Book Proposals From an
Editor's Point of View
The difficult task facing aspiring writers is how to bring their message to the
mastering the rules of composition, finding your style, and picking your
message, one animal
remaining to be conquered is 'the marketplace.' Just how do
you bring your message to the masses. This article, first published in the
Exchange Newsletter, contained insights mined from prior the Chicago "Write to
Publish Conference. " I hope these questions and answers will better equip your
to tame the marketplace beast.
Q. How important is it for a book proposal to convey the writer's ability to get
out there and promote the book?
A. In a class on book
proposals, Leonard Goss (Broadman & Holman Senior Acq. Editor) had this to say
"Your book proposal is the most important piece of your writing project, and
without a well-focused proposal, you will not likely be published. An editor's
first response to a prospective book proposal is 'No.' The writer must give the
editor a reason to say 'Yes.'"
Jeanette Thomason, (Special Projects, and Acq. Editor for Baker Book House)
added this during her panel discussion. "When I have read a proposal, I ask
myself 'So What?' and 'What's new?'" In other words, as a writer, you must
present not only a good idea, but also answer why your idea is different and
better than similar publications. You must also convincingly answer why YOU are
the BEST person to write on this topic.
Q. Would an otherwise good book idea be turned down
because the writer has no ability in this area?
A. Yes. Editors want
qualified writers. Qualified can be defined as both qualified to write with
clarity & style, and personally qualified to write on their subject of choice.
Q. Do the answers to these questions depend on
whether the book is fiction or nonfiction?
A. Somewhat. Personal
qualifications do not weigh as heavily in fiction as nonfiction.
Q. What types of marketing tasks could a writer reasonably be expected to
A. If you were really
hungry, would you turn down a fishing pole and a can of worms because you were
waiting for someone to take you to the grocery store? In other words, as a
writer would you back away from personal marketing efforts, and wait for a
publisher to do it all for you?
Q. How does a writer demonstrate willingness and ability to help market a book?
What types of proofs should be offered in the proposal?
A. A speaking
ministry, a unique story told well, or a ready-made audience from which to
present your book tell the publisher that your presence amidst their
publications will mean book sales. The publisher exists to bring well-presented
ideas to the marketplace, and to sell books. Mr. Goss related that when he has a
proposal with promise, he takes it to his
acquisitions team meeting, which includes sales people, marketing managers, and
other editors. Twenty-five people hash out the pro's and con's of your
prospective book. In light of this process, anything you can offer to influence
that process is to your advantage.
Lastly, Steve Laube (Acq. Editor formerly from Bethany House) said this at the
Florida Writers Conference. "Any time a book sells, it's a God thing. So Pray
when you write. Pray over your proposals, pray when you have a contract, and
pray when your book enters the marketplace."
When we communicate His message, and character to the world, it's a God thing.
And when we do everything we can do, God will do those things that only He can
Author and Speaker
Timothy Burns lives in West Michigan, and has written professionally for 6
years. Timothy writes with a deep connection to cultural influences, Christ
centered living, and how often unwritten patterns can influence our behaviors