Cindi McMenamin is a national speaker, the author of 17 books (all from Harvest House Publishers), and a certified writing coach who has been helping aspiring writers become published authors for more than 15 years. Cindi will be presenting a workshop on “Presenting Yourself as an Author and Speaker” at the CCWF Conference and will be taking appointments to review proposals and/or coach individuals in their next step toward successful writing. You can find out more about her coaching and books at www.StrengthForTheSoul.com
Four Ways to Make Your Non-Fiction Proposal Shine
I imagine you have your misgivings about submitting a proposal to a book publisher.
What if they don’t like my book idea? What if they see me as unoriginal? What if they hate my writing?
Often our fears outweigh what actually happens because, by and large, publishers, agents and writing coaches at Christian writing conferences are kind, supportive, and really do want to see you and a great book idea succeed.
As long as you do your homework, be professional, and follow these simple steps, you have the chance of not only making your proposal shine, but possibly hitting it out of the park when it comes to impressing a publisher or agent.
Here are four things you can do to make your proposal stand out from the rest:
1. Create a catchy, unforgettable title. I know this is more difficult than it sounds. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve rewritten, reworked, or started over again with titles, even after a book was contracted. Coming up with good, memorable titles is tough. But it’s worth the effort. Make a list of 15 possible titles and subtitles for your book. Play with different combinations. Have a few on that list that are completely different than the rest. Then go to your family, friends, and preferably other writers for their input. It sometimes takes a village to come up with a great title. But, once you’ve got it, you’ve got a lot going for you.
2. Find your book’s hook: A book hook is a brief statement or question designed to generate immediate curiosity and interest in your book. It is designed to help sell your book in a few short words. It is your short-sentence statement that grabs the editor’s (and eventually your readers’) attention and doesn’t let them forget your idea or your book. Search for that hook like buried treasure (because that’s sometimes what it is…buried within your manuscript somewhere) and work with it until it rolls off your tongue like your name and it feels like you were born to say it. Your hook should not only be identifiable in your proposal, but undeniable. When you say it, an editor’s ears should perk up as he or she looks at you and indicates a desire to hear more.
3. Identify your specific audience. I can’t emphasize ENOUGH how important this is. You’d be surprised how many writers write their book for everyone, yet no book is for everyone. The more specific your target audience, the more readers you will reach within that audience. Is your book for women? If so, what age group, economic level and interests do those particular women have? Is your book for moms? Or is it for exhausted, over-worked moms who are ready for a life change? Know your target readers, know what they like to read, where they congregate, and why they will want your book in particular. The more information you include in your proposal about your reader, the more an editor will be convinced you know to whom you’re writing.
4. Solve the reader’s problem. Your book idea isn’t marketable (and therefore your proposal isn’t viable) until it’s one that speaks to a specific problem, need or desire the reader has and provides tangible solutions or fulfillment. As a coach, I insist that each of my writing clients include a problem-solution chart in their proposals that outlines the felt need or problem (and its solution) in every chapter of the book. That chart shows a publisher that your book will move the reader forward in each of those needs or areas of her life so by the time she’s done reading your book, she will not only gain information, but be moved to a different place in her thinking and behavior. That is your goal for your book, right? To not just impart information, but to incorporate life change? Then keep the reader in mind through every step of your proposal and show a publisher or agent how you intend to serve the reader and make sure she benefits by reading your book.
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