Going Through the Proposal Process: The Overview

One of the most useful sections of a book proposal is found in the first section, or Introduction. The Overview is exactly what it name implies, an overview of the book itself. And to write an overview, the aspiring author must know exactly what will lie within the pages of the book he or she envisions.

To gain an agent or publisher’s attention, the Overview section of a nonfiction book proposal should compellingly and accurately describe your book. If you plan to actually pitch your book to agents or publishers, you will need a highly polished Overview for the Introduction of your proposal.

However, when you go through the nonfiction book proposal process as a way to hone and evaluate the viability of your book idea, you simply need to draft an Overview for your own purposes. This document then serve as your guide in a variety of ways.

To create an overview, compose about 350-500 words describing your book. Write a compelling lead (hook) followed by a paragraph with your pitch and word count and any other pertinent information about illustrations or backmatter; subsequent paragraphs should describe the benefits of reading your book. If you have any special features you plan to include in your book, add these, too.

When you are done, you should have a two-page document that accurately describes—and sells—your book. Read it over. Ask yourself if this is the book you plan to write. If so, use it as your writing guide.

Ask yourself if this is a book you think readers need—or, better yet, want to read. If so, you have taken the first step to conceiving a successful book and you are ready to move on. If not, your idea has a pretty low likelihood of success, which means you need to go back to the drawing board. You either must revise your idea or throw it away and start fresh.

If you find yourself unable to compose an Overview, you have a problem. Either you don’t know what your book is about, your idea doesn’t work, you’re not excited about the subject, you haven’t done enough research…or something. You need to put your finger on what’s wrong and either resolve the problem, give up on this particular book, or come up with a new idea.

Going through the whole proposal process–addressing every section of the nonfiction book proposal–allows you to evaluate if you have a book with a chance of success. (You don’t have to actually write a polished proposal.) Success in the publishing industry equates to sales. This means your book will sell to readers (and possibly to a publisher). The proposal process also helps you get clear about what it takes to actually create a successful book. Once you have a good picture of what this job entails, you can decide if you are cut out for it.

For more information on the proposal process and how to use it to evaluate your book or to put together the foundation of a book proposal, feel free to contact me or to look at my coaching or mentoring services.

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