Right. We’re in a period of profound change in the publishing industry. Self-publishing and easy e-book creation have changed the landscape. Yet traditional publishing still exists, and so the book proposal remains a valuable device. It is both a business proposal to a publisher to consider your book AND a means for you to take a disciplined approach to planning your book before you ever start writing.
The image is the rudimentary cover for the advanced version of my original proposal. It proved to be a bit of a false start, but was a valuable learning experience nonetheless. The title of ONE was intended to reflect the concept that men and women have grown apart from one another in modern society. I thought I could write from the primary theme that we needed to collectively come together in an atmosphere of mutual understanding and respect. A positive perspective, but one which I ultimately couldn’t make work. The image was intended to reflect this image of gender narcissism traits that I use in the current book:
From what I could learn on the internet, book proposals generally range between 20 to 50 pages in length, and typically are around 25-30 pages. Now imagine that you are a traditional publisher. How much would you appreciate a writer who sent you 30 pages as opposed to one who sent you a 300 page manuscript? Your reading has been reduced by an order of magnitude, and, as we will see, you get far more useful information.
The format that I used (I suppose this can vary a bit, depending upon whose advice you read) was simple:
1. Overview (If you don’t hook them in the 1st 3 sentences, forget it.)
2. Sales Objective (If you aren’t going to make them money, why would they publish you?)
3. Marketing/Promotion/Platform (It takes far more work to sell a book than it does to write it. You have to show that you know this and are committed.)
4. About the Author (Who are you? What sort of person are you? Will readers find you interesting, even if you’re “ordinary”?)
5. List of Book’s Chapters (You have to have a plan, and it had better be a good one! Here you show your word budget for each chapter as well.)
6. Chapter-by-Chapter Summaries (A Readers’ Digest version of your planned or written book. Show that you have A PLAN and are a disciplined thinker and writer.)
7. Sample Chapter (If they like what they have see so far, now they get to see if they like your writing. Typically not the introduction or the first chapter.)
I intend to do a post for each part of the proposal using what I actually wrote for ONE, except the sample chapter.
You’ll note that I wrote this proposal in 2010. The filename shows that it was version 4.5. I actually didn’t start the first functional draft of my current book until August 2012. It took me two years-plus to wrap my head around exactly how to go about writing what eventually will become the two books of The Mirror. By the end of Book Two, I will have developed a sort of social theory of everything, which will be written so that anyone who can read Harry Potter can understand it.
Obviously, this is a rather tall order. I never could have come to where I am now had I not first started with this proposal. It was worth the time and effort, even though it was only ever seen by one senior publishing individual, and was rejected outright. From this to a soon-to-be published 1st book that my test readers are suggesting is something very special, indeed.
From the most humble of beginnings…