Tag Archives: concept

10 items writers should include in a nonfiction book proposal

2017-10-21

Authors who are planning a nonfiction book can submit a proposal to publishers (or agents) once the book concept is crystal clear in the author’s mind. The manuscript doesn’t have to be ready. The potential of the book is evaluated from the information delivered in the proposal. This applies to nonfiction books only, and here are ten items that publishers and agents typically expect to find in a proposal.

eyeglasses on computer keyboard
These ten items for a nonfiction book proposal were originally outlined by Marisa Corvisiero

1. Title and Word Count

The title doesn’t have to be the final one, since it is often changed by the author or the publisher during the publishing process. Nonfiction books can have a title – subtitle structure which allows explaining quite a lot about the book.

In the era of ebooks, the traditional wisdom for the length of a nonfiction book (85,000 words, or about 300 printed pages) doesn’t apply anymore. For instance, we have published nonfiction ebooks that are about 50 pages, and also books that are about 500 pages.

Assuming that the author is still planning the book, the tentative word count indicates the scope of the manuscript and the amount of work required.

Many publishers also want to get a tentative idea for how many pictures, photos, schemas, tables and other elements besides text the author is planning to include in the book.

2. Tagline

A short, one or two line description about the concept of the book. The purpose is to make the product interesting and attractive.

3. Blurb

A short summary of what the book is about. What the reader will learn and the key points that will be made in the pages.

4. Structure of the Book

How the book will be organized and why. Often, however, it is better to include a comprehensive Table of Contents that shows the structure.

5. Target Market

A description of who should buy the book, who it is written for, and why they need it.

A list of competitive products belongs in this section, with analysis how this book will be different and/or better than books already in the market.

6. Author Bio

Readers will want to know if they can trust the author’s expertise. This is all about credentials.

7. Marketing Plan

Publishers want to know how large audience the author can reach. They will then add their activities to the mix. Any ideas for delivering the message to the world are welcomed by publishers. Authors must be ready to do book marketing as well.

8. Endorsements or Media Coverage

If an author can get endorsements from renowned people for the book, here is the section to mention it. Also possible media contacts, or earlier appearances in media should be listed here.

9. Table of Contents

The more detailed the Table of Contents is, the better picture the publisher gets from the book concept. This is the key element for many publishers when they consider what the book really is about and ponder its positioning in the market. For more information on the details publishers may expect to find in the TOC, read this article.

10. Sample Chapters

A chapter or two of the book should be included in the proposal. Many agents want three to five chapters, but it varies, as well as publishers’ requirements. Submission guidelines should be followed. A sample is important for publishers and agents in order to evaluate the author’s style, voice, and way of presenting the information.

Checklist for writers: ten things to do when you are serious about writing a book

2015-11-15

Many writers believe that they have to write a complete manuscript before contacting publishers. That’s usually the case with fiction books, but a non-fiction book publishing process typically starts from an overall concept and book proposal.
eyeglasses on computer keyboard
Here is a ten step checklist for preparing yourself to writing a non-fiction book.

1. Devise a concept for your book.
This is the most important step that defines whether you should sit down and start writing or continue crystallizing your concept (or think of a whole new topic). If you can establish a credible and appealing concept for your book that also other people love, proceed. If you can’t formulate a brief description what the book is about and why it is valuable, you have to rethink your concept.
In some cases, publishers may have a concept and the table of contents ready for your book – if your book idea happens to fall into a series they are publishing. For example, Klaava Travel Guide is a series for travel writers.

2. What new information or new angle your book provides to readers?
It is highly likely that your idea for a book is not unique, but books already have been published about the same topic. Does your book bring anything new on the table, or does it approach the problem from a fresh angle that talks to readers in a new way? Above all, who are the readers of your book?

3. Identify three or five books that are similar to your idea.
In most cases, it is beneficial for your book that other books have already been published about similar topics you are thinking about. It proves there is a market for your book. Analyze the competing books and think what you can do better or do in a different, more interesting way.

4. Write an outline and table of contents for your book.
Table of contents and a brief outline are hugely important because they are the first documents you may present to potential publishers. This is the minimum publishers want to see if you approach them with your idea (often, they want more, but this is enough for many publishers to tell if they are interested, or don’t want to hear about you anymore).
Check out tips for creating a table of contents in this article.

5. Write a few sample chapters.
Write one, two or even three chapters – it doesn’t matter if they are from the beginning or from the end of your planned book. Writing actual chapters proves two things:

First, if you haven’t written a book before, you get a feel how it goes. It is important to think and develop your personal working process right from the start: how and when you do your research, when do you work, for how long, how you edit?

Second, publishers usually want to see sample chapters because it shows them what to expect from you.

6. Put together a proposal for your book.
Your book proposal must specify the following, at least:
– The book concept and outline
– The market for the book
– Competing titles
– Who are you and why you are the perfect person to write the book
– Table of contents
– Sample chapter(s)
– Your possibilities to market the book

7. Prepare to market the book yourself.
Usually, it is the publisher’s job to market the book, but they need and want the author to help. In many cases, especially in non-fiction books, the author is the best marketing tool for the product. Do you have a blog, what is your social media following, who do know among the potential audience of your book, do you have media contacts, can you tap on networks that relate to the book?

8. Not everyone needs a literary agent.
In some countries, publishers expect writers to have agents and won’t touch book proposals if they haven’t been evaluated by agents. In most countries, however, publishers receive and evaluate book proposals submitted by authors.

For instance, Klaava Media reviews non-fiction book proposals (and especially travel guidebook proposals) sent by writers themselves.

If you can get an agent, the benefit is that you get access to publishers who will listen to you agent. The agent also helps you with contract issues. Of course, you’ll have to pay the agent. Usually, it is a percentage of the income you get from the book.

9. Prepare yourself for rejections and waiting.
Do your research when you look for a publisher. If the publisher says that they only publish textbooks, don’t submit your culture-guide proposal there. Try to identify a publisher that covers the book genre and audience you are after.
Still, rejections are inevitable, and waiting for answers. The old school rule in publishing used to be that you should submit your proposal to one publisher at a time. Since some publishers don’t respond at all and it may take months from some publishers to respond, we don’t recommend following the old school rule anymore.

10. Writing a book is unlikely to make you rich.
Movies, music, and books are hit businesses. Only few products turn out to be hits that generate a lot of money for authors and other copyright owners. The rest of the products belong to the Long Tail category where products slowly sell a number of copies over time. Fortunately, ebooks – and digital media in general – has made the Long Tail possible, because a published ebook can be made available across the world for as long as you like.

Mack Collier’s article 10 Things You Need to Know to Get Published was the inspiration for this article.