It's been busy. When is it not? My oldest turned six yesterday. Wow! I can't really believe it.
But let's dissect that non-fiction proposal. The thing to remember about non-fiction books as that often the book doesn't have to be written to get an agent/publisher. Sometimes you can sell the book on the proposal alone. But that means your proposal has to rock. It should have an overview, biography, marketing/publicity, chapter outline, comparative works and sample chapter.
Overview: To me this is the equivalent of a the main part of a query. It's your pitch. It tells what the book is about. A lot of sources say this should only be one or two pages. For me, it was about half a page. Maybe I am too used to writing a pitch for fiction, but I can't seem to help keeping things brief and concise. Other things to include would be timeliness: such as for my book, it would be helpful to point out that the first/second/whatever anniversary of the Joplin tornado is approaching, and we could launch the book based on that. It's also good to mention here if you have a blog with 400 followers (or almost 400 and holding, as is my case), or a great platform for selling the book. Special features such as charts and photos should be included also.
Biography: This is about you, of course. You sold yourself a little bit in the previous section, but make it a little clearer here why you are the best person to write this book. Agents are looking for CREDENTIALS, so this can be hard if you don't have any in non-fiction (like me). So why did you write this book? I used it to explain that my experience as a novelist made me the best writer for approaching this topic and making it interesting to readers who normally don't touch non-fiction. I also dropped names of key people who helped me with my research. This is where you talk about the big stuff: all the people you can reach, how, and why. And don't despair if you don't have any of this. It's harder, but not impossible.
Marketing: Is it starting to sound redundant? Yeah, I thought so too, but the truth is, all publishers really care about is if your book is going to sell. So what are you going to do to market it? Lay it out. Give them your marketing plan. Include your schedule for upcoming book signings, speaking events, whatever you have going on. Brag on yourself, show off the hard work you do or plan to do. Make your marketing plan look stellar! If you can prove there's a market for your book, do it here. What demographic is going to read your book? Do you have media connections?
Chapter outline: This is exactly what it sounds like: a synopsis. Summarize your book, but also include a Table of Contents! A chapter summary is a chapter-by-chapter break down. Include all the information for each chapter in here. Try to put your voice in here and not just say, "Chapter one will include..." I know, hard, right? Yeah. Still working on that part. This part can be anywhere from one paragraph to 5 pages long.
Comparative Works: Are there other books on your subject? Mention them, and point out how yours is different. Do you have the corner on the market? Then mention books that will attract the same readers as your book. List a few book titles and talk about how your book is different from them.
Sample chapter: This should be a perfect example of your writing style and how the entire book is. Don't be tempted to grab the first chapter. Go to the heart of the matter. Give the most exciting chapter you have written. You should have two sample chapters and an introduction, if you have one.
- Page numbers! Put page numbers on your proposal!
-Grammar! Make it clean!
-Author photo? Send it along if you can include attachments.
Good luck! And tell me about your experiences with non-fiction proposals. I know lots of people are writing them!