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Friday, April 25, 2008

Review: Book Proposal Secrets

Book Proposal Secrets is the latest in WCCL's range of products and courses for writers, which also includes my courses Write Any Book in Under 28 Days and Quick Cash Writing.

The author of Book Proposal Secrets is Dan Strauss, who has also written several other WCCL courses. It is provided as an instant download in the universal PDF format. It is therefore suitable for all computing platforms, Microsoft Windows, Macintosh and Linux. Book Proposal Secrets is password-protected, but that's only a minor inconvenience. Once you have opened it, you can print out all or any of the pages as you wish.

Like all WCCL products, Book Proposal Secrets is beautifully produced, and it has clearly been professionally written and edited. The main manual (I'll get to the bonus items later) is 61 pages long, and takes you step by step through everything you need to know to create a book proposal that should knock the socks off a potential publisher.

For those who don't know, I should explain that writing a proposal is an alternative method to trying to sell a completed book. The method has the big advantage that if you can 'hook' an agent or publisher with your book proposal, you may be able to get a contract before you have even written the book itself. At the very least, if you get an expression of interest, you can go ahead and write the book with every expectation that it will be published. And even if you have already written your book, many publishers and agents nowadays prefer to receive a proposal initially rather than the whole manuscript.

It should be mentioned that this method is best suited to writers of non-fiction books, however. A new novelist would be highly unlikely to sell a book on the basis of a proposal and outline alone (though it's been known!).

Anyway, Book Proposal Secrets explains exactly how to craft the perfect book proposal. At its core is the author's ten-step method for creating and structuring your proposal - from Step 1, 'The Hook', through to Step 10, 'The Query Letter'. Dan explains how to write each section of your proposal, with links to other useful resources where appropriate. The advice is given with particular reference to the US market, but most of it would apply equally to writers in the UK and other parts of the world as well.

In addition to the main guide, you get various bonus items. These include a set of book proposal templates you can use to help produce proposals for a number of different types of book. These include how-to and self-help books, gift books, sales and marketing books and true crime books, as well as a generic book proposal template. These set out exactly what items your proposal should contain for the genre in question, though it must be said that several of them are actually quite similar!

You also get a bonus guide titled 'People you MUST know to get published'. This doesn't list agents and publishers as you might expect, but rather points you to various resources and (especially) websites that have the relevant information on them. This is a sensible approach, as contact details for agents and publishers are constantly changing. It therefore makes sense to list specialist websites that publish this info, rather than compiling a directory that would swiftly go out of date. Some of the websites listed in the bonus guide are free, but others charge a modest subscription.

The other bonus is a guide to 'power words' to punch up your proposal. This sounds quite useful, though as I haven't seen this particular item (it was only added to the package after I received my review copy) I can't actually tell you any more about it!

Overall, Book Proposal Secrets is the most complete guide to writing book proposals I have seen, and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to know how to produce a professional-looking proposal that has the best possible chance of being accepted. My only slight criticism is that I would like to have seen a few more examples of successful proposals that resulted in a publishing contract being offered. Still, maybe that's something for the next edition!

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Anonymous sneha said...


2:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what a cottage industry - the more literary agents and publishers and editors and editorial assistants amke this more complicated, the more other people hone in on the poor author to make money off of them. A proposal should be simple - it shouldn't have secrets - it should just tell the agent or publisher what the book is about. PERIOD. These people are making me sick. It's like the NEW MATH from the 1960's. Nineteen steps to add 2 and 2. Why not make authors recant all their cigarettes, coffee drinking, spilled sodas when they get an idea? Why not make them jump through fiery hoops with tigers chomping at the bit? Give me a break.

4:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is this book by Mel McIntyre or Dan Strauss? The link takes you to a book by Dan!

12:32 PM  
Blogger Nick said...

My mistake! It is indeed by Dan Strauss. Mel is the author of several other WCCL guides, including The Ultimate Copywriter and Travel Writing Secrets.

I will change the author credit in my review accordingly. Thank you for pointing out the error.

1:25 PM  

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