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BOOK PROPOSALS: WHAT ARE THEY? WHY USE THEM?Chapter Goal: To introduce and define proposals, explain who uses them, and present an overview of the publishing industry.It's a great time to be a writer. It's an even better time to give birth to a nonfiction book. Never before have so many channels existed for publishing. Since the sixties, publishing has grown into a mega-industry with annual sales of over $23 billion, up $7 billion from 1995. Practically speaking, about 25,000 publishers now supply the reading public. From large conglomerates like Random House to regional publishers like Blue Heron-the publisher of this book-a publisher exists to match every reader's-and writer's-preferences.Amazingly, the number of books published annually in North America has doubled in the last thirty years to an average of nearly 50,000 titles. In most years, about 85 percent of those titles are nonfiction. About 75 percent of those are by first-time authors. In other words, nearly 32,000 nonfiction books are written annually by first-time authors.It's a great time to break in. A solid idea, the ability to communicate, and a well-written book proposal supply the practical means to manifest that dream. Not that you won't face competition. At a recent writer's conference, literary agent Mary Alice Kier of Cine/Lit Representation described a sales trip she made with her associate, Anna Cottle, to a dozen New York publishers. "With just about every editor we visited, there was a ritual held during the first five minutes before we could sit down: clearing boxes of manuscripts off chairs or moving them to give us room for our feet. In some instances, our meeting was not held in the office." Not,she explained, due to the widely held myth about power lunches to cut deals while dining at exclusive New York restaurants. "There was no room!" Mary Alice Kier told the audience. "Manuscripts were stacked on every desk, table, and chair."Northwest literary agent Natasha Kern estimates that she receives about 15,000 query letters and manuscripts each year. (A query letter describes a book idea and asks agents or editors if they would like to see more.) East-coast literary agent Donald Maas averages 6000 queries each year. By volume of correspondence alone, agents and editors must read shorter forms-queries or proposals-and be selective about reading entire manuscripts.The sheer quantity of manuscripts presents a logistical problem for both agents and editors. They have no choice but to reject 99 percent of what they receive. This creates a competitive environment where agents and editors must choose the most well written proposals. Despite this, don't assume that you've got about as much chance of gaining an agent or editor as winning the lottery. Only a small percentage of writers who submit manuscripts understand the importance of using a proposal or know how to write one. This book will give you a critical important edge on the competition. Chapters one through thirteen explain how to write a saleable proposal, and chapters fourteen and fifteen discuss agents, editors, and marketing.Definition and Purpose of a Book ProposalA book proposal is a marketing tool used to describe your book idea and sell it to a publisher. Virtually all nonfiction books are sold by proposal. It serves as the conventional means of communication between writer and agent/editor. In addition, it serves as a powerful aid to you, the writer, by helping you refine ideas, clarify organization, and speed the eventual writing of your book. Through the book proposal, you also address serious marketing questions for your publisher and present sample chapters from the actual book. In summary, a proposal accomplishes the following tasks:o Presents the subject of your book;o Introduces your qualifications for writing it;o Analyzes the market, i.e. the audience;o Compares your book to similar books already published;o Offers ideas about how you'll help promote your book;o Explains details about length, delivery, and format;o Contains a detailed outline of your book;o Includes sample chapters, and;o Inserts supportive documents that further sell the book or yourself as its author.