The first hurdle in the proposal process is what most potential authors expect it to be: content. Is your subject interesting and timely? Does it have a hook that is natural and not forced? Are you the right author for the book you are proposing? If you are an established author, can you commit to a timeframe? If you are new or less well-known, can you submit more than just an outline? Are you open to and cooperative with the editorial process? Some authors have a great concept, but aren’t able to execute it well. Others write with great clarity and style, but what they have to say doesn’t particularly stand out. Most authors don’t fully consider their readers’ needs.
Defining your audience clearly—and writing for that audience—is key. Of course, if your audience is bird-watchers-who-are-interested-in-a-how-to-book-about-climbing-glaciers-in-order-to-find-the-nesting-grounds-of-the-arctic-tern, it is unlikely that we will move forward. However, “this book is for all people, ages 9–99, who have seen at least one bird in their lives” isn’t going to form the foundation of a successful proposal either. Ask yourself what your reader is looking for. What are his/her fears, hopes, desires? Where is he or she in terms of faith commitment or knowledge of the faith? What lasting or life-changing takeaway will the person who reads your book receive?
It is extremely rare for a proposal to move through the acquisitions process without some changes being made along the way. These are generally given as suggestions by your acquisitions editor, and are intended to make your proposal the strongest it can be from a content perspective. Working together to frame your proposal is the beginning of what will—hopefully!—grow into a long-term working relationship. Remember, every book on the shelf is the product of collaboration. People who hold jobs you never knew existed are involved. The author is only where a new book begins. —Jaymie