Today we have a guest post from Chad R. Allen based on his experience as editorial director for Baker Books. He’s offering some sage advice on creating a compelling book proposal.
This young, attractive lady knew what she was doing. After an engaging conversation at a party, before retiring for the night, my wife-to-be leaned over, touched my shoulder, and said kindly, “It was really nice to see you again, Chad.”
I nearly sprinted to the nearest jeweler.
Well, not quite, but that one gesture made an impression that carried us steadily to our wedding day. I’ll never forget that moment of her first affection. Honestly just recalling it still gives me goosebumps!
When it comes to your nonfiction book proposal, you too want to make a good impression. Not of the amorous kind, obviously, but you want the publisher to know you mean business.
Following are seven ways to make sure your nonfiction book proposal stands out. In fact, if you follow through with each of these suggestions, I expect your proposal will be in the top 5 percent of all proposals a publisher reviews.
- Provide a list of alternative titles and subtitles. I recommend doing this on the back of the cover page. But make them as good as possible. Don’t just rattle them off. Do some intentional brainstorming by yourself and with friends and propose a list of legitimate alternatives. Doing so provides various ways a publisher can position your book, which gives you a better chance at mutual agreement.
- Cast a compelling vision in your brief description. That’s what it’s for. Your brief description should capture our hearts. Sweep us off our feet! Bonus point: your brief description is in some ways your first writing sample, the first sample of your voice, so showcase your best here.
- Provide a lengthy three-stage marketing plan. I can’t tell you the number of proposals that devote a half page to the author’s own promotional intentions. Listen, your book proposal is the publishing version of a business plan. The function of your book proposal is in part to convince us that you’d be a good business partner. A big part of this is your marketing plan. We want to know, to what extent are you going to help us get the word out?
- If your platform stats aren’t already great, tell the story of how much they’ve grown and what your plan is to keep them growing. If a publisher signs you today, we likely won’t publish your book for at least a year. That’s a lot of time to grown your platform. Show us the growth you’ve already achieved. Then show us your plan for continuing that growth.
- Make your chapter titles/subtitles sing. Your chapter-by-chapter synopsis serves an editorial function, obviously, in that it gives us a breakdown of your book’s content. But it also serves a marketing function—to reviewers of your proposal but also eventually to your readers via the Table of Contents. Give some thought to your chapter titles and subtitles. Make them compelling! Bonus point: don’t go on too long describing each chapter. Three to five sentences is plenty.
- Don’t slack on your writing sample. Everything that precedes the writing sample is prologue. Your writing sample is a piece of what we might actually send into the world! Don’t let the wheels fall off here. The temptation is to think, “Well, I’ll just give them a draft because we’re going to work this over once the contract is signed.” Don’t fall for it. Your goal should be to make the publisher think they could go to press right now with your writing sample. Do whatever you have to do, consult with as many people as you need to, to make your sample awesome.
- Craft a killer bio. Your bio either opens doors or closes them. Your bio establishes your credibility and gives us a glimpse into who you are as a person. Keep reading for a tool that will help you craft a bio that keeps the doors to publishing swinging open!
Special Gift for Books & Such Readers
Thanks so much for taking the time to read this. It’s an honor to be guest-posting for Books & Such. I put together a special resource kit specifically for Books & Such readers because I love the team there (and you!) so much. If you click here and drop in your email address, I’ll send you the following resources:
- My book proposal guidelines. These guidelines have helped countless writers craft contract-winning book proposals.
- An exclusive link to a webinar replay on how to craft a killer bio. If you watch this video and follow the steps, by the end of it you’ll have a great new bio you can put to work right away. This is an unlisted YouTube link. The only way to get it is by clicking here.
- An infographic on how to come up with a great nonfiction book concept. If you have a few scattered ideas but you’re struggling to bring them together, this tool is going to help a lot.
Grab it all by clicking here.
Are you working on a nonfiction book proposal? What’s your proposed book about?
7 ways to make your book proposal stand out. Click to tweet.
How to put your book proposal in the top 5%. Click to tweet.
Chad is a writer, editor, speaker, entrepreneur, and creativity coach. He is the creator of Book Proposal Academy and serves as editorial director for Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group. He blogs regularly at chadrallen.com, and you can connect with him via Twitter or Facebook.