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Mistake 52: Not Putting Together a Strong Nonfiction Proposal

70 Solutions to Common Writing Mistakes by Bob Mayer, from The Writer's Digest Writing Kit

Why this is a mistake: Professionalism counts. While fiction writers usually have to have an entire manuscript completed before starting the submission process, nonfiction writers are required to submit a proposal first. The proposal includes the book’s topic, its potential markets, a detailed outline, the author’s qualifications for writing on the topic, and her personal platform on which to promote the book. There is a right way and a wrong way to do a proposal. If a proposal is done incorrectly, it doesn’t matter how exciting the idea is, it won’t make it past the first screener.

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The solution: Take the time to do your proposal correctly. Get a book on writing nonfiction proposals, like the third edition of Michael
Larsen’s How to Write a Book Proposal, and follow the format in it. You may also want to consider attending a conference where there is a presentation or two on nonfiction proposals. There are even entire conferences geared toward nonfiction.

Make sure you find the presentation that corresponds to the niche you are working in. The best way to do that is to check the background
of the author or instructor.

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