Book Proposal – Part One

31 Dec
A false start is a learning experience, not a failure

A false start is a learning experience, not a failure

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:

(c) 2013 The Author, All Rights Reserved. Non-profit re-blogging of entire post permitted.

(c) 2013 The Author, All Rights Reserved. Non-profit re-blogging of entire post permitted.

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…

14 Responses to “Book Proposal – Part One”

  1. cttbbelliott December 31, 2013 at 12:33 pm #

    Looking forward to checking out your future plan for book two………..Brenda

    • navigator1965 December 31, 2013 at 12:42 pm #

      Thanks, Brenda. It is actually integrated with Book One. They form a single work. I have created what I describe as a unified construct of gender narcissism. It appears to apply at both individual and social scales. It’s explanatory powers are remarkable.

      My fault for paying attention in church as a kid one Sunday. The story of Elijah and Elisha.

      • cttbbelliott December 31, 2013 at 12:57 pm #

        Well, it’s beyond my concept of indifferences. I will leave that work to you and humbly learn something… 🙂 Brenda

  2. lensgirl53 December 31, 2013 at 12:33 pm #

    I was going to write a book under the name Harper Lee but it was already taken. 😉

    You will find that celebrities and anyone who has made a name (good or bad) for themselves have a better publishing chance in the traditional means of publishing. So, if you have actually been accepted by a publisher just by being an “ordinary” (subjective word here) bloke then BRAVO! I read once that The New Yorker magazine had rejected Truman Capote 50 times before they actually published anything he wrote. Many people don’t have that kind of tenacity. When they (publishers) reject your work you feel….well, rejected. Congrats on all your hard work and information you are passing along as you tread these waters.

    • navigator1965 December 31, 2013 at 12:47 pm #

      Thanks, LG. You got a smile out of me with the Harper Lee crack, that’s for certain!

      I didn’t wait for the multiples rejections that surely would have followed. I wrote, and went the self-published route, although does additional things like tracking your sales for you, etc. I was lucky enough to have positive feedback from test readers early on, which certainly buttressed the self confidence.

  3. Dotta Raphels December 31, 2013 at 1:35 pm #

    This is a whole load of useful points and hints Nav…personally I think self publishing is definitely on the way to making traditional publishing obsolete.The thing is there are so many criteria to consider here and these proposals you have will certainly point many to the right direction.
    There’s much more to selling a book than the writing, in fact, I’m beginning to think writing is the easy bit,lol
    I don’t believe your take on those multiple rejections btw,lol All the same, every writer simply has to listen to the heart and go with that gut feeling. I did and I hope for wonders here on.

    • navigator1965 December 31, 2013 at 2:14 pm #

      Hi Dotta,

      You’re certainly right about writing being the easy part. Whether it was a gut feeling or guidance from a Higher Authority, I can’t say, but I do think that the more expensive self publishing route that I chose was the right one for me. Now I have to figure out how to rise above the crowd.

      Since we’re in the same boat, may it be a wonderful 2014 for both of us.

  4. Ajaytao2010 January 1, 2014 at 11:03 am #

    Nice reading about you

    Thanks for visiting my blog. Be in touch. Browse through the category sections, I feel you may find something of your interest.

    Happy New Year !!!!!!! and best wishes for you in 2014 🙂

    • navigator1965 January 1, 2014 at 11:36 am #


      Nice to read your story too. Best wishes for a fulfilling 2014.

      • Ajaytao2010 January 1, 2014 at 11:37 am #

        Thank you so much dear Navigator 🙂

        Happy New Year !!!!!!! and best wishes for you in 2014 🙂

  5. jamborobyn January 1, 2014 at 12:13 pm #

    Nav, talking about serendipity here…I was just sent a copy of a book proposal that was successful – the book was actually published. Obviously I can’t share it here, but let me say, it contained a few surprises and from a purely business perspective the whole thing made a lot of sense. It’s format is similar to what you have listed above, but more importantly, it was interesting – I can’t help thinking – what better way to differentiate yourself than to approach the whole thing as a “writing challenge” with a pre-defined structure?

    • navigator1965 January 1, 2014 at 12:31 pm #

      Hi Robyn,

      Happy New Year! Seredipity–I’ve been experiencing this quite a bit as of late. I almost seems as if my book and blogging have altered my future, and subtle aspects of my life keep aligning to this new course of events. (Or maybe it’s just chance; who knows?)

      Your thought on how to approach a proposal are excellent, IMO. How wonderful that you’ve seen an excellent and successful proposal. You can’t share directly, but it would serve as an excellent frame of reference to critique my first attempt at a proposal. I expect your full and enthusiastic participation, young lady! };-)>

      I don’t take offence to constructive criticism, so if you see something in this series of posts on the book proposal, by all means comment on it, SVP. The good, the bad, and the ugly (last two sound like me in spandex).

  6. suzjones January 19, 2014 at 9:56 pm #

    Wow. Got to part one lol.
    An interesting read and one that is pretty much spot on. I have in my possession a sample proposal from a writer whose book has now hit the stands. I notice she didn’t use a word count for each chapter in her proposal and I didn’t use one in mine. Since many proposals are written before the book is, I guess it would make it a little limiting. Looking forward to reading the others.


  1. Book Proposal – Part Nine “Sample Chapter” | The Mirror - January 19, 2014

    […] Part One – The Book Proposal […]

Please Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: