Writing a book proposal is a monumental project — but definitely helpful for clarifying one’s thinking about the content, reviewing and perhaps revising who you have in mind as your target audience(s), and polishing your strategy for how to raise awareness of the book once it gets published. You typically also have to provide information on your academic and/or experiential qualifications to write on the subject matter, write an summary for each chapter, and present a literature review that details how your book differs from others already in the marketplace. Oh, and submit one or more sample chapters — however many the publisher requires.
Like I said, these are a lot of work. But worth it. I’ve been putting together proposal packages since the mid-1980s and have worked on at least 30 book proposals (most for other people), a dozen grant proposals, and a dozen or so project proposals. The skills you learn by doing these are immensely useful for developing organizational systems, as you have to apply skills in critical thinking, and customizing the content to fit the cultural or demographic context.
Anyway, I did an extensive search for a Christian publisher that I thought might be interested in my series, and identified just one publisher. (If it’s a “yes,” I’ll let you know who it is.) Their line deals primarily with social transformation, church planting, and urban ministry — all areas of activism that my three-volume series of Field Guides fits with.
It took me weeks of writing and editing to complete all the required sections. My proposal was more complex than the usual, as it was for a series of three interrelated books. But, I finally got the proposal package submitted on June 1st! Then I counted up the number of words in this work:
- Book proposal, marketing strategy, resume document = 4,000 words.
- Annotated chapter outline for the series of three books = 7,000 words.
- Samples of first section in book #1 plus two articles from books #2 and #3 = 9,000 words.
So … 20,000 words. To put that into perspective, a 160-page trade book (about 6″ x 9″) usually runs about 60,000-ish words.
No wonder I felt like taking a very long nap instead of going out and celebrating. Maybe celebration will ensue if the publisher says “Yes.” And if not, then Plan B will likely ensue, which is to use the book proposal as a guide to self-publishing and promoting the series.
Related Website: Futuristguy’s Field Guides
While waiting for a response from the publisher — which typically takes a minimum of a few weeks and may be a few months — I’ve revamped the companion website for the Field Guide series. I’d fine-tuned the series content, and even changed the order of publication for the three volumes. So, that needed to be reflected on the website. So now, they’re in tune with each other.
Check it out for background on the Opal Design Systems (of which the Field Guide Series is one of many elements), background on the Field Guide training curriculum, overview and samples from the three Field Guides, and then the outline and summaries of what’s in Field Guide #1 on Surviving Abuse, Providing Advocacy, and Promoting Activism. Once the books are done, there will be a sub-page for every section that looks like this one, with thumbnail images of books and movies that I recommend as case studies for various chapters.
Lots of work … but worth it, I believe. Curriculum is much more difficult to write than I’d imagined! I’ve revised the outline and format three times, and shifted, expanded, and fine-tuned the target audience probably seven times since starting the editing process on this in 2009. Hopefully the pieces are now far more integrated and the final result will be more coherent because of it. Check it out, see what you think. And meanwhile, thanks for your interest in this project, and your prayers!