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View Full Version : Query Letter vs. Proposal/Agent vs. Publisher



smallthunder
06-03-2005, 12:23 PM
I have gotten a bit confused -- I thought that query letters were de rigeur when one was pitching fiction, and proposals were for non-fiction pitches. I have been reading here of queries for non-fiction ...

Also, is there a purpose to getting a literary agent for a non-fiction work? So many people are talking PUBLISHERS here, not agents ...

TashaGoddard
06-03-2005, 02:27 PM
You still need a query letter for non-fiction. The proposal is somewhat synonymous with the synopsis in fiction and you would usually send it with your query letter. In non-fiction the query letter is probably going to deal more with your writing experience and subject experience/qualifications than the content of the book. A brief paragraph about the proposed book with a reference to the proposal you are including would be relevant.

As to agents vs. publishers, in non-fiction it is generally easier to get published without an agent than it is in fiction. For non-fiction, an agent may be of more relevance in dealing with contracts and other such negotiations with publishers, though they can also get you commissions (e.g. some nf agents have relationships with nf editors whereby the editors contact them to ask if they have anyone suitable to write a book on X subject). If you just have one nf book in you, then it might not be necessary to get an agent. However, if you plan to make nf writing into your main job, or your main second job, then an agent could be extremely benificial.

Other people will hopefully pipe up with their own experiences/knowledge about these issues, but these are my general impressions. Bear in mind that in education publishing (my area), the vast majoriy of books are commissioned, rather than published from unsolicted (or agented) submissions, so I may not be absolutely correct in the above!

ritinrider
06-03-2005, 04:04 PM
What Tasha said.

Nita

aka eraser
06-03-2005, 04:40 PM
Yep, I think Tasha pretty much covered the bases.

An agent is a plus in either fiction or nonfiction. I just believe it can be tougher for a first-time nonfiction author to land an agent than a publisher. At least that was very much my experience. I was rejected by about 40 agents before deciding to pursue publishers and the second publisher I approached bought the book.

If, however, you are a recognized "name," the agent hunt should go more easily. In theory, it should also be easier to land one if your first book has been successful. (I'll let you know.)

smallthunder
06-03-2005, 05:57 PM
Thanks, folks -- my head has cleared.

Vanessa
06-11-2005, 08:32 PM
The light has been dim for a few days, and last night...ding!

Ok, All of what has been said pretty much gives me an idea; However my question is say for instance I have this idea for a series of books (non-fiction). Should I pitch the proposal straight to the publisher, or is this a case where I would need to involve an agent to shop for the better deal? I understand about your comments in a one book deal, but how does this apply to several books?

I've found my market of where the books would fit in, and I already have a draft of a query and proposal ready to mail; just need to edit in names, and dates. Do I query, along with a proposal? My thinking is that I need to send only a proposal to the publisher. But hey what do I know!

Any attention to this question right a way, is greatly appreciated.

PS Thanks smallthunder for providing your question. It opened a door for me to ask mine. (having similar situations and all)

Chesher Cat
06-11-2005, 09:14 PM
I've had the most success with emailing a short query first. Repsonse time on my email queries has sometimes been less than two hours. I am only sending the proposal to people who ask for it and then mail it "Requested Material." If you send the whole thing off the bat you will probably end up in the slush pile, which can take months for a response.

I have to disagree with Tasha on: "The proposal is somewhat synonymous with the synopsis in fiction and you would usually send it with your query letter." A non-fiction proposal needs to include a synopsis, author bio including why you are the best person to write the book, what you think your market is, how it can be promoted, competing titles and why yours is better, chapter outlines and a couple of sample chapters.

Vanessa
06-11-2005, 09:32 PM
I've had the most success with emailing a short query first. Repsonse time on my email queries has sometimes been less than two hours. I am only sending the proposal to people who ask for it and then mail it "Requested Material." If you send the whole thing off the bat you will probably end up in the slush pile, which can take months for a response.

I have to disagree with Tasha on: "The proposal is somewhat synonymous with the synopsis in fiction and you would usually send it with your query letter." A non-fiction proposal needs to include a synopsis, author bio including why you are the best person to write the book, what you think your market is, how it can be promoted, competing titles and why yours is better, chapter outlines and a couple of sample chapters.

Ok so you suggest me emailing them with a query first..hoping that they request more..and is this when I send the proposal per their submission guidelines? I hadn't planned on writing the books through entirety or sending them in. I only want to sell the idea and have other writers as well as myself contribute to them. So is this the best way to do this?

aka eraser
06-11-2005, 10:45 PM
I don't think many publishers are going to commit to a series of books unless the idea is gobsmackingly wonderful. I'd focus on selling them on the first book and not query until I've got a great proposal and a couple of chapters ready to show.

If/when they ask, based on your query, for more - that might be the time to suggest "there's plenty more where this came from."

Chesher Cat
06-12-2005, 12:50 AM
Ok so you suggest me emailing them with a query first..hoping that they request more..and is this when I send the proposal per their submission guidelines? I hadn't planned on writing the books through entirety or sending them in. I only want to sell the idea and have other writers as well as myself contribute to them. So is this the best way to do this?

Yes, query then send to those who request - by doing that your proposal will not be on the main slush pile...it goes to the requested material slush pile which is hopefully smaller. The only one above that is the one submitted through people they know or a friend of... And why waste the money and time sending a full proposal to somebody who's not interested in your idea.

And I totally agree with Eraser...don't mention series until you have your foot way in the door - like they have a deal for you and can't wait to hear what else you have.

Make sure your query is awesome - creative and different...something that they don't get every day. Try sending it to the agents on the bottom of your wish list first (a few at a time) and see what reaction you get before going to your dream person, in case it needs reworking.

Good luck with it.

Button
06-12-2005, 01:24 AM
When I write a proposal package, I work out the query letter, the proposal and a sample chapter. Some agents or editors look for different things. Some want to just see an outline and query letter. Some want the chapter... It really depends.

I just write the whole thing first.

I don't ever think there is a right answer for everything. There always seems to be someone who sold a book for simply having an idea and talking it over with someone. :)

Vanessa
06-12-2005, 02:17 AM
Thanks to all of you for your feedback. Everything mentioned here has helped and now I can move forward.

Much appreciated!

WriteRead
06-12-2005, 03:54 AM
Query letter and proposal ARE de rigueur (properly written http://absolutewrite.com/forums/images/icons/icon7.gif) for both genres, but I understand that the proposals (IF it's required in F in the guidelines of agent/publisher) differ in that in NF they are much more detailed and even w a few ch's of their own, like the MARKET one.


As for agents vs publisher, many will tell you that it's better or even best to have an agent. Some publishers won't even read a proposal w/o an agent in between, that's b/c an agent is so much more familiar w all the almost extarordinarily entangled word of publishing.
Also it's in our interest to have an agent fight for us when there are some specific problems vs the editor and marketing dpts of the publisher, and the contract dpt when rights are discussed.

Dan

Cathy C
06-12-2005, 06:58 AM
Also make sure that you check the publisher's website to see if they have guidelines. For example, McGraw-Hill Professional (their self-help section) has a very specific list of what they want to see in a query and proposal, in a specific order, and the EXACT content they expect to see. If it doesn't meet their guidelines, they won't even look at it. They'll just return it with a stock rejection and you'll never know if they might have liked it or not!

Here are the McGraw-Hill guidelines, so you can see what I mean about what they want to see. It's extensive, and if you miss one detail, they might well return the query.

Project Submission Guidelines

McGraw-Hill is committed to maintaining the highest standards of quality in all areas in which we publish. If you have an idea for a book that you would like us to consider, please simply provide the information requested below. This will assist us in evaluating your proposal. Summarize your material concisely and accurately, being as specific as possible. Remember, the quality of the proposal you submit may be our only guide to the quality of the book that you plan to write.

Rationale

Why do you feel compelled to write this book? Why will someone want to read it? Is there a particularly timely nature of the subject area? What are the specific benefits of your book? These will be key selling points, so be precise.



Subject

Describe the contents of your book in commonly understood language. Be as precise as possible, providing both a general overview and a rundown of subjects treated in detail. Indicate how in-depth your coverage will be.



Market

Who will be the audience for this title? Try to avoid falling into the "all things for all people" trap. Specify who will need to read this book, citing job titles, and identifying industries. Include information on professional associations, potential courses, and any other items that may help us reach your audience.



Competition

List other books on the same or related subjects that have been written for the same market. Include all pertinent information (author, title, publisher, date published, price, and number of pages). Then provide a sentence or two to explain how your book is different from (and of course, better than) each.



The Book

Describe your ideas about the physical book: How many pages do you estimate it being? Approximately how many illustrations will be included? Can these be black and white, or is color necessary? How long will it take you to complete the entire manuscript? Is this tied to any software release? Will the work require any add-ons such as a disk or CD-ROM?



Your Curriculum Vitae

We'd like to get to know you. Please include a recent resume, as well as a list of professional affiliations. Are you a member of any Associations related to the subject matter of the book?



Suggested Reviewers

While we may not use them, at times we find it helpful to have the names of one or two people whose expertise or reputation in your field will facilitate our evaluation process. These should not be close colleagues or friends, but peers whose opinions you would appreciate having. Please provide names, addresses, and phone numbers if possible.



Rough Outline, Book Materials

Ideally, we'd love to see a finished manuscript. Therefore, please include as much material as you have already prepared, including Table of Contents and any Chapters you may have. If pertinent, it's also a good idea to enclose some illustrations if you can.



Thank you for your time and effort in compiling this information. We hope that the preparation of this proposal has helped you think about your book, and increased your awareness of publishing requirements.

*********

So, in the case of this particular publisher, a proposal is IN PLACE of a query, but that's not always the case. Each publisher is different, and sometimes the website is the most recent information. Not always, of course -- some publishers update their website once a decade whether it needs it or not! :D

Vanessa
06-12-2005, 07:05 AM
Very helpful information Cathy, Thanks

smallthunder
06-12-2005, 09:09 AM
Query letter and proposal ARE de rigueur (properly written http://absolutewrite.com/forums/images/icons/icon7.gif) for both genres,

Mon dieu! Je suis embarrassee!:Hail: