By Guest Blogger, Michael Larsen, Larsen-Pomada Literary Agency
If you have an idea for a nonfiction book, the ability to write and promote it, and you prepare a strong proposal, you can get paid to write your book. Proposals range from 35 to 50 pages and have three parts:
- The Overview
- The Outline
- A Sample Chapter
Your overview must prove that you have a marketable, practical idea and that you are the right person to write about it and promote it. Provide as much ammunition about you and your book as you can muster, including:
- The opening hook that will most excite editors about your subject.
- The book hook:
* the title and selling handle, up to fifteen words of selling copy about the book.
* the books or authors you’re using as models for your book.
* the suggested (or actual) length of your manuscript and when you will deliver it.
* the book’s benefits (optional).
* special features (optional).
* information about a self-published edition (optional).
- Markets: The types of readers and retailers, organizations, or institutions who’ll be interested in your book. The size of each group and other information to show you know your audience and how to write the book for those readers. Other possible markets: schools, businesses, and subsidiary-rights markets such as film and foreign publishers.
- The Author’s Platform: A list in descending order of importance of whatever will impress editors about your visibility to your readers. Online, this may include the number of unique visitors or subscribers to your blog or website, your contacts on social networks, and online articles you’ve published.
Offline, your platform may include the number of articles you’ve had published in print media as well as the number of talks you give each year, the number of people you give them to, where you give them, and your media exposure. Editors may not expect authors of quote books to have a platform; business authors must. For certain kinds of books, an author’s platform is important for big and midsize houses.
- About the Author: Up to a page about yourself with information that isn’t in your platform. Begin with the most important information.
- Promotion: A plan that begins: “To promote the book, the author will:…” followed by a bulleted list in descending order of impressiveness of what you will do to promote your book, online and off, during its crucial two-week-to-three-month launch window and after. Start each part of the list with a verb and use numbers when possible. Publishers won’t expect big plans from memoirists, and the smaller the house you’ll be happy with, the less important your plan is.
- Competing Books: A list of the six or so strongest competitors for your book—not just bestsellers. In addition to basic info about each book (title, author, publisher, year of publication), include two phrases—each starting with a verb—about each competitor’strengths and weaknesses. List the competitors in order of importance.
- Complementary Books: A list of up to six books like yours that prove the market for your book.
- (Optional) Spin-Offs: The titles of up to three related follow-up books
- (Optional) Foreword: A forward by someone whose name will give book credility and salability in fifty states two years form now. Obtain commitments for cover quotes as well, if you can.
- (Optional) A Mission Statement: One first-person paragraph about your passion or commitment to write and promote your book.
(The Table of Contents)
One or two paragraphs in the present-tense about every chapter, using outline verbs like describe, explain, and discuss. For an informational book, you can use a self-explanatory bulleted list of the information the chapter will provide.
A Sample Chapter
Usually one chapter that will excite editors by proving you will fulfill your book’s promise to readers and make your book as enjoyable to read as it is illuminating. Include about 10 percent of the book, or about 25 pages. Memoirs should be finished, and agents and editors will request more chapters.
Adapted from the fourth edition of How to Write a Book Proposal by Michael Larsen (April, 2011).
The Third San Francisco Writing for Change Conference: Writing to Make a Difference / November 13-14, Hilton Financial/Chinatown / www.sfwritingforchange.org / Keynoters: Million-copy selling authors Dan Millman (Way of the Peaceful Warrior) and John Robbins (Diet for a New America).
We are offering a special $50 discount to listeners of Your Book is Your Hook. To take advantage of this opportunity, listeners should send a check for $395 made out to San Francisco Writing for Change Conference to us at 1029 Jones St., San Francisco, 94109. On the memo line, write Jennifer Wilkov. Listeners are welcome to call us at 415-673-0939 with questions.
Michael Larsen and Elizabeth Pomada, Co-Directors.