Writing Book Proposals That Editors Want
One of the major challenges of a new book author is connecting
with the right decision makes in major publishing houses. Most book
acquisition editors are too busy to take phone calls. Typically,
an editor will review between 300 and 1500 submissions a year; with
only a very small percentage of these being selected for publishing.
So how do authors get to communicate with editors, and does having
an agent make a difference? From research we have done, Editors
work about equally directly with authors and with authors literary
agents. However most prefer working through agents, especially with
first time authors because:
- Proposals and manuscripts
are better quality.
- Agents are better at negotiating
- Agents can help authors during difficult parts of the process,
as a facilitator between author and editor. This maintains a better
creative relationship between author and publisher.
- Some won't read proposals
from agents they have never heard of because it is more difficult
and mroe time-consuming.
Criteria Used to Evaluate Book Proposals
Editors want the proposal to include:
Author’s Credentials and Platform - what
public profile does the author have. Have they been speaking, consulting,
publishing articles etc in the subject area of the book. Are they
getting attention from authorative sources. The proposal should
indicate how many people are already being reached.
Authors who are already 'out there' can find contacts and bigger
audiences to help promote the book.
Marketing Strategy - a comprehensive marketing
strategy that shows how the author will attract a high volume of
sales. While publishers take care of distributing the books, it
is up to authors to get the book in front of the buying public.
This means both creating interest and name recognition that leads
Track Record - if a previously self
published book has sold well, that will help. But, if it tanked
- that detracts from your appeal to the publishers. In this case
- first time authors have an advantage. It is not so much the authors
experience, but how well the book is likely to sell. Include sales
figures, copies of reviews, media appearances and one or two
Competitive Review - this is the key persuasion
part. You must demonstrate that you know what is out there, and
how your book is different. When searching on Amazon.com set the
filter to data published. This will show all the upcoming books
as well as the already published ones. Your information must support
a real demand for your book. Include documentation that verifies
facts and figures as well as any media clips that will help the
publisher in the positioning of your book.
Book Outline - should include:
- A brief description - content of the book and its intended market
- Three paragraph summaries of its purpose, approach, organization
- Why you wrote the book
- Any special editorial features - forms, case studies, charts,
photos, research references, etc.
- An outline of the book - chapter names, subheads, brief explanations,
appendices, glossaries, etc.
- Project status - length of manuscript, due completion date
- Sample chapter - one that represents the heart of your work.
Remember: the way this proposal is written indicates your writing
ability. So take as much care with it, if not more, than your manuscript.
The book must have a clear voice and yet entertaining enough to
capture and hold the attention of the reader.
Format - Your proposal should be written in a
concise style, but be sufficiently comprehensive in key information.
Final Polish - check layout, spelling, grammar,
tone and completeness.
Keep in mind that the editor will have a set of questions they
want answers to. This will include questions such as:
- What is unique about the proposed book in the defined marketplace?
- How have similar books sold?
- What is the author’s experience that documents expertise
in writing about this topic?
- Is there sufficient evidence presented of the potential market?
- What effort is the author willing to make to promote the book?
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