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How to Write a Book Proposal [Paperback]

Michael Larsen
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

27 Feb 2004 How to Write a Book Proposal
In this valuable handbook, writers learn how to market the potential of a book idea and effectively communicate that potential in a proposal that publishers will read.


Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Walking Stick Press; 3rd edition (27 Feb 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582972516
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582972510
  • Product Dimensions: 22.8 x 15.3 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 426,559 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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You've heard the saying: "To sell the steak, you've got to sell the sizzle." Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
4.0 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAME TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
I have been working on the proposal for my latest non-fiction book for some time. Even though I have sold three previous business books without an agent, I feel like the topic of this book requires a top agent if the book is to sell to one of the leading New York publishers and receive the attention it requires from them. I reread my old stand-bys among books that have helped me in the past to write successful book proposals. I realized that those books are more aimed at the average non-fiction book rather than one that has the potential for a wide audience.
On my fourth trip to find a book to help me with this proposal, I found the 3rd edition of How to Write a Book Proposal by Michael Larsen. That was a momentous day for me as a writer! This book made it clear how to make the case for a major publisher to take on a non-fiction book and give that book full support. In addition, the book assumes that the reader is capable of producing such a proposal and book. What a breath of fresh air that was! I found myself both informed and motivated to create a wonderful proposal.
In the process, I learned some excellent tips for writing query letters to agents, preparing mini-proposals and packaging the final proposal. Although I am experienced in this area, I found Mr. Larsen's many detailed descriptions and examples of what is needed to be very helpful and stimulating.
I also recommend that you visit Mr. Larsen's Web site for his literary agency where he provides excellent information for how to work with him as an agent.
Even if you think you have a book with limited commercial potential, you would do well to read and apply this book. You may be able to switch your focus to create a book with much more potential as a result.
Good luck with your next proposal!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More than just a book proposal 2 Sep 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book gives advice on the entire promotional process from deciding what to write about through to selecting and approaching publishers and agents, plus self-promotion and a host of other issues. Very informative and useful. Mr Larsen recommends producing an extremely long and detailed proposal which is obviously what he prefers to receive. However, my own experience suggest that may in some circumstances be going over the top. Nevertheless, this book comes into my 'must read' category.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Book 28 Nov 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book helped me write a proposal for my own book that got accepted and published by Hay House
I was over the moon.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Poor Book 24 Feb 2011
Format:Paperback
I was not expecting this book, as the name suggests it may relate to any book proposal - it does not, just non-fiction books. Very disappointed as I was led to believe it was for all books.
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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  47 reviews
296 of 308 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Comparing five books about writing book proposals 7 April 2007
By Thomas D. Kehoe - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I bought five books to help me write a book proposal:

"How to Write a Book Proposal, 3rd edition," by Michael Larsen

"78 Reasons Why Your Book May Never Be Published & 14 Reasons Why It Just Might," by Pat Walsh

"The Forest for the Trees," by Betsy Lerner

"The Complete Idiot's Guide to Getting Published, 4th edition," by Sheree Bykofsky and Jennifer Basye Sander

"Think Like Your Editor," by Susan Rabiner and Alfred Fortunado

The worst was "How to Write a Book Proposal." This book felt like a bad date, like I wanted to wash my hair after reading it. The intent is to teach you to be an "Authorpreneur (r)." Yes, Larsen has registered this word. You'll learn such gems as everyone has 250 friends, and each of them has 250 friends, so you can "spread the word" about your book to more than 62,000 people by e-mail. I think there's a word for that -- spam. Larsen also says to include your promotion plan in the book proposal, including pushing "the paperback edition as hard as you can" when it's published a year after the hardcover edition. I'm not an agent or editor, but I'd think that an agent would giggle quietly to themselves if you were so presumptuous as to include a marketing plan for the paperback edition. (To the author's credit, he doesn't say you should suggest which actor should play the main character in the movie version of your book.) Then there's the chapter about including illustrations and cover art. Excuse me, I thought the editor and art director develop the cover art? I can't imagine creating the book cover to include in the proposal. And the author recommends including a "surprise," such as a baby shoe with a note saying "Now that I have a foot in the door." The book has one good piece of advice: pick a good title. For example, "How to Write a Book Proposal" is a title that will make 100,000 aspiring writers buy your book, regardless of how awful the book is.

"78 Reasons" was good. Some sections are wrong, such as #38 and #39, which correctly advises against paying for a vanity press to publish your book but confuses this with self-publishing. I've successfully self-published two books, and unsuccessfully self-published one book. The correct answer is that if you have a niche book in a niche market you know well, self-publish. Self-publishing mass market books is a recipe for disaster. Some of the advice is excellent, such as #16, about "killing your little darlings" (a scene you think is brilliant, that you build the rest of the book around). While most of this book is sound advice to a novice writer, as an experienced writer I didn't learn anything new.

"The Complete Idiot's Guide" covers the entire process from thinking of an idea through book proposals, book contracts, publicity tours, etc. It's a good overview but each chapter is too short. You'll need to buy another book about book proposals, etc. I'm keeping my copy as a reference to turn to occasionally but it's not the last word.

"The Forest for the Trees" starts with six essays about writing, with topics such as alcoholism, self-promoting poets (starting with Walt Whitman), the childhood of famous writers, writers who are too successful too young, etc. These are interesting reading. The second half of the book is essays about publishing, starting with literary agents. One paragraph describes the plethora of surprise gifts writers include with their query letters. She's received baby shoes, presumably from readers of Larsen's book. She says: "Please resist the temptation to do any of these outlandish things...a simple, dignified letter with a clear statement of your intent and credentials will win more affirmative responses than any gimmick or hype." If you read Larsen's book, read Lerner's book as the antidote. The next essays are about dealing with rejection, the life of editors, what writers want from editors, how book covers are designed, book titles selected, etc. This book is descriptive, not proscriptive, so you'll learn how the world of books operates, if not be told how to write a book and get it published. I enjoyed the author's "voice" and I recommend this book.

The best book is "Thinking Like Your Editor." The first half of the book is about preparing your book proposal. Unlike the other four books, reading this book made me completely rewrite my book proposal. The author begins by emphasizing the three most important things about a book: audience, audience, and audience. Who is going to buy your book? Not who might be sort of interested in your book, but who will feel that he or she must read your book. I'd thought about this before, but reading Rabiner's book made me think lucidly about this. She then walks you through the elements that must be in a book proposal, such as your thesis, or what makes your message unique and new and challenging; why is now the time to publish this book; and why are you the person most qualified to write it. The second half of the book is about writing your book, including the importance of narrative tension in non-fiction writing, and of presenting a balanced "argument" to make your views more convincing. The other four books made me say, "uh-huh, uh-huh" and not do anything. Rabiner's book made me spend several days working on my proposal. (My 2003 paperback copy has the typos corrected.)
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It really does work 20 Feb 2004
By Carol - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I am a nonfiction writer, and I've had three books published so far. I used this book to write my very first proposal, and I sold that book. I used it to write my second proposal, and I sold that book, too. I've recommended it to so many other writers that I thought I would finally write a review. When I knew absolutely nothing about the publishing world, when I didn't know how to start a proposal or what to expect from the publishing industry, this book made me feel as though I had a personal friend walking me through the process. This is a tough but wonderful business, and I feel privileged to be able to write full time. I don't think I would be doing this today if I didn't start with this book. My advice for anyone who wants to write is to work diligently, read constantly, and write the best proposal you can. A potentially fabulous book won't ever sell if the proposal is less than spectacular. Read this book, and every other book on proposal writing, then get to work. Best of luck!
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read this book before writing your proposal 12 Aug 2005
By Jack Zavada - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
With the New York book publishing world shrinking down to a handful of huge conglomerates, selling a proposal is tougher than ever. Everything is the "bottom line," and if you don't accept that truth, you're wasting your time.

Michael Larsen knows what he's talking about. A literary agent for over 30 years, he has firsthand knowledge of what editors want and what will sell. He shares all of that knowledge in How to Write a Book Proposal.

Larsen covers every aspect of writing a winning proposal in step-by-step detail. Follow his advice and you'll give agents and editors a proposal they'll take seriously.

The only criticism I have of this book is that you may be discouraged if you don't have a national platform (loyal fans). That seems to be a requirement of the big NY houses today. However, the medium-sized publishers and university presses won't be as demanding on this point. Their advances may not be as high, but it's still every bit as worthwhile having your book published by them. Keep that in mind as you read this.

After you read How to Write a Book Proposal, you may decide you want to self-publish instead. But this book will give you all the facts to help you decide which route is best for you.

How to Write a Book Proposal applies to nonfiction only. This is rock-solid, proven wisdom on how to get the attention of agents, editors and publishers. If you want to submit a salable package, heed Michael Larsen's guidance and give yourself an edge.

Jack Zavada

published writer
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Looks like I am in a minority 10 April 2008
By Larry A. Whited - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
How to Write a Book Proposal is not all bad--I highlighted many sentences, and I did pick up some good tips. However, I felt like I was touring the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose--that 160-room mansion comprised of endless additions and oddities because the heiress compulsively felt that she had to keep the construction continuing. The book is in fact the 3rd edition, but some extra editing would have helped rather than just multiplying pet entries.

Larsen might be able to write an irresistible proposal for himself, but he hasn't written an irresistible book. I wearied in reading countless times that I would have to have a marketing plan that would sweep the publisher off his or her feet, that I would have to obtain quotes and recommendations from famous people, and that I would have to promote endlessly on tours across the nation. Perhaps these are essential to getting published, but then I am left scratching my head in wonder as I look at all the mediocre material on the booksellers' shelves. Lots of people seem to have slipped through. And when I read his sample gems, I quickly grew bored.

The main problem that I had with the book was that it felt like a hodgepodge of ideas that kept overlapping each other. I am a person who appreciates good organization and order. This book left me feeling that I would have to edit it first to then be able to use it.

If you are a new (promising) writer prone to discouragement, I would not read this book. However, if you think writing would be a neat whim and easy, then you should read this book. You will throw up your hands in despair and save yourself and the publisher who might have to look at your material a lot of wasted effort.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars If you are selling a novel, this is not the book for you. 20 July 2006
By W. davis - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I laid down my coin on the assumption that this book would help me with writing a book proposal for a novel - before the "look inside" feature. The title is misleading, even though the author tries to appeal to novel writers by sprinkling the concept around like glitter on a greeting card; it does not have any real substance. 2 stars for that.

Great book for non-fiction as it gives insight into how agents and editors think and perceive their end of a book proposal.

If I ever write a non-fiction book, this is one of the books I will study. 5 stars for that.
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