Thursday, March 29, 2007

Book Proposal: Content & Format

Question: How does an author convince a publisher to publish his or her book?

Answer: Write a compelling book proposal.

Question: What is included in a nonfiction book proposal? How should it be formatted?


Column 1
Author name
Author Street address
Author City, State, Zip

Column 2
Author voice phone number
Author voice fax number
Author email address

Manuscript Title:
Title of your book including subtitle

Number of Manuscript Pages: This is not an estimate; you should know how many pages on 8.5 X 11 inch paper you have in your book.

Subject Matter, Scope, Intended Purpose:
Start the first sentence by characterizing what makes up your book. Is it essays, interviews, reviews, chronologies, specialized lists? What makes your book unique and valuable to a potential reader? In what style is your book written? Can anyone read it or must that person be specially trained in a particular field? This is crucial information because it is in this section that you are trying to persuade the publisher that you have something worth the time and money required to make this manuscript into a book. The other challenge is that you must state your case succinctly (around 100 words) and the words must be the critical words, the key words, that convey the essence of your subject matter, scope, and purpose.

Here is how The Steiny Road to Operadom entry read for Subject Matter, Scope, Intended Purpose:

The Steiny Road To Operadom is a collection of essays, interviews, reviews, and a working libretto that explores the intersection between poetry and music that proceeds to contemporary opera, the most complex genre of the performing arts. The collaboration of Gertrude Stein and Virgil Thomson are the context for this study in process.

This book written in a style anyone can read, uniquely answers the question, how does a current day artist begin, sustain, and complete an opera project. This work is the close examination of creating an American opera — what resources are needed, who is involved or should be involved, what are the obstacles, what does workshopping mean to the overall success and opening night, and much more on commissions, collaborations, community, critics. The book provides a road map for creative collaborators and performing arts educators as well as a current day history of American opera and Gertrude Stein and Virgil Thomson’s contribution to that art form.

Who is your audience? Think this through carefully so you don’t forget any groups. What have you done in your book to reach out to these groups? Can your book be used in teaching situations? Does it provide some kind of reference? The publisher needs to know the use of your book and the audience in order to evaluate whether he or she thinks the book can sell.

The Audience for The Steiny Road To Operadom:
Arts educators, theater managers (artistic directors, producers, dramaturgs), theater critics, composers, librettists, poets, opera aficionados, Gertrude Stein fans, feminist studies students, general audiences. This one-of-kind book is recommended as a case study reference for performing arts programs and studies

Competing Books:
This requires going to a bookstore usually to see what books you are competing with in the current market. If you book is unique that’s fine but often publishers have a hard time placing your book in their collection if it crosses a lot of lines. For example my book The Steiny Road to Operadom is part memoir, how to (develop an opera project), American opera history, and literary. For books like this, independent publishers are probably best.

Research Methods:
What methods did you use to develop the content of your book—interviews, book or Internet research? Do you have a bibliography?

Quotations Used in this Manuscript:
If you quote people, have you gotten signed permissions to use these quotes? Until permissions are acquired, a smart publisher will not sign a book deal with an author. This section is not a list of quotation, just a statement about whether you use quotes and have gotten permissions.

Sections Previously Published:
This is a general statement about whether any portion of the book has been published before and whether you hold the copyright and have permission to reprint. Authors who have had some of the work previously published, possibly in different versions demonstrate the marketability of their work. In other word, you have had some visibility for this work already and that is good. It makes you a credible author. You should also state whether this work is a doctoral dissertation. Some publishers may not want doctoral dissertations. It’s important to know what the publisher is interested in before you send that publisher a book proposal.

If you have images for your book, how many? Do you have permission to use these images? Do you have print-ready images that have enough resolution to merit publishing them?

Cover Blurbs:
These are short comments from notable people in your field talking about your book. Be sure to include their titles or attribute them as authors of books that show they are experts in your field of interest. Three comments from three different experts are sufficient.

If you are going to take the time and trouble to write a book, write a well stated book proposal that shows a publisher you have done your homework and have people backing you. Let me know how you did!

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Karen,
I am a "fresh" writer - in fact, I have been writing for years, but it is only now that I decided to try to do something with it... Thanks for the publishing proposal, I was kinda struggling to find a good one and this one really helps!