In Part 1 of this series I wrote about how to get started on getting published – I covered the beginning steps, getting an agent and researching a publisher and narrowing down that big idea! Today a bit more gritty info – how to build that author platform, write that proposal and some publisher’s submission guidelines to get you started. In part 3 of this series I will be discussing what comes next – negotiating the contract and writing the book.
How to build your author platform
First up what is an author platform and why do you need one?
Publishing books these days has more competition than ever before (internet, ebooks, self publishers etc), so publishing houses, when signing up a new author, need to know that the book you’ve brought to them will sell, they need to know that you already have a fan base and that you are able to self promote your work – this is your platform.
You need a web presence – when a literary agent or potential publisher begins to research you, they’ll google your name to get an indication about your credibility as a knowledgeable person in your field. To get this online presence you’ll need a website linking to articles, publications and projects you have worked on.
You should start a blog and write about your creative process, your projects and share insights about your work. Write guest posts for other blogs and join a social networking group such as twitter or facebook so you can stay in touch with like minded creative folks. Consider making videos and making them available on youtube, teach online e-courses and publish a free e-newsletter.
Your platform doesn’t only live in the virtual world though, teach classes, host events, speak at conferences and at local events, or write for print magazines. You don’t have to do all of these things – begin with what feels right for you … if you have any other ideas please share them in the comments.
Writers digest has a very thorough article about building your writer’s platform.
How to write a craft book proposal
So you have an idea you have yourself a bit of a platform and you have written a couple of query letters, now you are ready to write that proposal.
Many publishers have their submission guidelines available on their website and the format of these all tend to be a little different … but the basics remain the same. A proposal is a synopsis of the proposed book — yes, but also it is an introduction to you — so you really need to sell yourself at the same time. Here is what you should include in your proposal — but make sure to read each publishers submission guidelines as they all vary slightly.
A few things to remember when writing a proposal: they are long and detailed (20-30 pages on average), writing one will help you hone your idea but make sure not to ramble – be succinct and clear and organised, make sure to get a friend to edit it for you before submitting it.
- Book title and book ‘hook’. You need to sell the book right from the first sentence — what is the hook that will make your book different and unique. Storey publishing give some examples of what a good ‘hook’ is on their submission guidelines.
- Introduction to who you are: What makes you special, unique, interesting. Why are you qualified to write this book? What is your platform (see above). What are your main selling points, discuss your website, your previous projects and writing.
- Introduction to your book idea: Give some background details about how you came to write this book or why you want to write this book — why it’s important and necessary and why others will think so too. This is where you discuss the scope and central themes of your book, the process of creating your book and the primary audience for your book.
- A project and chapter outline of the book: More details about each chapter of the book — yes details, project examples and sample chapters.
- Book promotion. How will you be able to help promote the book? (will you go on book tours, blog tours, promote it through your blog etc…). This is a very important part of the proposal, don’t gloss over this – ultimately the publisher wants to know that they will be able to sell your book. You need to show that you are able to self-promote your book and your work and that you are involved in your community.
- Competing titles. You need to do some research here about other similar books on the market – and why yours is different or special. What is special about your book – and why will it sell – your final sales pitch.
- Inclusions: A cover letter, your resume and some visuals*.
*Sending visuals with a non-fiction design and craft book proposal if very important and you can do this in a couple of ways. First take really good quality photos of your projects (they don’t need to be professional though as the publisher is not expecting you to be a professional photographer), then if you are sending the proposal by mail you will need to print these out and attach to your other documents, or if you are able to send your proposal digitally, then you can either send jpg images as an attachement or design them into a layout (using a photo editing tool) and send the images as a pdf, or upload the images to a private page on your website — this is called a lookbook. Don’t embed the images inside your document as this can make the document unwieldy and the text should be able to carry itself — the images and visuals are extra.
Craft and design book publishers and their proposal guidelines
When researching a publisher that you might like to send your proposal to, you should head to a book store and to their website to get an idea about the kind of books they publish. Don’t waste your time sending your proposal to publishers who don’t publish your kind of book. Make sure that the publisher you choose is a good fit with your aesthetic and with your topic.
- Princeton Architectural Press, require a detailed proposal, they would like to see sample chapters, the introduction and more — they want to really evaluate your writing style and personal voice. They also encourage you to send in visuals, and in fact many publishers will require this — so consider putting together a Lookbook of some kind.
- If you are submitting to more than one publisher at a time then make this clear in your cover letter, Chronicle books submission guidelines state that you should indicate whether your proposal is a simultaneous submission.
- If you are submitting without an agent then most publishers, such as Lark Crafts, prefer to receive a query letter first.
- North Light and Interweave craft publishers, state on their submission guidelines, that they are open to accepting proposals and queries in different formats, you can send them a query with images and they will help you develop your proposal and idea.
- All publishers require you to discuss the marketing of your book in your proposal — big publishers such as Watson-Guptill publications and smaller publications such as Quirk books — all state clearly on their guidelines that the marketing aspect is very important, you’ll need a market analysis, competing titles and how you will be able to help sell the book.
- Storey publishing puts a lot of emphasis on the ‘hook’, make sure that first paragraph really tells a story.
- Shambhala (and their Roost craft/lifestyle imprint) have few specific guidelines (so follow the guidelines laid out above).
- The proposal guidelines with C&T publishing and their Stash books imprint are friendly and helpful, make sure to fill in the questionnaire and contact the acquisitions editor with any questions.
- Australian publishers — Penguin Australia are currently accepting unsolicited manuscripts for their non-fiction Lantern imprint and Allen and Unwin have a very accessible Friday Pitch for unsolicited manuscripts, however they publish very few craft books.
- Cooperative press is a small new craft book publisher who are seeking proposals. Shannon Okey write a guest blog post for whipup about the publishing world and about cooperative press last year.
- Martingale & Company are actively seeking craft book proposals – fill in their online form to receive a proposal package
Tomorrow I will be discussing what happens next as well as giving you lots of resources so you can gain more perspectives on this great topic.
I would love to hear your publishing success or not so successful stories — please feel free to ask any questions you might have too — I will answer them in the comments.