Mustering the mettle to write a book proposal

I am entering my first writing contest – it’s actually one specifically calling for biography book proposals. Though I started an outline a year ago and starting writing a few months ago I haven’t had a reason to shuffle my scribbling and random Evernote notes into a coherent package. With the deadline only five weeks away I have been furiously revising what I’ve written so as to become the “Sample Chapter” and creating a table of contents – a useful exercise as I now know where I’ve been and where I’ve still got to go!

Like most emerging writers I’m sure, the idea of compiling a book proposal has me terrified but I’m pretty confident about where to go for advice. As I have hosted numerous classes and activities for writers at the Mechanics’ Institute these two books have been recommended to me by the editors and literary professionals that I’ve met over the years.

The essential guide to getting your book published by Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry

The Essential Guide to Getting your Book Published is a good one to read when you first get the hankering to write a non-fiction book. It covers the book proposal process in depth in Part 1. Part 2 and 3 cover the business of selling and marketing your book. While the whole provides an excellent overview of what you need to know as an author, Part 1 is essential reading for those currently in my shoes –with a viable idea, two years of research, and the vision to see the project through.


Z5261-BookProposalThe second book I’d like to recommend, How to Write a Book Proposal, is now in its 4th edition by local publishing dynamo Michael Larsen.  Larsen, and his wife/business partner Elizabeth Pomada have been operating a literary agency in San Francisco for 25 years. They host the annual San Francisco Writers’ Conference, the smaller Writing for Change Conference, and several other talks and writers’ support activities at places like the Mechanics’ Institute. A warm hearted guy, Larsen is surprisingly generous with his time to emerging writers and encourages everyone he meets to “call him” if you have questions. I haven’t taken him up on that yet but don’t doubt the offer is sincere.

How to Write a Book Proposal touches on the entire publication process but its true value is as a go-to reference point for producing a proposal. With detailed chapters on the essential components of a proposal package and four sample proposals to guide you in even the smallest details, this book is amazing. Though it is available at most libraries consider buying your own copy because – after a week of intense reading – my copy is marked up, dog eared and prettily studded with post-it flags.

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