Wednesday, April 28, 2010

how not to write a non-fiction book proposal

It's been a while since INTERN's written a post about matters non-fictive. But after coming across a few less-than-accurate guides to book proposal writing on the internet, she thought she should set the record straight. Here's the last word on the subject:


This is the part where you lift copy directly from the Vitamix salesman's spiel at Costco, but substitute the title of your book for "Vitamix". Don't ever tell what your book is about in this section—that comes later. Your goal here is to get the agent pumped.

Comp Titles

This is the part of the proposal where you get to diss other books on the same subject as your book (and books not on your subject that you just felt like hatin' on). You want to prove to the agent that every other book in circulation is a cockroach-infested pile of beaver dung, hence the need for your book to fill the gap. Personal attacks on other authors also go in this section. Don't be shy!


OK, here's where you tell the agent who exactly will buy your book. There's no real need for specifics here. "Humans" will do just fine, because who are we kidding, when's the last time you saw beavers and cockroaches lining up at Borders? You can be pretty sure that humans will be interested in your book, like the word-hungry little bipedal organisms they are. If you think extraterrestrials will also be interested in your book, you definitely want to mention that here. But don't get too cocky. Only like 1% of extraterrestrials actually read, and maybe 1% of those ones will actually be interested in your book.


Here's where you get to roll out the mock-ups of the revolutionary new social networking site you plan to launch on the same day as the book. And the architectural sketch of the institute you plan to build to hold seminars in (funded by your advance. Be sure to mention your advance). And the blueprints of the spaceship in which you plan to promote your book to 0.1% of extraterrestrials. Again, mention your advance. Your advance will easily cover this stuff.

About the Author

Here's where you talk about your cats for three paragraphs.


  1. But...but... my book isn't about blenders!

  2. Hi INTERN. I have serious love for INTERN's work. Okay, of to buy some cats.

  3. Well you know, 0.1% of extraterrestrials may not sound like a lot, but there are a *lot* more extraterrestrials than earthlings. I know because they communicate with me through the fillings in my teeth.

  4. Dear INTERN,

    Your posts never fail to entertain and amuse. Many warm fuzzies and organic chocolate to you and techie boyfriend.



  5. "Here's where you talk about your cats for three paragraphs."
    LMAO. It's so true. Cats or various travels throughout the world as teenagers which have nothing to do with the subject <.<

  6. OMG, this person just queried us!

  7. Do high school students fit the "humans" category? I always considered them a separate species.

    Great advice. I guess I should get a cat.

  8. "But don't get too cocky. Only like 1% of extraterrestrials actually read, and maybe 1% of those ones will actually be interested in your book."

    Well, yeah, but 1% of 1% of the duodecillion duodecillion extraterrestrials out there is, well, a lot.

  9. Er... I have seen cockroaches lining up at Borders. I think they like the binding glue. I know I do.

  10. Wow, I knew my proposals were good, but who would have thought they'd nail every section?

  11. Lol at the cats. Don't forget the grandchildren count though!

  12. I would think you'd also mention reviews from loved ones?

  13. Actually, reviews from the kids whose grades you control. :)

  14. Boy, you weren't kidding about cats. How many times do I have to tell authors to keep their BIO professional? Cats, children, and hobbies are for your FB page.

    ABOUT THIS AUTHOR: Loves cats, but likes her dog, Bo, best. He even has his own FB page (Bo Fairchild). Oh yeah, and I am a writer/editor of 25 years seeking publication of my novel. And maybe a book on dogs. Did I mention my dog?