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  What Publishers Want to See Most in a Book Proposal
by Priscilla Y. Huff

If you are an unpublished author, or even a much-published author, the hardest "sell" you will have to do—besides getting readers for your book—is to convince a publisher to offer you a contract. Why? Writing is a business—no matter how much you love your words—a publisher has to be sure (1) she will get a return on her investment of sub-contracting you to deliver a finished product (your completed manuscript) and (2) that a market (readers willing to buy your book) exists for your book.

Here are several important key sections that most publishers consider in evaluating a book proposal (not necessarily listed in any order of importance):

*Author Info - Include a one-page bio listing your background and expertise that qualifies you to write this book (especially if it is nonfiction); plus a listing of your publishing credits.

*Competition - List several books that are similar to yours with the author's name, publishers' information, etc., and state how your book differs from these and offers something new to readers that will motivate them to buy your book.

*Description/Details - Include the specifications of your book—length, chapters, illustrations, highlights, and the overall organizational scheme.

Note: You should always do preliminary research about the publisher(s) to whom you will be submitting your proposal. This includes getting a copy of their latest catalog or listing of books and reviewing a number of these books to see their content, style, length, and overall "look" how their books are presented.You can then mention how your book would "fit" into their offerings.

*Marketing Plan - Many publishers have limited publicity budgets and may spend no more than three months in publicizing your book, so you should include your own promotional ideas and what your marketing efforts will be such as conducting workshops and seminars; writing and mailing your own press release; sending review copies to designated persons; what media contacts you will be making; who will be endorsing your book, and other promotional ideas you may have. Publishers like writers who they see will be "active" in helping to promote sales of their books.

*Outline/Overview - After your book proposal's title page, you should include a dynamic outline and summary of what your book is about (the outline will be the basis of your table of contents and what you will follow as you write your book).

If you are a new writer or new to this publisher, you should include several sample chapters (nonfiction) and the entire manuscript if it is fiction.

*Potential Readers - Let your publisher know who you visualize your readers to be. Include demographics about them—how many exist (provide statistics if available), and reasons why they need or would want to buy this book. Also let the publisher know if you have a potential for a series of follow-up book ideas on this topic, because if authors develop their name-recognition with readers and loyal following, subsequent books will be sold much easier, and with a possibility your books could be carried by book clubs (VERY lucrative!).

Including these vital sections in your book proposal will not guarantee you a contract, but it will demonstrate to a publisher you are aware of what it takes to write (and sell) into today's competitive publishing marketplace!

Suggested Resources:
How to Write a Book Proposal by Michael Larsen (Cincinnati, OH: Writer's Digest Books, 1997)

Copyright 2001 Priscilla Y. Huff

Priscilla Y. Huff has been a freelance writer for over seventeen years. Her latest book is HerVenture.com

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