Competitive Titles: Step 5 of How to Write a Compelling Nonfiction Book Proposal in 10 Easy Steps

How to Write a Nonfiction Book ProposalAnyone who’s written a nonfiction book proposal will probably tell you that proposal writing is more difficult than writing the actual manuscript. After all, you’re an expert on the subject you’re writing about, and sharing that knowledge is fun, but putting on your marketing hat to write the proposal often presents some unique challenges for writers, and facing your competition is one of those.

After all, you’re an expert on the subject you’re writing about, and sharing that knowledge is fun, but putting on your marketing hat to write the proposal often presents some unique challenges for writers. Facing your competition is one of those.

Your book proposal needs to convince the literary agents you query, and ultimately acquisition editors (who decide whether or not to bring your proposal forward for consideration through several vetting steps), why this book will stand out in a sea of other books about your subject, and why you are the perfect author to write this book.

This section of the proposal shouldn’t overwhelm you. This is actually another place for you to let your book shine and show your expertise about your subject—you just need to remember a few things.

Things to Do:

  1. Research the competition and understand how your book fits in the market. Your book will be shelved next to other books in the genre; your book will come up in an online search as one of many in the genre. Here is where you discuss the differences between your book and the others. If you’re writing about a subject that has plenty of competition to choose from, list 5−10 books, but if your subject is very niche, think outside the box a little and come up with at least two or three comp titles. Even if your book is truly unique, find and list books that are similar to yours; for example, if you are shopping a book about baking gluten-free treats for goldfish, you probably won’t have a lot of competition, but compare and contrast your book to others about homemade pet food, raising healthy fish, and food allergies in pets. Continue reading “Competitive Titles: Step 5 of How to Write a Compelling Nonfiction Book Proposal in 10 Easy Steps”

Your Target Audience: Step 3 of How to Write a Compelling Nonfiction Book Proposal in 10 Easy Steps

 

find the target audience for a bookWriting a nonfiction book proposal can feel overwhelming, but never fear! I’ve read hundreds of them (as an acquisitions editor for a traditional publisher) and helped numerous authors write them, too, and I understand the importance of including the right information in the right way that will grab the attention of an agent or editor—and now I’m sharing that with you!

 

Like most publishing professionals, I read those proposals in a certain order—but not necessarily in the order the author presented the material. As I wrote in Part 2: Author Bios, the different sections of a nonfiction book proposal (find a list of them here) are dependent on each other; in other words, what you write in one section will be elaborated on in the others.

Nowhere is this truer than in defining your target markets and the ways you convey your ideas for marketing to those potential readers.

No one really knows who will buy your book, so be optimistic and expansive in your assessment. You’re the expert in your field, remember, so don’t be afraid to think outside the box and offer some ideas for potential readers the publisher might not think about.

You’re selling two things in your book proposal: your manuscript and you. A strong proposal weaves those separate entities together in creative and compelling ways. As you may recall (again from Part 2), I think of the Author Bio section as the hub of the wheel; all the other sections are spokes coming from that hub. And those sections first come together as you lay out your

Target Market

Think about the people who will read your book. In What’s Your Book, former acquisitions editor Brooke Warner suggests,

Think about who would benefit from your book. Think about who your ideal reader would be. List five people you know who you’d love to have read your book once it’s finished. They can be a specific person, a type of customer, or just your ideal reader.”

Brooke goes on to discuss the value of this list when it comes time to market your book, and we’ll discuss that in Part 4 of this series, so stay tuned.

There’s an old saying that there’s nothing new under the sun, and another that says every story worth writing has been written, so why should anyone read your book? Consider the following as you think about exactly who your reader will be:

Continue reading “Your Target Audience: Step 3 of How to Write a Compelling Nonfiction Book Proposal in 10 Easy Steps”

How to Write a Compelling Nonfiction Book Proposal in 10 Easy Steps

how to write a nonfiction book proposal
Your proposal on an editor’s desk

You had a fantastic idea for a nonfiction book, and now that you’ve written it, you need an agent and then a publisher to bring it to the world.

Writing the book is the easy part—after all, you’re an expert on the subject you’re writing about, aren’t you? But you’ll need to convince the literary agents you query, and ultimately acquisition editors (who decide whether or not to bring your proposal forward for consideration through several vetting steps) why this book will stand out in a sea of other books about your subject, and why you are the perfect author to write this book.

You convince them through a nonfiction book proposal.

How do I know what should go into a proposal?

I was an acquisitions editor for a traditional publisher for several years. I read literally hundreds of nonfiction book proposals, many from the “slush” pile (unsolicited manuscripts) and many from agents who represented both new and established writers. I’ve read more poorly written proposals than I care to remember as well as a few that knocked my socks off; I speak from experience when I tell you that a great proposal will have an editor picking up the phone and calling the agent before the last page is even read.

Now that I’m a freelance editor, I work directly with authors to help them write compelling book proposals. I’ve also been contacted by agents who represent an author with a great concept who needs help polishing the proposal before the agent shops it because I know what works and what doesn’t.

Why and when to write a proposal

A book proposal is, in essence, a business plan for your book, and it’s all about marketing and positioning. You sell your idea, you sell your execution of that idea, and you sell yourself. A book proposal outlines what your book is about and provides facts and figures that give an agent or editor the necessary ammunition to convince the publisher that your book will make money. Continue reading “How to Write a Compelling Nonfiction Book Proposal in 10 Easy Steps”

Happy One Year Blogging Anniversary to Me!

I received official notification from WordPress that my blog is now a year old:

Wordpress

Thank you to friends, followers, and everyone in this wonderful writing community for your friendship and support. I love working with writers, and my goal for my blog posts is to provide useful content that will help you whether you write for publication or “just because.” In honor of this auspicious occasion, I’m listing links to some of my most popular articles and guest posts from the last 12 months, and I hope I’ve grouped these in a way that makes searching topics a bit easier for you. Feel free to add a comment on any of them—your comments are always welcome.

Self-Editing

Struggling with Revisions? Try Playing with Paper Dolls

Self-Editing Checklist for Fiction Writers Part I: Macro Issues Continue reading “Happy One Year Blogging Anniversary to Me!”

Struggling with Revisions? Try Playing with Paper Dolls

ID-100145898Many books and articles are available that offer step-by-step processes for revising and self-editing your manuscript. Each method has advantages and disadvantages, but . . .

The real secret to getting through “revision hell” is trying different methods until you find the one that works best for you and your writing style.

In today’s digital world, some of the most-used and best-loved writing programs also offer a digital method for revising your first draft. One of the most popular (at least with my clients and writers whose blogs I read) is Scrivener. According to Wikipedia,

Features include a corkboard, the ability to rearrange files by dragging-and-dropping virtual index cards in the corkboard, an outliner, a split screen mode that enables users to edit several documents at once, a full-screen mode, and “snapshots” (the ability to save a copy of a particular document prior to any drastic changes). Because of its breadth of interfaces and features, it has positioned itself not only as a word processor, but as a literary “project management tool.”

The whole idea of virtual index cards just makes my heart skip a beat—I love the ability to virtually duplicate what I used to do on paper. And even in today’s high-tech world where novels are written on smartphones and self-help books are created on tablets, low-tech methods sometimes still work best—especially if you’re not in the mood to learn another new software program.

When you’re struggling with revisions, try playing with paper dolls.

I’m not actually suggesting you stop writing and crack out that box of childhood toys you’ve saved “for the grandchildren.” I am suggesting you consider returning to a method that you probably used in your pre-computer days, which I call the Paper-Doll Method. Continue reading “Struggling with Revisions? Try Playing with Paper Dolls”

Self Editing: Put Your Book on a Diet

imagesWriters often confess their dislike for the revision process. Let’s face it, putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) to write a story feels much more creative than meticulously going through it to add or subtract and rearrange text.

I certainly understand how overwhelming the revision process can be, but breaking it down into manageable bites can make it very doable. And one of the easiest self-editing tasks you can tackle is deleting extraneous words.

In other words, put your manuscript on a diet.

As an editor, one of the common things I see is an overweight manuscript.

Overweight? As in too many pages? Well, yes and no. Too many pages can often be the end result, but the real culprit is too many unnecessary words.

We admire gifted writers because they take us to another place—and we don’t even realize it. A well-turned phrase, the perfect adjective, a carefully crafted description—they are the Holy Grail for writers.

As a writer, you know that each word is important, and sometimes the most important words are the ones you don’t use.

The words you don’t use are those you’ve searched out and deleted during your self-editing. Here’s how Writers Relief puts it:

Take a crash course in deleting. Remember that paragraph you worked on yesterday, picking out the best words? Now, cut it down. Get out your red pen and slash away! Be brutal. What is the absolute minimum number of words that you can use to make a point?

Every writer tends to overuse certain words and phrases; check your current work in progress for words like “that,” “in order to,” “began to,” “quickly,” and my personal pet peeve: “it” without a subject noun as an antecedent. The next step is to look at adverbs and adjectives in general, and ask yourself if you can improve your description by removing some of those extra words.

Try this fantastic exercise, courtesy of Write Divas:

We’ve all heard the advice: Paint a picture with your words. Describe the scene. Be creative with your words…

Many first time authors take this advice a little too far and over use adjectives when describing something, because let’s face it–the more descriptive words used, the better the picture, right?

Wrong.

Most of the time one or two adjectives are enough to create an image, but instead of overusing adjectives, authors should strive to use better adjectives. The following is an exercise to help authors practice this skill.

  • Select a scene from something you’ve written.
  • Rewrite it without any adjectives. Remove every last one and list them on a separate paper.
  • Read the scene without the adjectives.
  • Review the list of removed adjectives and replace each one with an adjective not already on the list, using lesser known adjectives or better word choices.
  • Using the new list of adjectives, put back only the adjectives that are necessary for clarity. Nothing more.
  • Read the scene again.
  • Did you need all those adjectives? If the passage needs a few more, add them in but limit yourself to one per noun, two at the most and only occasionally. Never three.
  • Read the scene again.
  • How does it compare to the way it read in the beginning?

The idea here is to give enough description to give your readers’ imaginations flight to create the scene in their head without directing every minute detail. The more ownership a reader has in creating the scenes and characters in their imagination, the more invested in the story they will become.

There are many ways to save on professional editing, and I’ve listed just a few in How to Save Money on Editing by Preparing Your Manuscript and 3 Things You Shouldn’t Hire an Editor to Do. But my first piece of advice to any writer who wants to get the most bang for his or her editing buck is:

Put your manuscript on a diet, and get rid of those extra words.

Happy Writing!

—Candace

If you enjoyed reading this, please subscribe to my blog and never miss a post! It’s easy: Just enter your email address on the right side of this page. And please know that I’ll never sell, share, or rent your contact information—that’s a promise!

And if you want more great writing and publishing information, check out my Facebook page at Change It Up Editing and Writing Services, where I share all kinds of interesting articles and links.

Related articles

Candace Johnson is a professional freelance editor, proofreader, writer, ghostwriter, and writing coach who has worked with traditional publishers, self-published authors, and independent book packagers on nonfiction subjects ranging from memoirs to alternative medical treatments to self-help, and on fiction ranging from romance to paranormal. As an editorial specialist, Candace is passionate about offering her clients the opportunity to take their work to the next level. She believes in maintaining an author’s unique voice while helping him or her create and polish every sentence to make it the best it can be.

How to Save Money on Editing by Preparing Your Manuscript

Most writers understand the importance of professional editing. Whether you plan to query agents and editors or self-publish your work, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

You’ve finished revising and self-editing your manuscript, and you’re ready to send it to the copyeditor of your choice. You just attach the file to an email and press send, right?

Oh please, no, don’t do that! You’ll make so much extra work for your editor if you do that—and you’ll spend more money in the process. Allow me to explain.

Your editor estimates the amount of time it will take to edit your manuscript based on the sample you submitted; time equals money, so the more time the editor has to spend making changes, the more money you will spend.

Do you want to spend your editing dollars on clerical tasks you can do yourself?

Of course you don’t! Why spend editing dollars to have someone fix the spacing between paragraphs or remove hyperlinks? Save your hard-earned money for actual editing!

Whether your editor quotes hourly rates or charges by the project, every quote is based on the number of hours the edit will take. If your novel isn’t broken into chapters, your editor will have to invest several hours formatting it that way. If your nonfiction book doesn’t include in-text citations, your editor will have to spend hours identifying material that should have source information included. In both cases, those extra hours are added to your bill and won’t be available for you to use later for proofreading or help with crafting a great query letter.

Here is a basic formatting checklist you can use to prepare your manuscript for copyediting: Continue reading “How to Save Money on Editing by Preparing Your Manuscript”

How to Find Great Writing and Publishing Content

I’m a stalker.

I begin every work day with a cup of coffee and my computer, and I spend the next hour or two stalking other writers for great content to share with my Facebook followers.ID-100144817

We all have busy lives, and I understand the many reasons writers might not have the time or a desire to spend hours searching for writing tips. That’s why my Facebook page is filled with articles that offer valuable writing and publishing information.

No one person has time to find and read all the amazing content that is posted every single day, and I’m no exception. But I find some real gems that I want to share, and if you haven’t already done so, I invite you to check out Change It Up Editing on Facebook for easy access to information that I believe writers will find helpful, interesting, and sometimes, just plan hilarious.

Here are just a few of the recent links I’ve posted there:

101 Quick Actions You Can Take Today to Build the Writer Platform of Your Dreams

How Much Does It Cost to Publish a Book? Three Budget Breakdowns

Dialogue Tags

Platform vs. Portfolio

Ten Things You Can Do with Short Stories

If you’re looking for a one-stop place to find writing tips, publishing industry news, and the latest happenings in the publishing world, please “like” Change It Up Editing’s Facebook page and comment often, because the content YOU need is the content I’ll post there. Looking for anything in particular? Be sure to let me know and I’ll try to find it for you!

Happy Writing,

Candace

If you enjoyed reading this article, please subscribe to my blog and never miss a post! It’s easy: Just enter your email address on the right side of this page. And please know that I’ll never sell, share, or rent your contact information—that’s a promise!

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How a Professional Editor Can Help You Get Published: Manuscript Evaluation

One of the biggest mistakes a writer can make is moving forward with a manuscript that isn’t ready for submission or publication. Whether you ID-10098753choose to query agents and publishers or you decide to self-publish your work, remember the old saying:

 “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

How do you know if your book is ready to meet the world? One way is to have a professional manuscript evaluation.

You’ve shared your work with family and friends—and they’ve all raved about your storytelling talent. You’ve shared it with your critique group and beta readers, and they’ve offered some useful, constructive criticism. You’ve tweaked this, deleted that, and rewritten entire scenes and characters.

Now is the time for an honest and objective critique of your plot, dialogue, characters and pace, or opinions about structure, coherency, consistency, and organization.

A manuscript evaluation is a big-picture look that tells you what works and what doesn’t. It is not editing: a manuscript critique is an assessment and diagnostic tool that pinpoints specific strengths as well as weaknesses you can fix to improve your manuscript.

As a professional freelance editor, I interact with many writers who struggle when they finish writing and move into the editing phase. Some just throw in the towel and self-publish their books with little or no editing; some work for weeks to self-edit and revise; some search for a freelance editor who will help them “fix” their manuscript.

Don’t struggle alone, hope someone else will fix your problems, or give up. And don’t jump into the publishing pool unprepared. Instead, have your entire manuscript reviewed; if you can’t afford that, at least have your first chapter evaluated.

Whether your readers are literary agents or members of your target audience, you have to catch and keep their attention. As New York Times bestselling author John Gilstrap writes:

Something must happen in the first two hundred words. That’s the length of my interest fuse. Billowing clouds, pouring rain and beautiful flowers are not action. Characters interacting with each other or with their environment is action.”

Be sure you choose an evaluator with experience, someone who understands what literary agents and publishers are looking for, and someone with whom you can communicate so you’ll get the most from your critique.

Don’t be shy about discussing your needs and expectations for the evaluations, as well as your preferences for how you receive feedback. As with any editing service, you should feel very comfortable that the editor you hire is someone who can help you meet your goals. As I wrote here and here, be sure you clearly articulate your expectations and make sure your new editing partner is a good communicator.

I just finished evaluating a 75,000 word fiction manuscript; I sent the author a seven-page written critique filled with specific details and examples of the strengths and weaknesses I found in the manuscript. I’m also in the midst of a memoir critique that is part written evaluation and part Skype conference. As you can see, there are different ways for an author to communicate with his or her editor, and you’ll want to work with someone who can give you the evaluation YOU need to improve your work.

Don’t be the author who papers your room with rejection slips or bad reviews because your manuscript needs work! Contact me today for a professional manuscript evaluation and let me help you bring your work to the next level.

Happy Writing!

—Candace

If you enjoyed reading this, please subscribe to my blog and never miss a post! It’s easy: Just enter your email address on the right side of this page. And please know that I’ll never sell, share, or rent your contact information—that’s a promise!

And if you want more great writing and publishing information, check out my Facebook page at Change It Up Editing and Writing Services, where I share all kinds of interesting articles and links.

 Image courtesy of adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Related articles:

How a Professional Editor Can Help You Get Published: Developmental and Substantive Editing

How a Professional Editor Can Help You Get Published: Copyediting

How a Professional Editor Can Help You Get Published: Proofreading

A Thank-You Letter to My Dad on Father’s Day

John F. Yardas, EdD and Candace (15 months old)
John F. Yardas, EdD and Candace (15 months old)

Dear Dad,

Because you’re a self-declared technophobe, you won’t read this today, but I’ll send you a printed copy via snail mail. I may be using all my techie-toys (laptop, printer, and my WordPress blog) to write this, but the message is very old-school: without you, I would never be following my dream today.

You see, I’m finally pursuing a passion I’ve had for my whole life. Remember when I’d spend hours in my room reading books and writing to pen pals? You and Mom humored me for the most part, but every so often, my bedroom door would fly open and you’d bellow, “It’s time to go outside for some fresh air!”

I hated when you did that, Dad, because invariably I was lost in a world you couldn’t have known. A word where magical things happened to imaginary people—and it didn’t matter to me whether those magical things happened in the books I read or the letters I received. I couldn’t get enough of those worlds beyond my door, and I really have to credit you for that as well.

For as far back as I can remember, your nose was always in a book or magazine. I can close my eyes and see you sitting in your chair in the living room, glasses perched on your nose and a book balanced on your lap; you always had your legs crossed (I wonder if that’s a genetic trait, because I can’t seem to sit without doing the same). I can’t remember the titles of any of the books, but I clearly remember the Look and Life magazines; you and Mom read those cover-to-cover, and I loved looking at the photos, too, until I was old enough to read the words.

Yes, you instilled in me a love for reading, but more than that, you instilled a love for writing. I seldom shared my little stories with you because I feared your disapproval, but I wrote them nonetheless, and even though you didn’t read them, you certainly influenced them. The letters I wrote to pen pals all over the world were a form of creative writing, too, as were the journals I meticulously kept, and later, as I worked on essays and research projects in school, I learned many valuable lessons about writing styles and rules and authors and grammar and . . . the list goes on and on.

Having a father who is a perfectionist and a schoolteacher is difficult for a child, but I suspect having that father is the reason I was constantly proofreading cereal boxes, street signs, and letters from those pen pals on the other side of the world, and why I was always drawn to helping others with their writing. When it came time for college, practicality won out and I convinced myself that I wasn’t good enough, that I could never make a living as a writer, so I went a different direction and never looked back.

Until a few years ago when my midlife-crisis-self decided it was time to follow my heart for a change. (Thank goodness that crazy lady finally spoke up!) My love of writing and grammar and teaching and helping others all came together, and today I have a wonderful career as a freelance editor and writer. Pat yourself on the back, Dad, because your example is what led me down that path:

  • the example you set as a teacher who expected the best from every student you taught showed me that everyone has the ability to find just a little bit more inside himself or herself;
  • the example you set as a parent who expected nothing less than perfection made me into a perfectionist, which is a noble quality for a proofreader (although less so for a writer, I’m afraid—anxiety tends to kick in when perfectionism rears its ugly head);
  • the example you set as a reader taught me that words are a precious commodity to be respected and revered, whether one is reading The Little Engine That Could or The Godfather or an algebra text (that last one took a few extra years to appreciate, by the way);
  • the example you set as a parent helped me pass my own love of reading and writing to my children and grandchildren; I can’t express the joy I felt when my eighteen-month-old granddaughter pulled me into her room to read Chicka Chicka Boom Boom—a book I gave her!

So on this Father’s Day, Dad, I just want to say thank you for sharing your love of words with that little girl who loved to crawl up into your lap and listen to you read aloud. You gave me a gift that has continued to shower me with happiness for all these years, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

Now please, Dad, won’t you consider putting aside your fear of technology and just consider an e-reader? You’d make gift-giving so much easier!

Love, Candace

If you enjoyed reading this, please subscribe to my blog, and you’ll never miss a post! It’s easy: Just enter your email address on the right side of this page. And please know that I’ll never sell, share, or rent your contact information—that’s a promise!

And if you want more great writing and publishing information, check out my Facebook page, where I share all kinds of interesting articles and links.