Chapter Summaries: Step 6 of How to Write a Compelling Nonfiction Book Proposal in 10 Easy Steps

chapter summaries for nonfiction book proposalWriting a nonfiction book proposal can feel overwhelming. You have a great idea for a book, you’ve written a chapter or two and are excited about shopping it to an agent or publisher, and now it’s time to create your proposal.

Your book proposal includes sections that outline everything your (eventual) publisher needs to know to position your book in the marketplace. In the first five parts of this series, I’ve outlined what you should include in your proposal in the following sections:

I’ve outlined what you should include in the following sections of your proposal:

As I’ve mentioned previously, I’m covering these sections in the order I usually read and write proposals, since each section tends to build on those that come before.

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Chapter Summaries for a Nonfiction Book Proposal

Everything you’ve presented in your proposal so far has been about you, your platform, your marketing plans, and the competition for your book. Now the rubber meets the road, so to speak, as you describe your book in enough detail to let an agent or editor understand what it’s about and why it is unique in the market—and why it will be profitable to publish.

Summarize each chapter in a paragraph or two, giving the agent or editor a feel for how your book covers the subject, demonstrating your writing ability and style, and presenting the information each chapter will cover and what questions it will raise and answer.

These summaries are the reason a nonfiction book proposal will sell an idea, even before you’ve written the entire manuscript—they give agents and editors an idea about the arc and flow of your manuscript.

How to write clear, compelling, and concise chapter summaries for #nonfiction book proposals. Click To Tweet

As you write the summaries, think outline or précis—the goal is to be clear, compelling, and concise. Literary agent Jeanne Fredericks suggests, “To make the summaries more appealing, include some intriguing case histories, anecdotes or data, if possible. Communicate how the chapters will build on each other and advance your thesis.” And the Bradford Literary Agency suggests, “The style in which you deliver the description should be informed by the type of non-fiction book you are selling. A how-to book chapter description would necessarily be quite different from a travel narrative chapter description.”

While it’s important to have a topic or overview sentence to begin each chapter summary, this is the place to let your writing shine, so make sure each summary reads like a mini-chapter, not like a drab and boring outline. Don’t start each one with a version of “In this chapter I’ll discuss.”

Instead, do show: Continue reading “Chapter Summaries: Step 6 of How to Write a Compelling Nonfiction Book Proposal in 10 Easy Steps”

Your Author Bio: Step 2 of How to Write a Compelling Nonfiction Book Proposal in 10 Easy Steps

author bio for book proposalYou have a fantastic idea for a nonfiction book (or perhaps you’ve already written one), and because you want to publish traditionally, your next step is to write a proposal to sell agents and/or editors on your idea.

When I was an acquisitions editor for a traditional publisher, I read hundreds of nonfiction book proposals. Like every other publishing professional does, I read those proposals in a certain order—but not necessarily in the order the author presented the material. (Find a list of the other sections of a nonfiction book proposal here.) When I write a book proposal, I begin with the author’s bio because this is the section I think of as the hub of the wheel; all the other sections are spokes on that hub.

In fact, there is no “right” way to order the sections of your proposal, so I’m going to present the remainder of this ten-part series the way I actually read and write book proposals.

First up: Your Author Bio Continue reading “Your Author Bio: Step 2 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”

What Is It? Avoid Undefined Pronouns to Strengthen Your Writing

“He worked hard to earn enough money to buy it.”Undefined pronouns

What is “it,” exactly? In the context of the sentence above, “it” is used as a pronoun, and illustrates a common (and avoidable) writer error:

Undefined pronouns

A quick grammar review: Pronouns are a useful part of speech that give writers greater flexibility in naming schemes. Instead of using and reusing a noun, the substitution of a pronoun allows for a type of shorthand. For example, instead of writing, “The moment John walk into the store, John realized John had forgotten John’s wallet at home” (pretty clunky, huh?), this sentence becomes, “The moment John walked into the store, he realized he had forgotten his wallet at home.”

Personal pronouns are fairly straightforward. Most of us use I, he, she, they, him, her, them, his, hers, and theirs properly . . . but “it” often present unique problems for writers.

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The Problem with “It”

When I edit manuscripts, I usually see two different but related problems with the use of “it”:

  1. The pronoun “it” does not relate to the antecedent
  2. The pronoun “it” is part of vague sentence construction.

In plain English, the first problem is using a pronoun that is ambiguous or doesn’t refer to a specific noun. Example:

 Although the pizza delivery van ran into the school bus, it was not damaged.

Does “it” represent the pizza delivery van or the school bus? We just can’t tell by the way this sentence is constructed. The pronoun doesn’t clearly relate to the antecedent.

Vague sentence construction and the indefinite use of “it” often calls for a sentence revision. Here’s an example of a problem sentence:

“Mary wondered if it was something about the energy of young people that animals pick up and want to be around.”

When “it” is combined with a form of the verb “to be,” take a closer look to see if there might be a better way to construct your sentence:

“Mary wondered if animals pick up on the energy of young people and want to be around it.”

In the above example, “it” stands in for “the energy of young people.”

 “Mary wondered if the energy of young people was something animals pick up and want to be around.”

This example eliminates “it” completely.

When self-editing your work, remember to add “it” to your list of words and terms to search and possibly replace. You don’t need to avoid this pronoun, but use “it” wisely and properly.

If you have any great tips for avoiding the overuse of “it” in your writing. please share in the comments.

Happy Writing,

Candace

If you enjoyed reading this and want to improve your ability to self-edit and revise your work, please subscribe by entering 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.

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.

Image courtesy of Master isolated images at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Blogging IS Writing

Blogging IS WritingI recently reconnected with a writer I’d met before I became a full-time freelance editor. We met for lunch the other day, and I had a fun time catching up and talking shop. Reminiscing about the writers critique group where we met and several of the “colorful characters” we both know from the group made me realize how much I miss the camaraderie of meeting with other writers on a regular basis.

As I explained to my friend, I don’t write much fiction these days. Instead of writing my own work, I help other writers with theirs. Whether I’m line editing a novel or magazine article, evaluating a memoir, or coaching a writer on his self-help book, my days are packed with reading and writing—so packed, in fact, that I even find it challenging to write regular blog posts.

Do you think of blogging as writing? #amwriting #blogging #writers Click To Tweet

The day after our lunch, I came across an article I thought my friend might find interesting, so I sent her an email, and I also told her how motivating it had been to talk with her at our lunch about her writing.

Her email back to me read:

“When next we talk, I’d like to hear you that you wrote something. Writing could become your hobby!!! You know, do it for fun.”

I wasn’t quite sure how to respond to that.

I love writing. I really LOVE writing. I’ve been a lover of words for as long as I can remember. That’s the primary reason I’m in the editing and writing biz. Finding just the right word, helping another writer clarify meaning, or unscrambling a great idea that got lost in poor structure are all ways to get my heart racing. Continue reading “Blogging IS Writing”

Keep Your Readers Reading: 4 Easy Ways to Improve Sentence Structure

improve sentence structureConstructing a variety of sentences to keep your reader interested is a challenge every writer faces. If you are like most writers, your “personal style” includes some overused sentence structure.

In Self Editing: Put Your Book on a Diet, I discussed the importance of deleting unnecessary words; another important part of the revision/self-editing process is making sure your sentence structures are varied . . . but sometimes writers create new problems for themselves in the quest to vary sentences.

Let me explain.

As a freelance editor, I work with writers who have varying levels of experience. In the course of a month, I usually do some coaching, evaluate manuscripts, proofread a novel, and copyedit a proposal. In almost every case, I find that the writers have specific tendencies to overuse words and phrases or to construct most (or at least too many) sentences in a similar fashion.

Now, look at those last three sentences. Can you identify the common sentence structure I used? (Cue “Final Jeopardy” theme.)

Have you tried these four easy ways to improve your sentences? Click To Tweet

Time’s up!

If you identified “overuse of introductory dependent clauses,” you win! (Sorry, no valuable prize, but you DO have the satisfaction of knowing grammar geeks will welcome you into the club.) I know that particular sentence structure is one I tend to overuse, so when I revise my writing, I’m always on the lookout for ways to restructure those sentences. A few sprinkled in every so often are great, but when the majority of my sentences have the same format: Zzzzzzzzzzzz . . .

(By the way, one of the best ways to learn to spot your own writing gaffes is by editing other writers’ writing. I wrote about that here. Try it—you’ll be amazed how much your own writing improves!)

Sentence construction should almost never be the same throughout a paragraph. That’s boring for the reader, and it’s a sure sign that you need to do some revising.

Here are some other common writing faux pas:

  • Overused words: All writers have their favorite words, even if they aren’t aware of them. I recently edited a manuscript with a great deal of clever dialogue, but more than half of them begin with “Well . . .” Every main character and most of the minor characters begin at least half their sentences that way: Zzzzzzzzz.

Lynn Serafin at Spirit Authors wrote about this in her excellent series on self-publishing:

This part of the process can be a real emotional journey for an author, especially if they have never worked with a good editor before. You might wonder why the editor didn’t do this herself. I’m glad she asked me to do it because a) it gave me the chance to decide which instances of these words should stay or go and b) it helped me improve as a writer. I notice that I am much more mindful of my ‘filler’ words since being challenged by my editor to address this issue.”

  • Dangling Modifiers: These are especially fun to include if you want to give your editor a good laugh. What is a dangling modifier? It’s a descriptive word or phrase (a modifier) that is separated from the noun or noun phrase it is supposed to be modifying. This often happens when the modifier is tacked onto the beginning or end of a sentence.

    Dangling Modifiers Lead To Slippery Pedestrians
    Dangling Modifiers Can Lead To Slippery Pedestrians (Photo credit: jaydoubleyougee)

Here are some examples:

  • Almost two feet tall, he hurled himself over the coffee table. (He’s awfully short, isn’t he?)
  • Returning home, the fire was still burning out of control. (Did the fire run out for a quart of milk?)
  • Knocking on the door, the package sat where the delivery man dropped it. (What a clever package—it can announce its own arrival.)
Tips for revising your manuscript on a sentence level. Click To Tweet
  • Comma Splices: Our dear friend the comma is often asked to do more work that it was designed to do. Connecting two independent clauses with a comma but no coordinating conjunction or punctuation is one form of a comma splice. Here’s an example:
  • I can’t believe you brought me here, I have postponed it for so long, this is an awe-inspiring place, my sister would have loved it here.

There are a number of ways to fix this type of sentence. You can add coordinating or subordinating conjunctions, make dependent clauses out of one or more of the independent clauses, use different punctuation, or revise the sentences to add some variety to the structure. And, of course, you could use almost any combination of the above.

  • I can’t believe you brought me here. I have postponed it for so long, but this is an awe-inspiring place; my sister would have loved it here.

OR

  • I postponed coming here for so long. This is an awe-inspiring place, and my sister would have loved it. I can’t believe you brought me here.

OR

  • I have postponed coming here for so long that I can’t believe you brought me. This is an awe-inspiring place, and my sister would have loved it here.

You’ll keep your readers reading if you use a variety of the four basic sentence constructions:

  • Simple sentences
  • Compound sentences
  • Complex sentences
  • Compound/complex sentences

Mixing up the order of the clauses, adding coordinating or subordinating clauses, removing dangling modifiers, and eliminating extraneous words are important parts of the revision process. When you utilize different approaches to address the subject of each sentence, your writing will guide your reader to share your vision through your mastery of sentence construction.

What is YOUR biggest challenge when revising on a sentence level? I hope you’ll share your thoughts in the comments!

Happy Writing,

—Candace

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. 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.

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.

Caring for Your Writer—10 Easy Steps for Friends & Family

I found this funny (and truth-filled) blog at Word Savant this morning, and I just had to share:

Caring for Your Writer—10 Easy Steps for Friends & Family #writerslife #writers Click To Tweet

Congratulations!  You are now the proud owner of a writer!  Your writer will perform amazing tricks for you, such as spending hours and hours by themselves working on something that they may never finish. Or, accumulating a small collection of editors who thank them for their work but it’s just not right for this publication.

You may be wondering how to feed and care for this moody and reclusive creature, who is “writing a novel” but won’t tell you what it’s about.  Writers need specialized care, so here are 10 easy Do’s and Don’ts to take care of this special breed.

(Read the rest at Caring for Your Writer – 10 Easy Steps for Friends & Family.)

 

Happy Writing!

—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 at Change It Up Editing and Writing Services, where I share all kinds of interesting articles and links.

 

Writers: You Never Know How Strong You Are Until Being Strong Is the Only Choice You Have

how strong you areLife is full of challenges. Sometimes they are minor, like trying to explain to your children (for the thirteenth time) why they can’t have a puppy because you don’t want the responsibility (“But Mom, we promise we’ll walk it and feed it and play with it—you won’t have to do a thing!”).

Sometimes the challenges are much more, well, challenging.

Like mourning the passing of a loved one, or receiving another rejection letter for the piece you poured your heart and soul into, or suffering a stroke at age 12. Those are the types of challenges that can send us over the edge if we don’t know how to consciously access our resilience.

If we access our personal power, we can overcome just about anything. #adversity #challenge #writers Click To Tweet

Maybe it has something to do with the alignment of the moon and the stars—who really knows?—but I feel like the past week has been a particularly challenging one for many of the bloggers I follow. Phillip McCollum wrote about a writer’s paralysis in “I’m Not Good Enough” (includes a great Ira Glass quotation, too); Hermania Chow discussed self-esteem in “5 More Things Writers Need to Stop Doing”; J. Keller Ford shared her perplexing relationship with her adult daughter in “A Demon of the Past Is Destroying the Present and I’m the Scapegoat . . . Again.”

We often beat ourselves up over what we didn’t do, what we “should” have done instead. I’m always reminded of my late mother when I hear the word “should.” She would remind me that, in her opinion, it is one of the most useless and debilitating words in the English language. Think about that for a moment, and ask yourself if the “shoulds” in your life are keeping you from being your best self.

“I should let the kids have that puppy.”

“I should be writing.”

“I should be able to get through the day without being sad about Dad’s passing—it’s been a year, after all.”

“I should have finished by now . . . should be more established as a freelance writer . . . should be able to write a blog post every day . . .” Yes, we can “should” ourselves into feeling like failures, but by consciously accessing our resilience, we can stop listening to those negative voices and turn our challenges into character-building markers.

I was prompted to write this post when I received an email yesterday from Patricia O’Gorman, the author of The Resilient Woman: Mastering the 7 Steps to Personal Power. After her own especially challenging week, Dr. O’Gorman was more than thrilled to receive a great review for her book, which reminded her that no matter what happens to us, if we access our personal power, we can overcome just about anything. There is something in this book for every man, woman, and child who ever suffered from self-doubt.

The book’s reviewer (from MyShelf.com) wrote:

There is a test to see where you fall on the resilience scale. Take it, it really is informative. O’Gorman’s words are empowering.

You will really get a lot out of this book and want to pass it on. But be sure to put your name in it, because you will definitely want it back to refer to later when you start thinking your ‘girly thoughts’!”

I hope you’ll take my mom’s advice and lose the “shoulds” in your life. You are strong and resilient, and even when you’re having a bad day (or two or three), remember: you are stronger than you think you are.

Yes, you are.

Now go out there and have an amazing week!

Happy Writing,

Candace

If you enjoyed this article, please consider subscribing so 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!

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Post title is a quote from an unknown author.

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.

What a Difference a Year Makes

becoming a freelance editorIn May of 2012, I made a decision I’d been contemplating for some time: I hung out my shingle as a full-time freelance editor and writer.

I had been working as a senior editor at a small traditional publisher. I was very excited about how different my working life would be as a freelancer. But giving up that steady paycheck—well, that was a horse of a different color, as they say.

Why I quit my job as senior editor at a publishing house #editing #publishing Click To Tweet

My passion was working with writers and their words, and sadly, the economics of traditional publishing had caused my job to morph into something that left me little time to do that. My days were spent on so many things other than editing, and I grew more and more frustrated.

I finally realized that if things were going to change, I would have to be the one to change them.

So I did, and I’ve never looked back. Was it scary? Yes, it was—and it still is. But in hindsight, I only have one regret: I wish I’d done it sooner. Becoming a freelance editor and writer is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Today, I have the freedom to work on projects that I’m excited about. I have the variety of working with writers on their novels, their memoirs, their self-help books, their blog posts, their articles for magazines and websites. I even had the opportunity to write a comedic speech, which was a great challenge but SO much fun! Every day I have the opportunity to work with authors who are among the most dedicated and creative people I’ve ever met. And the best part is that I can now call those people my friends.

It’s been a year since I decided to start Change It Up Editing and Writing Services, and it’s been a fantastic twelve months. Thank you to all the writers who trusted me with their amazing words, and thanks to all of YOU who read this blog. I never dreamed I’d have so much FUN!

—Candace

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!

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.

Image courtesy of africa at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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.

Can You Hear Me Now? Finding a Freelance Editor Who Listens

Whether you hope to interest a traditional publisher or you’re publishing independently, you know you need professional editing before you submit yourFinding a Freelance Editor Who Listens manuscript.

But how do you know if the editor you found is a good fit for you?

In my last post (read it here), I discussed how a sample edit can do three things:

  1. It show you a particular editor’s knowledge and ability,
  2. It helps the editor determine the amount of work your manuscript needs to make it as professional as possible, and
  3. It gives you the opportunity to see how that editor believes he or she can improve your book.

Erik John Baker (be sure to check out his blog here) left this comment:

I think it’s also important to find an editor who listens, both [to] the writer and to the writer’s voice.”

Bingo! We all expect an editor to be good with the written word, but it is equally important that someone who is part of your team is a good listener and honors your authorial voice. Let’s discuss the “good listener” part.

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Continue reading “Can You Hear Me Now? Finding a Freelance Editor Who Listens”