Creating a Book Proposal Package
How to Publish a Book
Most people who visit this site are in the process of writing a book. However, we know that many of you are quite interested in how to publish your book.
We're always on the lookout for useful tips and suggestions on how to publish. What you need to know is what you should be sending to agents and publishers.
The heart of your work in getting published is your book proposal. Blow this and you blow your chance at getting published, even if your book is the most amazing thing since The Great Gatsby.
John Daniel provides these very useful guidelines for writing a book proposal. If your book is any good, you may just see your book in print.
First, he says, your book proposal package should contain a winning cover letter, a title page, an overview/synopsis, a market analysis and assessment of the competition, an author biography, and a SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope).
You should also include the following materials in your package, if requested by the agent, editor or publisher: the Introduction or Preface, the Table of Contents, and the first couple of chapters or first fifty pages. They want to see if you can write.
Of course your proposal will be stronger if you can state that the book has been written and edited and is ready to submit. Partially written books may get a few words of encouragement, but not much will happen until it's done.
The exception this rule is with nonfiction books. If you're a "somebody" in your industry, then they may contact you about writing a book. If not, many publishers won't require the book to be completed, as long as you can prove your writing is solid and the material will sell. Remember that while authors like to think of writing as an art form, publishers think of books as "products to move."
Like it or not, that's the truth.
Before preparing your proposal package, read and respond to the following questions. Answer them as thoroughly as you can. Many of them won't apply directly to the book you're trying to place, but they will keep you mindful of your long-term goals as a writer, and having thought about these questions will help you when you get into discussions with prospective publishers and/or agents.
The book proposal questionnaire
About the author
- Author's full name.
- Author's name as it is to appear on the book.
- Author's address, work; Author's address, home. Author's email.
- Phone number, work, phone number home, Fax number.
- Occupation (give job title and brief description).
- Significant past employment (of relevant interest to readers of your book).
- Education. Please give names and addresses of schools and colleges you have attended, and, if possible, the names and editor's names of alumni magazines or newsletters. Also indicate the years you attended and any degrees earned.
- Awards, and honors earned.
- Previously published books and their publishers.
- Other publications (e.g. poems, stories, articles etc. published in periodicals).
- Significant organizations or associations of which you are a member. Include titles of any offices you've held.
- Please send us a few photographs of you.
- Write a 100-200 word autiobiography.
- Do you have another writing project in the works? Is it related in some way to the manuscript that's the subject of this proposal? Please describe the new project briefly (30± words).
About the book
- Book title and subtitle
- Characterize your work's content in one sentence.
- Write a 200-400 word synopsis of the book.
- Names and addresses of magazines whose readers would be interested in your book.
- Names and address of organizations that might be interested in buying quantities of the book for their membership or catalog, or whose mailing lists could be used for direct-mail promotion.
- Why did you create your work?
- Who are the people or forces that influenced you the most in the creation of this work?
- If you have shown your work to others, what kind of reponse did you get from them?
- What special services is performed by the existence of this work?
- What human interest stories (current news events, trends, etc.) are related to the production or content of this work?
- Is there some section of this work that is your favorite?
- How long did it take you to complete this work?
- Where did you do most of this work?
- What do you feel is the special significance of your work?
- For what audience was this book written? How extensive is your target audience?
- List other similar, or competing, books on the market, and indicate how you feel your book differs from them.
- If parts of this work have already appeared in print, give the date, name, and address of the publications where they appeared.
- Additional comments?
Remember that persistence is the name of the game. Chances are you won't land a contract or sign up with an agent on the first shot. Have the skin of a rhinoceros, listen to feedback, and always be ready with the next envelope.
A couple of other words of advice. First, neatness counts. Make your proposal package clean, well written, and reader-friendly. Follow the manuscript guidelines if you have them; it will show that you're easy to work with. Friendliness counts, too. Resentment and hurt feelings will get you nowhere. If a rejection letter offers feedback, consider it carefully, because it offered as a favor. Write back and thank whoever took the time to read and respond to your package, even if you don't like what was said in the response.
Second, do your homework. Send your book manuscript or proposal package to agents, publishers, and editors most likely to want to see it. Use the Literary Market Place and the Writer's Market to make a good target list. They're both available in most libraries. The Internet is another fine place to research publishers and agents. Your local independent bookseller is an excellent resource too: get to know the bookstore clerks, buyers, and owners and hit them up for advice. Browse the shelves, find out who's publishing what, and buy a few books.
About the author
John M. Daniel is a founder and proprietor of Daniel & Daniel, a literary small press in California. The author of eight books, numerous articles and short stories, he was an editor at the Stanford University Press and has taught creative writing at several programs, including UCLA Extension and UC Irvine Extension. He also offers freelance literary services, including editing, writing, manuscript submission guidance and writing career mentorship.
You can find Mr. Daniel at http://www.danielpublishing.com