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novellabob
05-31-2008, 07:33 PM
Most agents have usually expressed that they want a finished book (for fictio) before they submit an idea to an acquiring editor. Lots of nonfiction, however, sells on the strength of an idea, but I still see a lot of variation among agents. Some want a partial firmly in place, some want an entire manuscript written, some actually prefer that the book not be written beyond a sample chapter. Others say to include in the proposal the strongest chapter of the book, implying that the book should be written. A bit confusing. Any ground rules or is it strictly agent preference? Thanks. ~Bob

mamawriter
05-31-2008, 08:09 PM
Most nonfiction writers I know sold their books on a proposal, but some of those included quite a bit of the book (my final proposal was about 80 pages long, and included several finished essays from my proposed anthology).

I'd go with whatever the agent you're querying wants, and work on the proposal in the meantime!

novellabob
05-31-2008, 09:08 PM
Thanks, Mama. I'm ghostwriting a book with someone that has a true-life suspense tale that doesn't easily lend itself to nonfiction format or proposal since it reads like a compelling narrative. Really sounds like a novel so far, and is very complex in the extreme, rendering chapter outlines ludicrous. But you're right--follow her agent's advice.

scope
05-31-2008, 10:25 PM
You tell us that you want to get an agent to represent you, which makes perfect sense. So you begin with the question: How do I get an agent? After researching agents to find out which ones are appropriate for for your work, you then have to pitch the chosen with a great query letter. Your pitch will include the idea for your book. Thereafter, most interested agents will want more, and you have to be prepared to send same. For nonfiction you might be able to get by with just a proposal and a couple of sample chapters. That's the very least. To just pitch an idea with nothing to back it up is somewhat unrealistic.

tombookpub
06-07-2008, 06:05 AM
For non-fiction books, usually you can make a pitch with 2-3 chapters ready to send. Of course, between now and the time you finish the book, ir's very possible one of the chapters may fall by the wayside, and the other two may substantially have changed. These are expected givens in the writing/editing process.

archetypewriting
06-08-2008, 08:20 AM
Everything I've read has suggested a proposal and 2 sample chapters, partly because the publisher you land may want the book tweaked to fit their list particularly well. I am shopping around a proposal and 2 sample chapters and so far nobody has suggested that more is needed or expected.

ColoradoGuy
06-08-2008, 08:32 AM
I agree with what others have said--both my nonfiction books sold with a proposal and 2 chapters. Your nonfiction, however, sounds more like a memoir. Those are a little different from standard nonfiction. Most agents want the whole manuscript, as for a novel.

MadScientistMatt
06-09-2008, 01:35 AM
Memoirs are sold like fiction - write the whole thing first. Something like a technical manual is often sold with just one sample chapter, an outline, and a couple pages of proposal material.

LC123
06-15-2008, 02:11 AM
I think the better question is: "What's the minimum I need to sell my book?" I sold my books on an idea. Not because I thought that was better, but because it was all I had. Color me lazy - I won't do the kind of work and research my books require without a contract.

I imagine that editors and agents want anything they can get. If that's a full manuscript, great. If it's just an idea, that's ok, too, as long as they think you'll actually deliver it. I write textbooks and nonfiction and have been told that most people who start writing a textbook never finish it, even if they do have a contract.

scope
06-15-2008, 04:19 AM
I think the better question is: "What's the minimum I need to sell my book?" I sold my books on an idea. Not because I thought that was better, but because it was all I had. Color me lazy - I won't do the kind of work and research my books require without a contract.

I imagine that editors and agents want anything they can get. If that's a full manuscript, great. If it's just an idea, that's ok, too, as long as they think you'll actually deliver it. I write textbooks and nonfiction and have been told that most people who start writing a textbook never finish it, even if they do have a contract.

IMHO this is really bad advice, and for the most part, inaccurate. It would be wonderful if the business worked as you believe it does, buy I'm sorry to say it doesn't. For nonfiction, you may not have to finish the book, but the very least you must do is prepare a well thought out, researched proposal.

LC123
06-15-2008, 04:27 AM
I was unclear -I was assuming that the idea would be pitched via a well-thought out proposal. I, myself, gave my publishers a content outline and a query letter. That was it, and I like to think it counted as my well-thought out proposal, lol.

scope
06-15-2008, 10:23 PM
As far as nonfiction books are concerned [I have never written a text and know nothing about submissions], a book proposal is not the same as a query letter and an outline. A proposal is far more encompassing and quite a bit longer. As you probably know, a query runs about one page, and its purpose is to excite the agent or editor to request more from you. Since you didn't include your first two or three sample chapters, which you should have, they may be requested, as might be a proposal. There is no standard length for a proposal, but I would guess that 20 to 25 pages is average for nonfiction.

Needless to say, you should follow the submission guidelines for the agent or editor.

LC123
06-16-2008, 05:59 AM
Since you didn't include your first two or three sample chapters, which you should have, they may be requested, as might be a proposal. There is no standard length for a proposal, but I would guess that 20 to 25 pages is average for nonfiction.

Needless to say, you should follow the submission guidelines for the agent or editor.

I didn't include sample chapters because I figured if they wanted them, they'd ask for them. Which they did, later. I thought the OP asked what he should submit for his initial contact. It's been my experience that a complete manuscript was not needed and that they would wait for its completion. I've only done two books, though; six editions of one that has spanned 18 years, and one edition of another, which was released six months ago.

scope
06-16-2008, 09:30 AM
If the submissions guidelines don't ask for sample chapters you don't send them. As for the entire manuscript, no, you don't have to send it with your query or proposal -- unless the submission guidelines call for it (not usual). However, since you must work under the impression that at some point in the near future the complete manuscript will be required, you should be working on it (IMHO) while waiting for an answer to your query or proposal.

We all work in different ways, and I'm in no way telling you that my way is right or best. As far as I know, it's only right and best for me. I complete all of my nonfiction manuscripts before I even send out a query letter, much less a proposal. That's the way I worked before I had an agent, and it's still the way I work even though I have an agent. Most nonfiction writers don't work this way,

tombookpub
06-17-2008, 09:26 PM
We all work in different ways, and I'm in no way telling you that my way is right or best. As far as I know, it's only right and best for me. I complete all of my nonfiction manuscripts before I even send out a query letter, much less a proposal. That's the way I worked before I had an agent, and it's still the way I work even though I have an agent. Most nonfiction writers don't work this way,

Especially, if you're N-F book is based on current conditions/situations. You would want to update/add to your book as close to the deadline as possible - so there's no need for manuscript completeness in these cases.

acousticgroupie
06-20-2008, 04:26 AM
Most n/f take a proposal, my publisher did:)