All week I felt like a teenager anticipating a first date as I waited for Julie’s presentation at Annie Bloom’s Books, an indie bookstore in Portland, Oregon. Although Julie and I met online in April of 2014, and although she had trusted me (a total stranger at the time) with the words of what would become her debut novel, I didn’t know what to expect. Would she be as charming and gracious in person as she is online? Continue reading “Have You Ever Met a Rock Star?”
How do you learn what a book is about? If you’re like most readers, you read a synopsis—maybe the back cover, perhaps you read the description online. But how do agents and editors find out what a book is about when they receive a proposal? They begin by reading the Overview.
Your Overview is a synopsis of the book and why it should be published—its purpose is to give the editor as much information as possible while being as concise as possible—like an executive summary or a précis. A tall order? Yes, but think of it as advertising for your book: it grabs the reader’s attention and gives the basic information that highlights the most intriguing points. Continue reading “Overview: Step 9 of How to Write a Compelling Nonfiction Book Proposal in 10 Easy Steps”
You’re coming into the home stretch of writing a book proposal. If you’ve been following this series, you’ve already learned about writing your author bio, the information that should go into your chapter summaries, how to handle competitive titles, identifying your target audience and how you’ll market to them, and how to make agents and editors sit up and take notice of your platform. If you’ve missed any of those previous articles, scroll down to the bottom of this post for links to the first six installments.
If you’re like most writers, you’ve probably already drafted a sample chapter or two; when the idea for your book first strikes, it’s difficult not to begin writing it. Now it’s time to take out that draft and polish it up until it sings. As the Bradford Literary Agency writes, “Draft the chapter that ‘puts your best foot forward’ so to speak. Write the section that is the most interesting, the most compelling and the one that you feel most passionate about.”
Tip: If you’re a new author, I strongly suggest you write your entire book before you query agents. Although it’s perfectly acceptable to shop an idea with a proposal and a few sample chapters, you do not want to be in a position where you are asked for an additional sample chapter or two and you have to hurry to write them. In addition, publishers plan their seasonal lists many months in advance, and if there is any doubt about your ability to finish a manuscript in time, your proposal will most likely get a pass.
Remember that in the end, everything boils down to your writing. No matter how original your book idea is, how spectacular your platform and marketing plans are, or how creatively you’ve compared your book to the competition, it’s all a foundation for the real star of the show: your sample chapter(s). As the Strothman Literary Agency recommends, “If you have not published a book, a strong writing sample provides essential evidence to the editors that you have the ability to attract and engage readers.”
Use the minimum number of words to generate the maximum amount of excitement about your manuscript; choose a chapter (or two) that not only conveys the idea of your book but also leaves an agent or editor wanting more. Revise, proofread, and go over your sample with a fine-tooth comb to be sure it’s the best it can be—a misplaced comma won’t get you a rejection, but pages filled with grammar errors and spelling errors might. You’re a professional writer who is an expert in your field, so put your best work out there.
Here are some FAQs I get from writers about sample chapters: Continue reading “Sample Chapters: Step 7 of How to Write a Compelling Nonfiction Book Proposal in 10 Easy Steps”
If you’re writing a nonfiction book proposal (and you’re following this series), you already understand the importance of your author bio and how to identify your target audience. Now it’s time to articulate your plans for selling your book by including marketing information that will grab the attention of an agent or editor.
Remember, you’re selling two things in your book proposal: your manuscript and yourself as the author-expert. A strong proposal weaves those separate pieces together in creative and compelling ways, and the Marketing/Publicity section of your proposal is where you bring together the best of those with some creative ideas of your own for making your book a success. And whether you ultimately publish traditionally or decide to self-publish, you just can’t expect publishers or booksellers to bring the readers to you.
As author K. S. Brooks writes,
Book sellers do not want to take up space on their shelves if you’re not going to push your book. They want to know what you have planned to getword out about your book. . . . If they don’t think you’re going to make an effort to sell the books they put on their shelves—well, you can kiss that opportunity goodbye.”
So how do you wow agents and editors with your marketing and publicity section? Continue reading “Your Marketing and Publicity Plan: Step 4 of How to Write a Compelling Nonfiction Book Proposal in 10 Easy Steps”
Writing 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
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:
On the heels of my post about the importance of a strong author bio in your book proposal, author Chris Mentzer offered to further discuss that elusive author platform we hear so much about. (Chris’s book Nexus of the Worlds will be published by Tiger Dynasty Publishing in December, so he’s lived this firsthand.) Chris and I connected through social media, and we are both proponents of building those personal relationships every author needs to create a strong platform. I know you’ll enjoy reading his thoughts, and don’t forget to visit Chris’s blog at Tales from the Fifth Tower when you’re finished here. Take it away, Chris:
One of the hot topics of discussion in the world of writing concerns the writer’s platform. Some ask, “Should I have one, even though I don’t have a book?” or “I’m fiction author, so is it necessary for me to have one?” Let’s look at both these questions and some related ones.
What Is a Platform?
In simple terms, and speaking from a material standpoint, a platform is a series of planks connected together to make a raised surface for an individual to stand on. In politics, a platform is a candidate’s basis for being elected; each plank is a promise that he makes to be elected. In writing, the platform is your place in cyberspace for people to find you and know who you are among other writers. Each plank is an outlet where you can be noticed and heard.A writer platform is your place in cyberspace for people to find you and know who you are...… Click To Tweet
The Planks of the Writer’s Platform
I read articles that say a writer’s blog or website is the platform, as that is the hub of his or her activity. In theory, I agree with this. However, looking at the definition of platform, the blog is only one part of the entire structure. It may be the main section, but it is not the whole platform. When you add your presence on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and other social media outlets, those the additional planks strengthen the entire platform. Author interviews, books blurbs, author bios, and book trailers are additional planks.
But I Don’t Have a Published Book
There are a lot of writers out there who claim they don’t need a platform since they don’t have a book to sell. I can understand this, but in the busy world of cyberspace, even with a book you may not be heard; it might take months—even years—to develop a fan base for you and your books.
Let’s look at this through the lens of a historical landmark event. Everyone is familiar with the moon landing in 1969. We are introduced to the astronauts, we follow them to the rocket, we cheer the liftoff, and then we rejoice as it lands and the astronauts walk on the surface. The significance of this (besides the event itself) is that we know a great deal about it before long before the rocket leaves the launch pad. In a speech on May 25, 1961, President Kennedy promised we would put a man on the moon before the decade was over. That was eight years before it happened.
Now, let’s suppose that you, the author, are an astronaut, and your book is the moon landing. NASA is your publisher (traditional or self-publishing). Your platform then is the announcement to the country that you are heading to the moon writing a book. The news travels around from one person to the next, interviews are posted in papers and on television, and this leads up to your departure into space book being released. If you release the book first and then develop a platform, it’s the same as landing on the moon first and then telling everyone about it. Imagine the disappointed astronaut on the moon’s surface jumping up and down and waving his arms at the people on earth—and nobody is paying attention.
Your platform sells you and your brand and allows people to get to know you and your style of writing, and from there you build a fan base of followers. That way, when the book is released, you already have the attention of a number of people who will buy your book and/or tell others about it, and you hope they will get on board and buy as well.
How do you sell yourself? That’s where the blog comes into play. Talk about yourself, the genre you write, the books you have read, and other basic things about who you are and what makes you tick. Have someone interview you asking these questions. There are bloggers out there who specialize in helping people get discovered even before a book is available. On Twitter, follow fellow authors of the same genre and pick their brains. Find out how they got to where they are right now. They may soon follow you, and from there you can develop a following of your own.
But I’m a Fiction Writer Continue reading “The Writer and the Platform: Guest post by Chris Mentzer”
Most are by authors who are yet to be published, and some are by authors who have published nonfiction and want to break into fiction. The genres vary, but one of the common statements I hear from all these authors is,
“I’ll start blogging and get a website when my book is published.”
If you’re reading this, chances are pretty good that you are already a blogger, so forgive me if I’m preaching to the choir. But based on several recent posts I’ve read in the blogosphere, fiction writers are beginning to ask themselves (and others) if blogging and other types of social media are really worth the time they take. Will a blog really help an author sell more books? Will a website really make an author look more professional—and does that even matter? Isn’t success really about writing a good book? Continue reading “Should Fiction Writers Bother with Blogs and Websites?”
Recently, an independent author who hopes to land a publishing contract this time around hired me to write a book proposal for her latest nonfiction book. She’s an experienced author, but she also knows what she doesn’t know. In her own words, “There is no point in reinventing the wheel when someone else already does it (writing a proposal) well. I think my time would better be served doing what I do best, teaching through writing.”
That sentence got me to thinking about how (as writers) we learn not just from reading, but also from the writing we do. One of the things I love most about my job is the collaborative work I do with authors. There is always a takeaway for me, and more important, there is a takeaway for my author/client.
The author who hired me to write her book proposal understands her personal strengths and weaknesses, and she appreciates the value of hiring someone to do something that might take her weeks of extra time to learn to do well. She’s willing to invest in her writing career by hiring a professional who has the expertise she doesn’t, which frees her up to do what she does best—write. She’s actually making money by spending money.
But there is an added benefit to her: once we’ve completed our collaboration on her book proposal, she will have a very clear idea of how to write a complete proposal for her next book if she chooses to do so.
You see, I too love to teach through writing. As we work together to create and sculpt her book proposal, we both learn. The author spends many hours researching a subject and sharing all her knowledge in a manuscript that she hopes will teach her readers something useful and valuable to them; I spend hours helping her choose just the right words and phrases and putting them together into a package that we hope will catch the eye of an agent or publisher.
And we each come away from this collaboration enriched by the other person’s strengths, because together we can accomplish something neither one of us could do, or do as well, without the other writer.
Collaboration is such an important part of a writer’s life. Many articles have been written about the solitary nature of writing, but when we collaborate with others—through writing partners, critique groups, beta readers, blog followers, and editors—we enrich our writing lives exponentially.
By the time I finish writing this proposal, I’ll have a great deal more knowledge about a subject that interests me, and my client will have a killer proposal and the skill to write the next one on her own if she chooses to . . . and we’ll have both gained something of real value through teaching and writing.
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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 Do You Define Your Success as a Writer? (stylematters01.wordpress.com)
If You DID Know (megansayers.wordpress.com)
But how do you know if an editor is a good fit for you?
In an article titled Freelance Editing: How to Hire an Editor for Your Book or Query Letter, Chuck Sambuchino offered advice for hiring a freelance editor. His first piece of advice was “Get a Test Edit.”
A test edit basically means you pass along a few pages and get them reviewed to see what kind of notes and ideas the editor is making in terms of proofreading and content work. Test edits usually work one of two ways: 1) You pass on 1-2 pages and the editor reviews them for free; or 2) you pass on a more substantial number of pages (10-50) and simply pay the editor as normal for those pages. If you like what you see from the test edit, then you can move forward on a bigger deal.”
I think he makes his point well with his example (which hurts my brain every time I read it!)
This week I’ve been contacted by several writers who are shopping for editors as they near completion of their WIPs, and I’ve made this same offer to each one:
Send me the first few chapters of your manuscript. I’ll select several pages and provide a free, no-obligation sample edit for you. A sample edit is beneficial to both of us; it helps me determine the amount of work your manuscript needs to make it as professional as possible, and it also gives you the opportunity to see how I can improve your book.”
As I wrote here and here, you wouldn’t let just any mechanic fix your car, so don’t let just any editor fix your words. Ask for references from other authors who have hired that editor for the type of work you need, and don’t be afraid to voice your concerns before you hire someone. Editing is like marriage: communication and trust are vital to success.
*A big note about this: I am talking about editing for publication for any medium—printed book, ebook, blog post, advertising blurb, query letter. How your work is published isn’t the determining factor; that you publish a professional piece is. In a blog post titled SELF PUBLISHING ON KINDLE – Have Any Books On Kindle Ever Sold No Copies?, author Steve Truelove gives his answer to that question, which includes:
I guess is if the book is totally hopeless….badly written, full of mistakes, ridlled wiht typo’s, and unedited. Believe me, if you upload a book like that to Kindle you will soon get found out, so to speak.”
Blindly hiring an editor because he’s inexpensive or she knows your mother isn’t a wise business decision. But reviewing a sample edit will give you a huge insight into a particular editor’s knowledge and ability, so don’t hesitate to ask for one before making this important financial and professional decision.
Your expertise is writing; let me show you how my editorial expertise can help you take your writing to the next level. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a no-obligation quote and sample edit today.
Did you enjoy this article? 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!
- The Importance of Freelance Editors (thedancingwriterblog.wordpress.com)
- Why Hire an Editor? (catherineryanhoward.com)
- 10 Reasons Why You Need an Editor for Indie Publishing (shareyourarticles.wordpress.com)
- 3 Things You Shouldn’t Hire an Editor to Do (changeitupediting.com)