Book Proposals - An Editors View
by Tim Burns 10/14/2008 / Career
Book Proposals From an Editor's Point of View
The difficult task facing aspiring writers is how to bring their message to the public. After mastering the rules of composition, finding your style, and picking your message, one animal remaining to be conquered is 'the marketplace.' Just how do you bring your message to the masses. This article, first published in the Exchange Newsletter, contained insights mined from prior the Chicago "Write to Publish Conference. " I hope these questions and answers will better equip your to tame the marketplace beast.
Q. How important is it for a book proposal to convey the writer's ability to get out there and promote the book?
A. In a class on book proposals, Leonard Goss (Broadman & Holman Senior Acq. Editor) had this to say "Your book proposal is the most important piece of your writing project, and without a well-focused proposal, you will not likely be published. An editor's first response to a prospective book proposal is 'No.' The writer must give the editor a reason to say 'Yes.'"
Jeanette Thomason, (Special Projects, and Acq. Editor for Baker Book House) added this during her panel discussion. "When I have read a proposal, I ask myself 'So What?' and 'What's new?'" In other words, as a writer, you must present not only a good idea, but also answer why your idea is different and better than similar publications. You must also convincingly answer why YOU are the BEST person to write on this topic.
Q. Would an otherwise good book idea be turned down because the writer has no ability in this area?
A. Yes. Editors want qualified writers. Qualified can be defined as both qualified to write with clarity & style, and personally qualified to write on their subject of choice.
Q. Do the answers to these questions depend on whether the book is fiction or nonfiction?
A. Somewhat. Personal qualifications do not weigh as heavily in fiction as nonfiction.
Q. What types of marketing tasks could a writer reasonably be expected to perform?
A. If you were really hungry, would you turn down a fishing pole and a can of worms because you were waiting for someone to take you to the grocery store? In other words, as a writer would you back away from personal marketing efforts, and wait for a publisher to do it all for you?
Q. How does a writer demonstrate willingness and ability to help market a book? What types of proofs should be offered in the proposal?
A. A speaking ministry, a unique story told well, or a ready-made audience from which to present your book tell the publisher that your presence amidst their publications will mean book sales. The publisher exists to bring well-presented ideas to the marketplace, and to sell books. Mr. Goss related that when he has a proposal with promise, he takes it to his acquisitions team meeting, which includes sales people, marketing managers, and other editors. Twenty-five people hash out the pro's and con's of your prospective book. In light of this process, anything you can offer to influence that process is to your advantage.
Lastly, Steve Laube (Acq. Editor formerly from Bethany House) said this at the Florida Writers Conference. "Any time a book sells, it's a God thing. So Pray when you write. Pray over your proposals, pray when you have a contract, and pray when your book enters the marketplace."
When we communicate His message, and character to the world, it's a God thing. And when we do everything we can do, God will do those things that only He can do.
Timothy Burns lives in West Michigan, and has written professionally for 6 years. Timothy writes with a deep connection to cultural influences, Christ centered living, and how often unwritten patterns can influence our behaviors and beliefs.