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Writing Books/"Vibrant" -???


Hello, Liz.

There's a ton of advice out there on how to write a book proposal. (I've worn out my printer!) When, however, it comes to the proposal in its actual, tangible, form, the world ne nearly silent.  All there is in terms of advice is "make sure it looks professional." and "It should be printed on good quality paper."

I've already got a couple of books specifically written on "How to write a book proposal", but neither of them address the issue of what the physical thing is expected to look like. Is it to be, for instance and like the MS, unbound?

There's a lot of conflicting information out there, for instance, on whether it's format should resemble an MS--which is, let's face it, dull--or that it should be "vibrant"--"with graphs and sidebars where appropriate"--not to mention a "good graphic" on the cover.

Can you describe, however briefly, what one "looks" like?
I'm reluctant to keep on buying such books until I find one that I know answers this question. Can you recommend one?

Dan O'Hanlon

Dear Dan:

I, and every agent I've ever talked with, recommend the KISS method of book proposal submission (Keep it Simple, Stupid!)

The proposal should be printed out double spaced with at least one inch margins on all four sides.  Each section of the proposal should start on a new page just like the new chapters in the book manuscript.
DO NOT GET VIBRANT!  Do not use a fancy font.  They're hard on the eyes.  I always use Times New Roman. Do not clutter up the book proposal pages with graphics of any kind.  Don't get cutesy with borders.  Do not include graphs or tables or photographs unless they are essential to the book and even then place them last in the book proposal package.

I like to place my proposals in one of those two pocket report holders. (NOT the ones with the tabs for a three hole punch!)  They now come with a place to put your business card.  I don't use staples or paper clips.  But some agents want them.  Check their submission gudelines to find out what they prefer.

Take one 10 X 12 manilla envelope and address it to yourself.  Also put your address as the return address.  Fold it in half.  Take a second 10 x 12 manilla envelope and address it to the agent.  Take it to the post office and find out how much it costs to send it.  Get that same amount of postage and put it on the self addressed envelope.  Put the whole package together, seal the envelope, put on th required postage and drop it in the mail slot.  You're done!

I'm not talking down to you here, Dan, but it has been my experience with other writers that it really is the nitty gritty details that trip them up.

Good luck!

Liz Aleshire

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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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