July 7, 2003

How to Write A Book Proposal

For years I had a standard speech for authors in who needed to know how to write a book proposal that led to an offer to publish. As an editor and agent, they assumed I'd know. And I did. But I couldn't tell them. Instead, I gave them "the outline." I won't rehearse it here. Suffice it to say, that I could never bear to bring myself to tell them the whole sorded truth about books. They either wouldn't have believed me or it would depress them into silence.

But reality has a way of sneaking up behind idealism and mugging it in the dark night of the soul. Now M. Garrett Bauman has lifted the lid on this can of worms in Textbook Writing 101.

To win a contract, you must create a dazzling book proposal - a 10-page document that demonstrates your expertise, your ability to write simultaneously to a Harvard Ph.D. and the pimply kid slinging burgers at Wendy's, your skill in smearing a patina of innovation over crass imitation, and your firm, unbiased belief that the book will enhance the publisher's reputation as a leading-edge moneymaker. Direct your proposal and several chapters to acquisitions editors. Those people work hard to fill gaps in their catalogs, anticipate new trends, and save their butts. That final item is important because few acquisition editors survive long enough to face the consequences of their decisions. That opens the door for you to become one of their mistakes. How? By understanding Rule #3: A book proposal delicately balances truth and expectation: 10-percent truth, 90-percent fantasy.
Hapless authors in search of a publisher should spare themselves the rest of this article, others should wade in and discover that making books and making sausage are much the same thing.

[Found via the invaluable Arts and Letters Daily ]

Posted by Vanderleun at July 7, 2003 8:42 AM
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