This is a PDF of my May 2006 proposal for Knock Yourself Up. It got bids from multiple publishers and has been used to teach nonfiction book proposal writing. Hope you find it useful! Click here: sample book proposal BlogHer 15
LOUISE’S TOP TIPS FOR GETTING YOUR BOOK PUBLISHED
DON’T BE BORING. Cut to the exciting stuff. Write like you’re telling the story to someone at a cocktail party. That includes your proposal: Just because it needs to conform to a formula doesn’t mean it needs to sound formal.
CREATE AN EMOTIONAL ARC. You can string together disparate stories in a book if you create a strong underlying narrative arc to tie them together. You start at emotional/life point A at the book’s beginning and move to point B at the end, having learned something or gained insight in the process. Ideally, every chapter also does this. If there’s no arc, there’s no point: It’s just a laundry list of things that happened.
WIN THEM OVER. If you have a blog, your readers know you and care, at least a little, about your kids and your tooth-brushing ritual and what you made for dinner Thursday. Your book readers, starting with the agent and editor you’re trying to sell to, won’t give a shit, at first. You have to win them over. Use your best stories. Be funny. Manipulate their emotions. Omit the random tangents.
WORK YOUR NETWORK. Do you know anyone, or know anyone who knows anyone who’s an agent or editor? Use your connections. If you don’t have any (and even if you do), go out and make some. Take a class with a well-connected writer or editor. One suggestion: Author and teacher Susan Shapiro, susanshapiro.net or follow her on Twitter @susanshapironet for great advice. She’s how I got my book deal! Go to networking events and follow up with the people you meet. If your book sucks, connections won’t help. But if it’s good, knowing the right people may help it get published faster.
WORKSHOP YOUR DRAFT. Don’t let an editor or agent be the first eyes on your work. Get feedback from a writer’s group and, if you can afford it, consider hiring a ghost editor before submitting your manuscript. Do this also because, as I learned the hard way, many book editors don’t actually do line editing anymore. Do you really want your first draft going out into the world?
START WITH AN ESSAY. An essay I wrote that the NYT’s “Modern Love” column rejected became a book deal when I shared it with a book editor. A published essay not only might pay, but might pay off by getting an agent’s or editor’s attention. Many writers have gotten book deals this way. I’m trying it now, by publishing an excerpt from my brain-injury memoir Losing My Mind as an essay in the forthcoming anthology Soul Mate 101 and Other Essays on Love and Sex, from the website Full Grown People.
GOOD LUCK!! And, shameless plug: If you’re a talented single mom or dad writer or know one, tell them to submit to Singlewith.com. What a great way to start writing your memoir in installments. 😉 I’m especially looking for single dads and parents of color, but all great essays and advice and humor welcome. And we pay! email@example.com
LOUISE’S BIO: Louise Sloan is the founder and content director of Singlewith, a new digital media company offering content and community to single moms and dads. Singlewith.com is the first comprehensive content website for single parents and the only parenting website with a mission to fully include fathers. A longtime mass-market editor and writer, Louise is the single mom of a 9-year-old boy and the author of Knock Yourself Up, a memoir and report on choosing single motherhood. (Soon to be available again on Amazon.com.)
Louise has been editor-in-chief of the custom content divisions at major magazine publishers including Gruner + Jahr USA Publishing and American Express Publishing. She has produced original content for clients like Target, Nordstrom, GlaxoSmithKline and Dr. Phil. For a portfolio of her earlier writing and custom content work, check out http://www.louisesloan.com/ .
As a writer and editor, Louise Sloan has specialized in health, psychology, social issues, op-eds and essays at publications like Glamour, The New York Times, Ladies’ Home Journal, Ms., Out, The Huffington Post and Health.com. But she’s done her share of fashion, home decorating and entertaining copywriting, silly quizzes and snarky web posts. You can find her most recent writing online at Motherlode and Salon.
Knock Yourself Up received international media attention (Newsweek, Fox morning show, Nightline, London Times, 60 Minutes, Cosmo, Redbook, Salon.com, Jezebel, radio stations in Ireland and more), suddenly turning Louise into an international expert on single motherhood. Her book proposal has been used as part of the curriculum for Mediabistro’s Nonfiction Book Proposal class.
Louise’s editorial work has won national awards, including the 2010 James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism, the 2011 Clarion Award from the Association for Women in Communications, 2011 and 2012 Eddie Bronze awards from Folio Magazine.
Other random credits: Nightclub singer in Florence, Italy. Salsa performer. Theater lighting technician. Country-Western backup dancer for Joan Rivers. (No, really. She has pictures.) These days, however, she spends most of her time at youth sports events, as your basic soccer mom. She and her little athlete live in Brooklyn, New York.