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For Authors

Saturday Millionaires book by Kristi DoshDo you have an idea for a non-fiction book but don’t know how to get it in front of literary agents and publishing houses? The key for most authors is a well-drafted proposal.

When I say “proposal” I’m not talking about a few paragraphs you write in an email to agents summarizing your book idea. There is a generally accepted format for such proposals among literary agents and publishing houses, which is detailed below. To give you an idea of the undertaking, my proposal for Saturday Millionaires was nearly 10,000 words (without the sample chapters).

When I sat down to write my first non-fiction book proposal, what I really wanted was to see someone’s finished product. That’s where I can help you. My first non-fiction proposal landed me a publishing deal with McFarland & Company for my book on the history of collective bargaining in baseball, Balancing Baseball, and my second non-fiction proposal scored a deal with Wiley for my recently published book on the business of college football, Saturday Millionaires

You only get one shot to pitch your book to each literary agent or publishing house (for those who accept direct submissions), so you want to put your best foot forward. To help you achieve your goals, I’ve developed several packages ranging from assisting you every step of the way, from initial idea to complete proposal and game plan for targeting the right agents and publishers, to a smaller package where I can serve as an extra set of eyes before you send your final proposal out on submission.

What does a non-fiction book proposal look like?

  • Overview: This is where you hook a literary agent or editor. Your Overview must accomplish three things: 1) be compelling enough to keep the reader engaged, 2) convey why your take on this subject is unique, and 3) make it clear that you are the best person to write this book. A literary agent or editor won’t bother to read the rest of your proposal if you can’t accomplish those three things in your Overview. As a point of reference, my Overview section for Saturday Millionaires was 2,600 words.
  • Market Analysis: This is where you convince a publisher that if they put money into bringing this book to life people will rush out to buy it. You explain exactly who your audience is and why they’ll be interested in your take on this subject. For me, I couldn’t just say all college football fans would buy Saturday Millionaires, as that was completely unrealistic. As much as I think they should all be interested, some college football fans simply don’t care. I had to convince a publisher that there were enough people interested specifically in the business angle. I quoted page views on my blog posts about the business of college football and explained why it would appeal to college athletics administrators and donors. You’ll need to determine the exact profile of a reader of your book and then explain that clearly in this section.
  • Marketing Plan: You might not know it, but writing a book is as much about marketing as it is about researching and writing the book. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say I spent as much time marketing my book as writing it, and that all started the day I had the idea for the book, not after it was released. Sure, publishers have marketing and publicity departments, but at the end of the day they’re responsible for a whole list of books and can only give yours a small amount of attention. No one can market your book as well or as diligently as you. So, in this section you’ll need to show the publisher that you have a marketing plan and can execute it. You may have heard about non-fiction authors needing a “platform” – this is where you prove you have it.
  • Biography: There’s no doubt this should be the easiest section of your proposal to write. Keep your focus on experiences and skills that relate to the subject of your book and any previous writing experience.
  • Competing Works: This section is used to show that your book is different from any other book on the market. You cannot simply say there is no other book out there like yours. I don’t care how unique you think your book is, you must identify some competing works. For example, there really weren’t any other books on the market that covered all of the off-the-field business I planned to include in my book. Instead, I listed books that covered one area, such as bowl games or television or recruiting. I also included a book about an entirely different sport, because it covered the business side of the sport, much like I planned to do. (I blogged awhile back about how important it is to read before you start writing.)
  • Chapter Outline: Here you’ll list each chapter, including the chapter title, and spend a paragraph or two summarizing the proposed content of that chapter.
  • Sample Chapters: It’s advisable to draft at least one chapter to include with your proposal – some agents and publishers will even ask for two. If you’ve been previously published, you may need less than someone with less writing experience. I drafted an Introduction and one chapter. That chapter was not Chapter 1, instead it was the chapter I thought was the most compelling and unique, which for me was Chapter 3 (which was on the hot topic of paying college athletes).

Many literary agents give a breakdown of non-fiction proposals on their websites. Here are a few I used:

Services

If you don’t see what you’re looking for here, please feel free to contact Kristi for a package tailored to meet your specific needs.

The Proposal Polish

$500

You’ve drafted a non-fiction book proposal that includes all of the categories identified above, but you need another set of eyes before you send it to literary agents or publishers. This package includes:

  • Complete line edit of your proposal for grammar, spelling and formatting
  • Summary letter with advice for any sections that need content revision
  • A copy of my full proposal for Saturday Millionaires to use as a sample for guidance
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The Proposal Coach

$125/hour

You aren’t sure where to start. Kristi will help you every step of the way, from initial idea to a polished proposal. This package includes:

  • Prompts and guidance to get you started with each section of your proposal
  • Editing of each section along the way
  • A copy of my full proposal for Saturday Millionaires to use as a sample for guidance

Taking into consideration that each author’s experience and writing ability varies, this package is available on an hourly basis only.

The Marketing Coach

$125/hour

Have you already written the book and need help with the marketing aspect? I work with authors to grow their platform, increase their visibility and ultimately position themselves as experts. From selling books to landing radio and television interviews, I can help you get where you’re want to go. This package can include:

  • Creating a media distribution list for press releases and other materials on your book
  • Drafting pitch materials
  • Creating a media kit
  • Identifying influential blogs and trade publications for guest blog and bylined article opportunities
  • Pitching you as an expert for television and radio

Please contact Kristi for more information or to get started.

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