Most people don’t think much about the appearance of a book proposal. They think that what’s important is the content.
Well yes, but believe it or not, agents and editors want your non-fiction book proposal to look a certain way. If you present something else, you run the risk of appearing unprofessional. Folders, binders, ribbons, andcolored type can make the most tolerant editor shudder.
Creating a good-looking proposal isn’t hard. Just follow the “less is more” adage. Here are my tips:
1. Write in plain text, double-spaced. Use bold face for headings and italics for the names of publications, but otherwise, don’t try to glam up your prose with colored type, all caps, exclamation points, and italics. Start with a Ms-Word file and make it into a PDF when ready.
2. Add photos. If you are a terrific photographer and plan to take your own photos, sprinkle a few gorgeous photos through your proposal, including on the cover page. Add a professional headshot in the bio section, not a selfie. If you want to collaborate with a photographer, add a link to his or her website.
3. Embed links. Most agents and editors read proposals online now, so embed as many links as are relevant. Doing so makes your proposal shorter and guides readers to the right place to see your freelance articles, blog, photos, YouTube videos, and other material.
4. Resist the urge to make it pretty. Proposals should look like a pile of pages bound with a big elastic band or a big paper clip. Don’t put yours into a binder of any kind. Find out how the agent or editor wants to receive the proposal. Most of the time, it will be online as an attached PDF.
5. Accompanying a proposal with food can be dangerous. I’ll never forget the story a cookbook editor told about receiving muffins along with a proposal. She put them in the break room. At the end of the day, the muffins were in the trash, with one bite taken out of each. As you might imagine, there was no book deal.
The challenge is to get all you want to say into a format that looks like a book manuscript. Think of it as practice for the real thing.
For more about the content of book proposals, see these previous posts.
(Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net)