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Crafting a Book Proposal – TypeACon 2012

I signed up for the Crafting a Book Proposal hands-on session with Ellen Gerstein and Amy Fandrei from Wiley, one of our conference sponsors.

When writing fiction, you generally have to write the whole book first. This session is predominantly about non-fiction books.

Crafting a Book Proposal

Anyone in this room is doing the right thing to get noticed by publishers by being out there in the social media sphere, getting attention.

Book proposals can take 4-6 weeks for a Dummies book, not counting time spent developing the Table of Contents, etc. But you only get two minutes to pitch a book to an editor. The editor gets one minute to pitch the book to sales. Sales gets about 30 seconds to pitch your book to Barnes & Noble, other book sellers, etc. For Amy, she says it takes nine months to get a book out from proposal to publishing, and that’s a quick turnaround.

About the Author

We’re going through a handout. Your author biography should be approximately 500 characters long. Don’t fudge things, because your editor will fact check. Feel free to write it in your voice and not write it in a strictly professional manner.

About the Book

You have 50 words or less to describe your book in your elevator pitch. You can expand on that in the “big idea.” You can be wordy in this part.

Come up with 3-5 reasons why your book will sell. Do not say, “There has never been a book about this before.” Everything has competition. Prove why you’re different; don’t just tell them you’re different.

If you’re writing a book about a product, you have to describe the product. Like Kelby Carr’s book, Pinterest for Dummies. Explain what Pinterest is, like the blurb at the end of a press release.

When describing your target audience, use any numbers or stats you know about the demographic. There can be a primary and secondary audience.

About the Competition

There is always competition. Check out e-books and websites if you can’t find a print book. Know your competition; study your competition. Check the acknowledgements of the books you find, and you may want to consider contacting the acquisitions editor thanked by the author of the book that’s similar to yours. “Publishing is a strange, incestuous business.”

Be able to articulate why your book is better. Don’t just look at the book listings on Amazon. Go to the library and pick up the book to thumb through and see how you would do it better.

Beyond the Book

There are lots of things you can do to support your printed book with your publisher. Publishers may want you to write additional articles, do a webinar, or put together videos. Packages are becoming more and more important in the publishing world; it’s not just about publishing a book anymore. “Speakers who have books get paid more.”

Any corporate contacts you have may be helpful, too. For example, with a book about Web metrics, Salesforce.com is buying the content of the book to provide to their customers, providing royalties to the author when that custom content is sold.

Books with video trailers sell better than books that do not.

About Your Platform

Anywhere you are online, put it down here. Include your numbers. (And don’t lie.) Get Recommendations on LinkedIn. Let the editor know you already have a following, because that will help sell books. Conference speaking gigs and just conference attendance can be helpful for promoting your book.

Don’t leave anything out just because there isn’t a place for it on the form.

Format isn’t precise. You do not lose points for creativity.

(Random factoid from the room: Comic Sans is a dyslexic-friendly font. That’s why teachers use it!)

The Table of Contents

Look at the other books in the series if you’re pitching to a series editor, study that series. If you’re pitching a Dummies book, make sure your table of contents is structured like a Dummies book. An editor will file your manuscript in the circular file if you clearly haven’t read any of their books.

Don’t be afraid to ask your editor how detailed you need to be in your proposal.

If these liveblogging posts are helpful to you, please consider liking WELL, in THIS House on Facebook.

Christina Gleason (850 Posts)

That’s me: Christina Gleason. I’m a professional copywriter, editor, and blogger. My company is called Phenomenal Content. (Hire me!) I’m a relatively high-functioning Aspie who also lives with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), depression, anxiety, and chronic pain. I am not ashamed to admit that I am in the care of a psychiatrist, who assures me that people in therapy are often better adjusted than “normal” people who are not, because at least we know what our issues are and are working on them. I’m a geek for grammar, fantasy, and select types of gaming, including World of Warcraft and Plants vs Zombies 2. I hate vegetables. I have an intense phone phobia, so I’ll happily conduct business over email or IM instead. I have started writing no fewer than five novels, and I hope to finish one of them...eventually.

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