Five Secrets of Winning Book Proposals
Working in publishing industry comes with a high expectation, especially from complete strangers. After causal ‘hello’ progresses to ‘what do you do,’ and my answer is ‘I am a publisher,’ words, like fairy dust, work magic; and in eyes of my conversation partner, I’m transformed into a glamorous Advice Goddess—would I mind reading this stranger’s book proposal?
Cornered in frozen foods at grocery, black-tie events or at bus stop, I’ve been ‘pitched’ as we say in business, with such book proposals as: A Cat’s Tale of Christmas; Old Testament Aphrodisiacs; Break Out (after being committed to a mental institution by jealous relatives, story of one man’s quest for revenge); and Suck it and See: A Guide to Tropical Fruits.
Admittedly, I chose to share with you more colorful examples. My point being that purpose of a proposal pitch is not to motivate publisher to love idea as much as you do. That’s misconception. The publisher is listening for signals that you understand process of transforming a book concept into a business plan. It’s not just about your passion for topic: it’s how well you filter your passion through publisher’s prism of marketing and distribution. That’s difference between a contract and a polite rejection letter.
Let’s take a look at five typical questions that an agent or a publisher will ask in their submission guidelines.
Question #1: Please provide title that best captures and conveys essence of your book and briefly explain why you chose it.
What publisher is really thinking:
Will book buyer for Barnes & Noble recognize section to shelve book by its title alone? Is title’s message succinct and snappy so publisher’s sales representative will remember it easily? How does rest of proposal support what title says?
Question #2: Briefly describe primary audience for your book and how they will benefit from reading it.