About the Author - Writer's Digest

About the Author

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In the "About the Author" section of your proposal, you want to explain why you are the perfect person to write this book. Or because there might be (probably will be) more than one perfect person, why you are among them?

Some of the elements of that question's answer are straightforward. "I am the perfect person to write this book because I have 12 years' experience in ..." or "I alone have access to ..." or "I have been teaching these concepts longer than anyone. ..." Here you're calling on uniqueness to define your credibility.

But you'll also want to call on "solidity" to define your credibility. Are you reliable? Are you someone the editor will want to work with?

So in your "About the Author" section (write it in either the first or third person—it doesn't really matter), communicate these things about yourself and what you have accomplished or are capable of accomplishing:

  • Previous publication. Mention published material—short or long—related to your subject matter at the top of the list. Follow with published book-length material. Flesh the list out with other prominent publication credits. Prove that you know the subject before you prove you can write book-length projects. Or, ideally, prove both simultaneously.
  • Experience within your topic area. Experience is important but not essential if you're a good reporter and a good researcher. For example, Tracy Kidder is not a home-builder, yet his book House is a marvelous tale of building a home. But experience (or at least deep familiarity) becomes crucial if you're unproven, if you've never published anything else. Kidder had impressive credentials under his belt when he landed the contract to write House.
  • Credibility. That's a big topic, and the first two items on this list relate closely to it. "Credibility" boils down to either a) you are the authority, or b) you can reach the authorities. Go through the questions about your promotional plan above with an eye toward identifying areas where you rise above participation to become the authority. Are you willing to give interviews? So much better if you say that media outlets have approached you for interviews. Do you belong to a major organization? So much better if you are an officer of that organization, or if someone from the organization has invited you to speak or present a research paper. This is the difference between communicating that you merely know the topic and communicating that others look to you for your opinion on the topic.

Your "About the Author" section should take up no more than two paragraphs. Longer than that feels either like bragging or like over-attention to detail. "About the Author" is not a resume or a curriculum vita, nor it is an autobiography. It is a statement of "Why I'm qualified to do this," ideally focused 100% on why you can write, why you can write within this subject area, and why an editor can rely on you to deliver what you propose to deliver. Prove that you can teach, you can write, you can communicate, you can work with editors, you can probe, you can entertain—and you can sustain a major project like a book.

This tip was taken from the workshop Writing the Nonfiction Book Proposal

You’ve got a great idea for a book. You’ve done the research, interviewed the experts, collected all the materials you need, started—or maybe even finished—a draft of the manuscript. Now what? Before you spend months finishing and/or polishing that manuscript, wouldn’t it be nice to know there’s an editor out there who’s already made a commitment to publish it, or an agent who’s agreed to represent it? Professional authors know how to get that commitment up front—with a book proposal package.

This workshop will teach you:

  • The components of a book proposal
  • How to identify—and sell—your book’s special features
  • How to define and quantify who will buy your book
  • How to distinguish your book from the rest of the pack
  • How to put your best foot forward as the author, including innovative promotional ideas
  • How to organize your material into an effective outline
  • The role of the query letter and the components of an effective query

Learn more about Writing the Nonfiction Book Proposal


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