Nonfiction Book Proposals Anybody Can Write, 310 pages, by Elizabeth Lyon. Last week I blogged on Ms. Lyon’s A Writer’s Guide to Nonfiction, so even though I haven’t read “Proposals”, it’s appropriate to cover it this week. (And it’s the next book I’ll read on my “how to become a writer/author” reference stack.) The subtitle is the enticing hook, “How to Get a Contract and Advance Before Writing Your Book.” This might sound like an over-commitment by the author, except that it’s consistent with other books about the business of writing. Nonfiction book proposals do not include manuscripts, just a couple of sample chapters. A nonfiction proposal is a sales pitch, a promise of greatness that piques the agent’s, the editor’s and the publisher’s imaginations. Just as “Writer’s Guide” provides a step-by-step description on writing the book itself, “Proposals” provides the same logical guidance for your equally important proposal. At 300+ pages this is one of my longer reference books, but skimming tells me it’s a fast read. Why am I reading multiple books on writing proposals, plus getting additional input from Deidre on similar books that she’s read? That simple cliché: “You only get one chance at a first impression.” Assume I spend two days reading Proposals, and pick up one good idea that makes my proposal a “95” versus a “90”. It might be the difference between “Tell us more” and the slush pile.
And that’s the key point for reading “Proposals”. While we may get help from agents, editors, and book doctors with a book, we are essentially on our own preparing the proposal. Without a compelling sales pitch our brilliant idea or manuscript remains nothing more. For the writer seeking a traditional book deal, the proposal is at least as important as the book itself.
Have a good weekend