View Full Version : Proposal Vs. Complete Manuscript

03-11-2008, 07:53 PM
For non-fiction in general and self-help in particular, does anyone have any thoughts on whether it's better to shop around a proposal or a full manuscript to agents? I have a couple of projects, but the manuscripts are not complete; not sure whether I should wait and complete them or get proposals with sample chapters out there now.

03-11-2008, 11:31 PM
Although you have to follow the publisher's guidelines, you'll want to shop around a proposal to agents, rather than a complete manuscript. Typically for nonfiction, agents/publishers want to see proposal before anything else.


03-11-2008, 11:38 PM
For nonfiction self-help, generally a proposal (which includes two sample chapters) is what agents want to see and what they'll present to editors. The idea is that you don't have to spend time writing the entire book until you have a contract (ie know you'll get paid for your work).

Good luck!

03-12-2008, 07:50 PM
Absolutely, proposal first. Especially because the publisher will most likely have their own ideas as to format, content, etc. and you might waste a lot of time only to have to do a lot of rewriting.

03-13-2008, 01:39 PM
For non-fiction, a proposal first is the rule. Most publishers will tell you what besides the proposal they want to see (sample chapters etc), but you can assume the proposal is a given. Some require an extensive "marketing plan," etc. Totally different bird from the fiction business.

Susan B
03-24-2008, 05:31 PM
The only exception might be memoir, where you will often get a request to see the full manuscript, especially if/when a publisher develops interest. Not always though--I understand Doreen's book sold on the basis of proposal only. (But then she's got a likely bestseller on her hands :-)

03-24-2008, 11:23 PM
Oh, PULEESE. (Although that's a very sweet thought, Susan, I'm not thinking in those terms, at all. With something like 200,000 books published a year, my goal is simply for this book to do well enough so that I get to write another, although I shudder to think what adventure my husband will drag me on next!)

My memoir did sell based on a proposal and 2 sample chapters. There's been some discussion about that on other threads, including if you really need the entire book for memoir. I can only go by my experience. (I also recently had dinner with an agent - not mine - and her published author of a memoir. The agent commented on my experience and said she had asked her author to write the entire book before submitting to editors because she thought they would get more money that way, although she said she didn't think that made a difference in the end.)

03-24-2008, 11:27 PM
Good agents/pubs may even steer your proposal in a new direction--so keep all the ideas until someone picks something.

04-01-2008, 06:39 AM
Look at the guidelines posted by agents and/or publishers. Most likely they will want a proposal first. However, some consider me a maverick when I tell them that before submitting a proposal they should have a complete manuscript on hand. I think this is especially true when it comes to writers who have not been published before. If an agent or publisher likes the proposal and asks for part or all of the manuscript where does that leave the first timer who doesn't have it on hand? Write back and say: "Great, I'll get it to you in about three to six months?" I don't think so. By that time they will probably have forgotten about you, and even if not, their initial "excitement" will once more have to be ignited. Also, their needs may have chnged.