You might think you have a non-fiction book concept worth publishing, but in order to convince an agent or publisher of that you will need a winning query letter and full proposal. Writers tend to focus too narrowly on the ideas and content of their manuscript and lose perspective on the purpose of a book proposal.
Think of it as a business plan. If you wanted to build a house, before you start you need at least a blueprint and a budget. If you need financing you put together a proposal that looks like it is a sound investment. Your book proposal is like a business prospectus in which you want an agent or publisher to invest.
You need to include 6 pieces in your package to prepare for the specific submission gudielines of particular agents and publishers.
1. Synospis. A one page “executive summary” of the subject of your book.
2. Expanded Table of Contents. Provide an outline of chapters with estimated pagination and a short paragraph about each chapter describing its content.
3. Author bio. A short biographical profile with a professional headshot.
4. Competitive Title Analysis. Review bestselling current and forthcoming titles in your subject area competing for your audience.
5. Marketing Strategy. Identify audience and how to reach them, current platform, social media metrics, reviewers, endorsements/blurbs, author events, cross-promotional opportunities, book trailer, campaign ideas and inbound marketing strategies.
6. Writing sample. Submission guidelines vary but prepare at least 100 pages and no less than two chapters polished for review.
A few words of advice on preparing your book proposal.
1. DO NOT SEND YOUR PROPOSAL UNSOLICITED. Your proposal should be ready before you send out query letters. Read on for more about preparing a query letter below.
2. DO NOT SEND YOUR PROPOSAL BEFORE YOU HAVE HAD SEVERAL OTHERS READ, EDIT AND OFFER FEEDBACK. You wouldn’t send out the first draft of your resume. Lack of copyediting in the book business makes you look like an amateur.
3. CONSULT A BOOK DEVELOPMENT EDITOR BEFORE YOU SEND IT OUT PREMATURELY. A book development editor can flag problems or issues the author may not know about given an editor’s connections to the publishing industry.
4. FOLLOW THE SPECIFIC SUBMISSION GUIDELINES OF EACH AGENT OR EDITOR YOU CONTACT. These basic documents you have prepared in a proposal can be customized to the specific submisssion guidelines of particular agents or publishers. If you do not follow their guidelines, this is a flag. If you send out anything appearing to be a mass mailing, your credibility as an author drops to zero.
Before you send out your proposal, you need to first identify specific agents by name and/or particular acquisition editors by name at publishing houses. When you contact an agent or publisher you will need to demonstrate that you have done your homework. You know who they are and you know why they might be interested in your book proposal.
5. ALWAYS SEND A QUERY LETTER BEFORE YOU SEND A FULL PROPOSAL. Once you know who you are writing to and why, then it is time to prepare a query letter. You ask first if they would be interested in reading a book proposal. Every query letter has 4 basic paragraphs.
a. Explain why you are contacting this particular agent or publisher.
b. Pitch your book concept.
c. Who are you and why are you qualified to write this book?
d. Identify the market and how you plan to reach your audience.
IF you get a positive response to a query letter and are asked to submit a proposal, follow their guidelines precisely.
In the age of the internet, many more publishers permit email queries and that often means within 24-48 hours you may get a request for your proposal. Be ready.
Let your book take flight in 2012!