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Writing Books/Book proposal


You´ve got the questions I need!!

What is a book proposal and why do I need one? Do I need a book proposal for both nonfiction and fiction books? How do I write a book proposal? What are the required components of a book proposal?

Dear Juan:

Well, let's get started!

A book proposal is a package that you create about your book that is significantly shorter than your book.  The proposal gives the agent/editor less to read while still getting the details of what the book is about, what kind of book it is, and what market will buy it.

You need a proposal for both fiction and nonfiction books.  Let's take the fiction first.  Your novel should be finished before you try to sell it.  Once it is, you need a query letter with is a one page sales pitch about the novel that introduces the protagonist, antagonist and the conflict.  When you send out the query letter, hopefully you'll get a reply that asks for a synopsis of the book.  Your best bet is a synopsis that runs 7 to 10 pages.  It should describe the protagonist, the antagonist and the conflict.  It should be a compelling telling of the plot line of the book.  Of course, you can't include everything so stick with the main plot line and any of the sub-plots you have room for.  Include the ending!  The agent/editor needs to know that you have a satisfactory ending.

Now for nonfiction:
You don't have to have the entire book written before you try to pitch it.  But you should do enough research to create a table of contents and at least 50 pages of sample chapters starting with Chapter one.  Then, you'll need a query letter that states the subject of the book, the slant you're going for, your qualifications for writing it.
If, after getting your query letter, the agent/editor asks for a proposal it should include:
1.  An Overview.  The Overview expands on the query letter.  Get very detailed about the topics included in the book, why they are important to the future reader and how you plan on structuring the book.  In this case, the Overview is not a synopsis.  This is not where you detail everything you're covering in the book.  That comes later.
2.  Table of Contents.  Put names to your chapters.  You don't have to use them in the final book but in the proposal it gives the agent/editor a quick look at the structure of your book.
3.  Competition.  You need to list books that are already published and then show why your's is different, better than those.
4.  Target markets.  Get some statistics here.  If your book is about growing roses get the numbers on how many rose gardeners there are in the world today, how many rose breeders, etc.
5.  A marketing plan.  Yes, you'll have to help with that.  You have to be Stephen Hawkings or Liz Smith to get a marketing budget out of your publisher.  Tell them you have a website, a list of names and addresses.  Tell them you'd love to do speaking engagements and signings at book stores and garden clubs.
6.  Chapter by Chapter summaries.  These should be short.  Really short.  Very, very, very short.  You don't even have to write in complete sentences.  You can use a bullet format if you want.  Your goal is to get 4-5 chapters summarized on each page in double space format.  Yes, you can do it.  Remember, you have the book to go into nuance, detail and substance.  Your summaries should show what topics will be covered in each chapter.
7.  Sample chapters.

I've seen some publisher/agent listings that don't require all of the above.  When you've picked out an agent/publisher you want to pursue, make sure you get their guidelines (as easy as going on the web or making a phone call) and give them EXACTLY and ONLY what they ask for in those guidelines.

That's about it, Juan.There are several books on the market about writing book proposals.  And, you can find synopses that sold novels by going on the web.

Good luck!  Let me know how you make out!

Liz Aleshire

Writing Books

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Liz Aleshire


What is a book proposal and why do I need one? Do I need a book proposal for both nonfiction and fiction books? How do I write a book proposal? What are the required components of a book proposal? What is an overview? What is a synopsis? How do I find out what other books are available on my topic so I can make my book different? How do I pitch to an agent/publisher? What's a query letter? What's a 30-second commercial?


I am the author of four nonfiction books: Private Lives of Ministers' Wives (with Rev. Sherry Taylor,New Horizon Press, New Jersey, 1991)and currently working on a second edition; Bugs: Stingers, Suckers, Sweeties, Swingers (a FRanklin Watts Frist Book, Chicago, 1993); The Confident Collector Identification and Price Guid to Quilts (with Kathleen Barach, Avon Books, NY, 1992); and, Official Price Guide to Quilts 2nd edition(with Kathleen Barach, Random House, NY, 2003.) I've taught How to Write the Book Proposal for the past ten years at the week long International Women's Writing Guild annual summer conference, and, at the Manchester Community College Continuing Education program. I've taught in many local continuing education programs in central Connecticut. Five authors have sold books using my methods for writing the book proposal. I have spoken at the Big Apple Conference, an IWWG event held in NYC; both Connecticut chapters of the Romance Writer's of America other writing conferences

Internation Women's Writing Guild, past associate member American Society of Journalists and Authors

Books for New Horizon Press. NJ; Franklin Watts (Now Scolastic)Danbury, CT; Avon Books, NYC; and, Random House, NYC

B.A in Economics from the University of Connecticut

Past/Present clients
Carren Strock, author Married Women Who Love Women; Doris Larson, travel writer, Ohio; MaryLou Streznewsi author Gifted Grownups.

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