I've been in publishing more than 20 years in many different roles (author, magazine editor, co-author, acquisitions editor, literary agent and publisher). If I'm going to read a how-to book about the creation of book proposals and query letters, I want to make sure I'm learning from someone who has the authority and experience on this topic.
Marilyn Allen and Coleen O'Shea are publishing experts and this book is written with honesty and authority. It resonates with the undercurrent, "we know what we're talking about here." The pages of this book are packed with wisdom and sound counsel--whether you have just decided to write a book or whether you are writing your 31st book. Every author can learn something from reading –and re-reading this book. It deserves your careful study--then most importantly--taking action on their advice and applying it to your submissions.
Here's the problem: some publishing experts estimate there are six million proposals and manuscripts in circulation at agents and publishers. You only have seconds to make a good first impression. The authors emphasize this important need in their fourth chapter about The E-Mail Query Letter: "Some publishing professionals estimate that only 1 percent of all queries ever result in representation. Put another way: for every 100 queries an agent reads, only one author has a shot at becoming a client. Yes, that means the odds are against you--but they aren't impossible. As the adage goes, ‘You gotta be in it to win it.' Increase your chances of getting into that coveted 1 percent by following a few simple ground rules before you even keystroke the word ‘Dear.'" (Page 43-44)
The authors begin with queries but make a clear preference to writing your proposal before you write your query letter. As they explain in a section called "Agents' Advice": "This might sound like a no-brainer, but don't send out a query letter before you have written your book proposal. The query letter might go to the agent or editor first, but you need to have the proposal ready to be sent out as soon as possible when requested. Keep in mind, too, that the query letter might look easy because it's a short document, but in fact it can be the hardest piece to write." (Page 40)
Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, you can improve your queries and book proposals if you take action on the advice in these pages. I read it carefully with a yellow highlighter and found myself nodding and highlighting many sections of this book. THE COMPLETE IDIOT'S GUIDE TO BOOK PROPOSALS & QUERY LETTERS packs a power punch. I highly recommend it.
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About the reviewer
W. Terry Whalin (terrywhalin)
I am an Acquisitions Editor at Morgan James Publishing. I have written more than 60 books for traditional publishers and for more than 50 magazines. My blog on The Writing Life has more than 1,100 searchable … more
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Essential reading for any fiction or nonfiction writer seeking publication,The Complete Idiot's Guide(r) to Book Proposals & Query Lettersprovides in-depth information on composing a successful query letter as well as detailed suggestions on how to craft each element of a book proposal-from author bio to marketing and competition information to a synopsis for fiction writers. By following the same guidelines an agent uses when submitting her client's book proposals to editors (and selling them), writers are given proven techniques for creating winning submissions.
The most comprehensive information on query letters found in any book on writing
The only book on book proposals that also targets a fiction audience
Author is an agent who also blogs to a readership of about 1,500 daily