A good nonfiction proposal isn’t just a pitch to publishers. It’s a roadmap for a writer and an editor, and a promise that you’re writing the book you want to write and the book they want to publish.
In this episode—one of our top four—Jess is finally able to share the details of her second non-fiction book deal and the path to getting there, which included months of drafting to craft a proposal for her next project (a book about addiction in teenagers). Nearly every nonfiction book starts as an amorphous idea, and the proposal is what helps take it to the next level. Maybe you want to write a book about tennis. Is it a how-to guide? An upping your skill book? A memoir of your tennis career, a meditation on how tennis serves as a metaphor for a life well-lived, a book for parents determined to raise the next Serena Williams? Maybe you could write all of those books, but chances are you only want to write one. And sometimes, when you work on a proposal, you realize you don’t want to write any of them. Other times, a hazy proposal is read by an editor as offering one, when what you really planned to write was very much another.
In other words, a good proposal can save your butt—and serve as a guide to writing the book your editor expects to see. Here’s some of our best advice for getting there.