By Wendy Keller, Literary Agent
Anybody with a credit card can self-publish…
But the authors who want their book to have maximum impact on the world and on their own bottom line invariably seek out bona fide, legitimate publishers. You know, the kind of people who pay an advance for the honor of printing your words, then actually invest their own time editing and improving, printing, marketing, selling and distributing your precious book.
It all starts with one simple step: crafting a strong nonfiction book proposal. (For fiction, you have to write the whole book first. For nonfiction, just a “sampler plate”)
The proposal is the core sales document that every nonfiction author must create in order to present a book to a publishers.
A book proposal is to a publisher what a business plan is to a venture capitalist – and basically for the same reason: you want a stranger to invest their money in your idea.
A book proposal has five basic parts:
- The Overview – where you sell the sizzle of your proposal
- The Author’s Bio – where you cement the fact you are the ideal expert
- The Marketing Plan – where you show ’em how you can help them help you sell a lot of copies
- The Competitive Analysis – where you prove your book deserves its space on the shelf because it is better than anything published on the topic to date
- The Chapter Summary – where you lay out in good order the brilliant content you will be giving to the reader
Add to this two carefully chosen, not-necessarily-consecutive, well-written, well edited, compelling chapters and voila! You’ve create a proposal.
You’ll want to finish the proposal for your nonfiction book before you start pitching it to literary agents. We are the gatekeepers for the publishers, so we’ll be the first people you try to attract. If you pitch a proposal that isn’t even partly written yet, by the time you get around to doing it, the industry may well have shifted and that same agent may no longer be able to express interest.