Read an Excerpt
(From Chapter 3)
Almost every editor at every publishing house has a stack of book proposals or manuscripts waiting to be reviewed at any given time. If you start your proposal with a powerful statement, you can distinguish yourself from the pack.
The overview portion of your proposal is—or should be—that powerful statement. The overview is your first opportunity to grab an editor’s attention and presell your idea. This first impression will strongly influence the potential for an ultimate sale.
The overview should convey these four major points:
What your book is about,
Why your book should be written,
How you plan to write it,
Why you are the best person for the job.
Leading with Your Best Shot
Writers are sometimes too close to their project to be objective about its presentation. They assume that an editor will read between the lines and see how great their book is going to be. Don’t conserve your energy here in order to save the “important stuff” for the outline or the sample chapter. The overview can open—or close—the door for you.
In general, the overview should contain a synopsis of your proposed book as well as any persuasive material that supports your case. It’s a sales tool much like a prospectus. View it as your opportunity to have five minutes of a publisher’s undivided attention. If you had just five minutes face to face with a publisher, what would you say?
Your lead paragraph is important. There are many possibilities for a powerful lead paragraph that will catch an editor’s attention. But powerful does not necessarily mean fancy, creative, or clever. In nonfiction, you are not trying to impress an editor with your mastery of five-syllable words or metaphoric didacticism. You are trying to communicate information.
If your book calls for it, you can use some of the same techniques you’d use in writing a magazine article:
An anecdotal lead—one that tells a story leading into your book idea,
A startling statistic that would support your thesis,
A clear and concise statement of exactly what your book is about.
The last approach is usually the safest and most effective. If you haven’t said what your book is about by the third paragraph, you’re pushing your luck and trying the editor’s patience.