gathering and presenting your information?
4. Why is this an important book? How is your book different (and better than) other similar books? Why is now the time to publish a book on your chosen subject?
5. Why are you the go-to-guy (or gal) to write a book on this subject? You may have heard the word “platform” floating around and wondered what it means. Put simply, there are two kinds of platforms, and ideally you want to demonstrate that you’ve got both. First: What makes you an expert and the clear choice to write the book you’re proposing? Second: What media connections do you have that will help you reach your intended audience with your message?…”
– “Book Proposals: Five Elements of a Nonfiction Proposal” (page 41)
While Guide to Literary Agents is best known for its large and detailed list of literary agencies, every edition has plenty of informational articles and interviews designed to help writers perfect their craft and contact agents wisely. The 2009 edition is no different, with more than 80 pages of articles addressing numerous writing and publishing topics.