Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Side Trip: How to Write a Non-Fiction Book Proposal – Part 2

Write the “Overview.” And, write a description of your book in 1 to 3 sentences.

In your overview, tell what your book is about, what you’re going to include, and what the flavor of it is like. If you’re going to include statistics or resources or cartoons or illustrations or footnotes or appendices, do tell. In other words, give a good solid overview of what you’re going to do with your book.

(If you’re writing fiction, this would probably be a brief synopsis of your storyline.)

Make the Overview no more than one page, single spaced.

At the same time, state what your book is about in one to three sentences. We’re not going to use this until the very end, but you might as well do it now. If you have trouble with this, just imagine you’re sitting on a bus, someone asks you what your book is about, and they’re getting off at the next stop less than a block away. Boil it down. Get it said. Fast. This is your 30-second elevator pitch.

If you’re still having trouble, it could be your book isn’t focused enough yet. Maybe you need to work with it more. Maybe you need to think it through more or organize it more.

If your book is focused, if you really know what it’s about, you should be able to state it in one sentence.

So if you really can’t write the Overview or the description in 1 to 3 sentences, what should you do? Don’t despair! Instead, move on to another part of the proposal. I would suggest you write an outline of the book and/or write a synopsis of each chapter (which will be a part towards the end of this procedure called “Chapter Summaries”). Doing this should help you better nail down your book.

Or, write a rough draft of your Overview now, writing what you know about your book at this point. Then move on and come back to it later to revise and polish it.

By the way, as you write all of these parts of your book proposal, put them all in one document in your computer. Put a heading at each part. You’re building a proposal one brick at a time. Don’t worry at this point about what order the parts are in. Just do it for now. We can rearrange it later if we need to.

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