Query, propose, publish.
December 22, 2009 7:45 PM   Subscribe

I want the best resources to help me write a nonfiction book proposal.

I will be writing a nonfiction book in the next year (my first.) I'm looking for the best books, websites and articles to help me write a proposal and query agents. Things I'm currently reading:

Miss Snark, the literary agent

Ten Basic Steps to Writing a Non Fiction Book Proposal/Finding a Literary Agent/Finding a Publisher

Soyouwanna Publish a Book?

As you know, there's a boatload of books out there on proposals and querying agents, but I have no way of narrowing down which ones are good, especially while shopping online.

So, Mefites with actual publishing experience -- please list for me your favourite books, websites, and articles about proposals, agents, and publishing in general.
posted by Ouisch to Writing & Language (3 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: That would be How To Write A Book Proposal, by Michael Larsen. Comprehensive, clear, and insanely useful. Recommended to me by the agent who helped me with my own non-fiction book proposal.
posted by ErikaB at 8:08 PM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My book proposal was
1. Book Overview (one page or less)
2. About the Author
3. Introduction (the introductory chapter from your book)
4. Argument of the Book
5. Market for the Book
6. Structure, Style, and Research
7. Promoting the Book
8. Chapter Outlines

Along with three substantive chapters (out of 20ish). The proposal ran about 25 pages not including the sample chapters. The less obvious it is you should be writing this book, the more actual writing you should have ready.

What I was surprised by was that the agent was most interested in the market for the book and promoting the book. The book was technical and the agent was not really super interested to know if it made sense, but he was interested in how many copies similar books sold and interesting in positioning/changing the book to make more like the ones which sold a lot and less like the ones which didn't. He expected me to have this information.

He was also interested to know what we would be doing to market the book. Publishers would rather your book sells than doesn't sell well, but they are not really willing to do anything to help your book sell. Things to consider in the promoting section - do you appear on radio or TV? Do you have blog following? Are you on some sort of lecture circuit? Will you be buying lots of copies of your book for some reason? (we were planning to give about 200 copies away to clients). Who will blurb your book? Can you get someone to review your book?
posted by shothotbot at 9:16 PM on December 22, 2009

Best answer: There's a great (long) post on the NF proposal process over at AbsoluteWrite. My proposal clocked in at 36 pages including sample material.

In my experience (nonfiction book, major publisher)...don't ever forget that your proposal is a sales document, meant to be an editor's tool as she in turn sells the idea to the powers that be in marketing, sales, and production. Emulate your book's voice in the proposal itself, and focus on the obvious questions - why publish this book now? why should you be the person to write it? who will read it? etc. It's all too common to see people say "the market is 2353525235325235 million readers" when in reality they should drill down to "the market is 35-42-year-old women who are married to college professors" or whatever.

Good luck, and let us know how it goes!
posted by mynameisluka at 2:00 PM on December 27, 2009

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