Frequently Asked Questions
about writing and publishing your book
- Why do I need a book proposal?
- What is a book proposal?
- Why can’t I just write the whole book and send it?
- To whom do I send a book proposal?
- Why do I need an agent?
- Can't I just send the proposal to a publishing house myself?
- How long will it take to get an answer, once I send off the proposal?
- What happens if a publisher wants my book?
- How long does it take to write a proposal?
- What can I do to increase my chances of writing a book publishers will want?
1. Why do I need a book proposal?
When you call or query an editor or an agent, if they’re
interested in your book, they'll say, "Send me something."
They are referring to a book proposal, a specific document tailored
to their interests, particularly marketing.
What is a book proposal?
A book proposal is a document that comprises:
overview that establishes what the book is about, plus the
selling handle and positioning.
- A discussion of the market for the book, including target audience,
size of audience and other details that would interest a publisher.
- A discussion of books that compete and analysis of each.
- The author bio.
- A description of how you will help promote the book.
- A detailed table of contents.
- A sample chapter.
3. Why can’t I just write the whole book and send it?
If you write the whole manuscript, agents and editors will most
likely return it unread. Agents and editors want to be sold
on why they should publish your book. They need a sales pitch
that includes your promotion plan and why you are the best person
to write the book.
4. To whom do I send a book proposal?
Send it to agents who specialize in your type of non-fiction.
You might have to send a one-page letter first, if that is what
5. Why do I need an agent?
An agent is your industry insider and
advocate. It's the agent's job to know which editor and publishing
house would be most interested in your book. Agents work on
a percentage basis and therefore have an incentive to get you
the best deal.
Editors respect good agents and are accustomed to working with
them. They review agented proposals first. If they wish to buy
your book, they often prefer to work directly with agents.
The other main part of an agent’s job is to negotiate
the contract for you, and to get the best possible deal on your
advance, royalties and rights. Plus, once you’re working
with your publisher, if you have a disagreement, the agent can
step in to resolve it.
Some agents are willing to help you shape your book further,
some are not. But you have to get their attention first with
a killer proposal.
6. Can't I just send the proposal to a publishing house myself?
Yes, but why would you? Only around 10-15 percent of all books
published are unagented. Since publishers accept so few books
from authors, why increase your chance of rejection?
7. How long will it take to get an answer, once I send off the proposal?
It can take up to six months. If they
are interested, though, you might get a call the same week.
8. What happens if a publisher wants my book?
An editor will prepare a contract, which the agent negotiates
on your behalf. If you don’t have an agent, you can have
a publishing attorney review the contract, but the attorney
will not negotiate directly with the publisher or be your advocate.
contract will discuss the book’s content, the timeframe,
how many copies they will publish, your advance, your royalties,
and other issues.
you're lucky and more than one publisher wants the book, the
agent may hold an auction and sell it to the highest bidder,
but this is rare.
you and the editor agree on deadlines, the publisher will probably
give you a year to 18 months to write the book. The editor will
make suggestions for revisions. It takes around nine months
from when you turn in the revised manuscript to the publication
date. The whole process can take at least a year to 18 months.
9. How long does it take to write a proposal?
Most of my writers have other jobs and
take six months or longer. It takes a while to focus on the
best approach, do research and write a few drafts.
10. What can I do to increase my chances of writing a book that publishers will want?
Write about your area of expertise. If you speak or teach on
the subject of your book, you will be more exciting to an agent,
because you already know how to promote your work. For these
reasons, consultants, teachers, speakers and subject experts
are my most successful authors.
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- Are you an agent?
- I have to pay an agent, and
on top of that, I have to pay you?
- What if I don’t want
to use an agent or traditional publisher?
- Will you work on a percentage
1. Are you an
No, but I do part of the work that many
agents no longer do. In the past, agents were willing to work
one-on-one with people on their book ideas, from the beginning.
Today, however, many good agents get too many proposals to invest
that much time with potential authors. When they’re reviewing
100 proposals a week, they want your proposal to knock their
socks off first. Then they might spend some time with you.
2. I have to
pay an agent, and on top of that, I have to pay you?
Yes, but I will make it worth your while.
I will show you how to create a proposal that is so good that
you’ll get a better quality of agent and a higher advance.
3. What if I don’t want to use an agent or traditional publisher?
That’s your choice. One of my authors
went directly to a publisher. To read his story, click
If you want to self-publish, you don’t need a proposal.
You can write whatever you wish. If you plan to sell it, however,
that's a different story.
4. Will you work
on a percentage or commission?
No. Only agents work on a percentage or commission.
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