Over the holidays I read Susan Rabiner and Alfred Fortunato’s Thinking Like Your Editor: How To Write Serious Non-fiction and Get It Published, and I have to recommend it to anyone who plans to write serious non-fiction, especially for the proposal development tips.
Susan was an editor at Basic Books for many years and she’s now an agent in LA specializing in narrative non-fiction. Alfred is a freelance editor and writer, and her partner of many years. Here’s a key quote:
“A thin or scatter-shot proposal that depresses the size of the advance also triggers a depressed level of investment in advertising and marketing for the book down the line.”
This is going to be one of my mantras. It won’t impact the tech proposals I do as much as the one-off non-fiction. Tech publishing is built differently, from acquisition to sales and marketing — there are a few exceptions to this rule that I’ll write about later. Still, the writer with the right platform and the ability to prove that she can market the heck out of a book to her own community definitely has a better shot at a higher advance and a more pronounced publisher commitment to marketing and placement, even with a tech publisher.
Read this book if you want to write a proposal that will be seriously entertained by the bigger houses. Your proposal is more than a sales tool, it’s the template of the book you plan to write, and the key to understanding and targeting your audience.