Earlier this month, here on the WNFIN blog, we discussed going through the “proposal process” when evaluating your book idea for its potential of success. This process helps you accumulate the information necessary to fill the pages of your nonfiction book proposal as well. This week, you’ve been offered an Author Questionnaire, once again assisting you in gathering the details agents and acquisitions editors require in a proposal to decide if your book is one they want to take on. And yesterday we had a great post about what not to do when you write a book proposal—misteaks to avoid.
To top off this series of posts on how to sell your nonfiction book, which included one on query letter dos and don’ts, agent Jeff Herman, author of Write the Perfect Book Proposal: 10 Proposals That Sold & Why!, today offers a guest blog post on giving your nonfiction book proposal a winning edge. His tips are good ones—and surprising. Take notes, then take a last look at your book proposal and apply them before you send it out.
5 Ways To Give Your Proposal A Winning Edge
By Jeff Herman
You have finished your proposal, and it’s as good as you can make it without losing your mind. Fair enough. Ready, set, wait . . . What if there is something extra special you can do? Here are several possibilities.
- Humans are highly visual. We see before we can read. We may have existed for more than 100,000 years as a species before phonetic alphabets began to shift social hierarchies to favor those who controlled written information. A photo is worth 1,000 words. Why not ease the clutter of printed letters with intriguing and relevant illustrations? A proposal isn’t considered a published work, which means you can borrow non-public domain photos without permission. Just make sure they don’t sneak into your published work without due permission. Using an attractive illustration on your title page is a good place to start.
- Design it like you love it. Do wedding invitations arrive on plain white paper in cheap white envelopes? So why does your proposal? Spend a few bucks for nice paper stock and use a slightly edgy or curvy typeface. What about digital submissions? Good point, but why not submit the proposal both digitally and physically? Touching something always makes it a little more real.
- Build a web site dedicated to the book you plan to write, and start the networking process with others who express interest in your concepts. Jump into conversations; compile contacts and information. Right away you’ll have a digital presence to boast about in your proposal, and the existence of your special site helps affirm your credibility.
- Without appearing to be obnoxious or delusional, give agents and editors who are reading your proposal the impression you’ll be swiped off the market any moment. You can accomplish this in your cover note and follow-up emails. Don’t lie, just say there’s really strong interest and you’ll need to make a decision very soon. There are too many writers clamoring for attention too much of the time, but possible gems will rise to the top. So why not make it seem like you’re a gem? However, don’t call yourself a gem; make it look like others are saying it about you.
- Bribery helps, for the simple reason it might break through clutter. I once received a $5 Starbuck gift-card with a proposal. I rejected the proposal on its merits, but read it sooner than I would have otherwise. I felt guilty about the gift-card and ended up re-gifting it, but the proposal would have wallowed in a slush pile absent the modest bribe.
Go get that contract!
About the Author
Jeff Herman founded The Jeff Herman Literary Agency, LLC, in 1987 when in his 20’s. The agency has sold many hundreds of titles to publishers, and is one of the most dynamic and innovative agencies in the business. Herman’s agency has a strong presence in general adult nonfiction, including business, commercial self-help, technology, recovery/healing, and spiritual
subjects. The agency is a trendsetter for new publishing models, such as the creation of branded imprints and multi-title programs. H&R Block; Fisher Investments, and the Days of Our lives soap opera franchise are some of the celebrity brands that Herman has packaged dedicated imprints for. Herman’s own books include, Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Editor’s,
Publishers & Literary Agents (more than 400,000 copies sold), and Write the Perfect Book Proposal: 10 Proposals That Sold & Why! They are universally considered to be among the best tools available for writers. Herman speaks throughout the country about how to get published and become a successful author. He’s been written about in dozens of books and publications, including Success, Entrepreneur, Publisher’s Weekly, Forbes, Associated Press, and The New Yorker, and has been on many television and radio shows.
Prior to launching his agency, Herman worked for a NY public relations firm where he designed and managed national marketing campaigns for Nabisco Brands and AT&T, including the introduction of the first consumer cell phone in the NY market. Herman’s first job out of college was as a publicist at Schocken Books (now a Random House imprint) where he promoted the bestseller: When Bad Things Happen to Good People.
Herman graduated from Syracuse University, where he was captain of the award winning debate team. A native New Yorker, he resides with his family of humans and other species in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts.
Register for the second WNFIN FREE teleseminar, ”Fans, Followers and Friends: How Authors Can Maximize and Monetize Social Media,” with Penny C Sansevieri, author of Red Hot Internet Publicity! It’s a must-attend event TODAY, Wed., November 16 at 2:30 p.m. PST/5:30 p.m. EST. To register, click here.
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