I’m often asked to write reviews and rarely agree. I said yes to The Nonfiction Book Proposal Demystified because Wow! Women in Writing – an American e-zine – offered me a free copy and I thought I might get something useful out of it and so might readers of this blog (scroll down to see how you can win your own free copy). I did and I hope you do too.
There’s an old joke that the difference between fiction and non-fiction is that fiction has to be believable, but perhaps the most important difference for the ambitious author is that many publishing companies will still accept a submission from an author who isn’t represented by an agent. And you don’t have to complete the whole manuscript – usually they will commission on the basis of the first three chapters and detailed outline.
This short ebook (46 pages) explains what else you should include to make a good impression and forces the writer to think in business terms. There’s no fancy writing here. The style is plain and free of jargon, and the emphasis is on being professional.
The author Nina Amir, herself a writer and a mentor to writers, believes that all non-fiction authors need to deliver the same things to get their work published by a traditional publisher.
A Great Idea
A Great Pitch
A Great Market
A Great Platform
A Great Proposal
She urges writers to do their research on potential readers (aka as the market), but not to make unrealistic assumptions. For example, she advises against an author who writes on women’s issues, suggesting that the 150,000,000 women in the U.S. and 3,301,112,087 women in the world are a possible market. Instead she advises to narrow the focus: is the book more likely to appeal to working women? Divorced women? Lone parents?
This book is written for an American readership and while I don’t think that matters, I did find one instance where I thought a difference in cultures was revealed. In the section on promotion, Nina asks if you would spend your whole advance on promoting your book; more than your advance? My feeling is that over on this this side of the Atlantic we might be a little reluctant to put it so bluntly and even less likely to mention to a publisher that it was going to be part of a thought-out strategy. Nina’s underlying message, however, is that this is a business and it makes sense to ask yourself if re-investing early profits for future benefits makes sense.
Reading this book, I longed for more examples of good practice – it would be so useful to see what a successful real life pitch looks like (in creative writing terms there’s too much tell and not enough show), but I appreciated the book’s approach and learned from it.
There’s an important message here. No writer has the right to be published. If he or she wants someone else to invest time and money in them they need not only to deliver a book of quality and worth, but also develop a professional outlook.