At the start of 2005 I had just finished seminary and had a long, rambling paper from an independent study that I wanted to publish. I had no idea what I was doing, so I started asking around at my seminary, and my professor put me in touch with an editor. The editor sent me a book proposal template, I filled it out, hit send, and waited.
I waited, and waited, and waited.
Finally, he replied with a firm “No.” His message made two things clear:
This was not a good book idea.
I wasn’t the guy to write it even if it was.
Crestfallen, I tried to redeem myself by contacting two other publishers. I once again filled out my book proposal according to their guidelines, and they also rejected me. I’m sure I still have the emails buried in my GMail account, but I’m afraid to look.
I finally signed on with an agent who overhauled my proposal several times before we pitched the book again.
The idea was still basically the same.
I was still the same guy, albeit with a blog.
As if my agent had accomplished something magical, NavPress signed me to a contract to write what later became Coffeehouse Theology. It’s no mistake that my book was only accepted after I received professional help.
Why Are Book Proposals So Hard to Write?
Nonfiction book proposals require a unique blend of creative writing and marketing know-how. You have to pitch a winning idea, demonstrate that people want to read it, list ways you can reach those people, prove you have the credentials to write it, and convince an editor that they’re the right publisher for this book.
Over the years I’ve pitched a variety of nonfiction book projects to many publishers, and while it hasn’t necessarily become easier, I have a much better idea of what works and what doesn’t work. In 2013 alone I signed three book contracts based on my proposals.
Along the way, I routinely overhauled my proposals and refined the message of each unique section. I’ve also consulted with a number of aspiring authors on their proposals, and many of them have since been published.
A Special Offer for You…
This winter, I’m offering 10 nonfiction book proposal critiques for $200 each, a $100 savings from my regular price of $300 per critique. I’ll also throw in a copy of my book A Path to Publishing: What I Learned by Publishing a Nonfiction Book to help you refine your proposal along the way.
I’ll offer the critiques on a first-come, first-served basis, aiming to work on 2-3 proposals a week, with the last day of March as my end date.
THIS IS FOR NONFICTION BOOKS ONLY.
If you’re interested in signing up or if you have questions, email me at edcyzewski (at) gmail.com.
What I’ll Do for Your Nonfiction Book Proposal
Nonfiction book proposals can be divided into two basic sections: the marketing information (book summary, audience, promise for readers, competing works, publicity, etc.) and the book content (chapter list and 2-3 sample chapters).
I’ll read through your proposal from the perspective of a potential editor. I’ve worked with and spoken to enough editors that I have a clear idea of how most publishers approach book proposals. I’ll suggest revisions, offer ideas, and do everything I can to point you in the right direction for your project.
While I can’t guarantee that an agent will take you on as a client or that an editor will accept it, a professional critique will increase your chances of acceptance exponentially. I can’t think of a single author I know who has sold a book proposal without some kind of professional help.
I’m not saying you can’t write a proposal on your own. There are some great books out there that will walk you through it. However, if it’s your goal to publish a book, a personal evaluation of your project will give you specific, concrete ideas that you can work on today and help you spot problems in your proposal before an editor emails you about them.
Questions? Email me at edcyzewski (at) gmail.com.
I’ve been using book proposal critiques over the years to barter for marketing or design services, as well as to simply help out friends. This winter I have a chance to buy back some study guides for Coffeehouse Theology from my publisher before they go out of print. I put a lot of work into these study guides, and I believe they can still help readers think about what they believe and where their beliefs come from.
This book proposal experiment will help me buy and ship the study guides, saving them from getting pulped. So if you love books, your money is going toward a worthy cause!