Thursday, September 03, 2009

Sample Editorial Letter #5 Book Proposal

This sample letter was for a book proposal that needed tightening.

This is a great idea for a book! I found your proposal interesting and thorough. As you’ll see, most of the edits I’ve made are line edits for sentence clarification. However, there are a few things I want to explain, in case they aren’t clear from my comments on your manuscript.

First, make sure you send your proposal to a specific person at a specific company. Use the latest edition of the Literary Marketplace (LMP) guide to help you find the names of editors who acquire non-fiction, and especially medical non-fiction.

Your cover letter is good—you make your point, and give us your background. I had only minor tweaks throughout the letter. At the end of the letter, however, you ask “Would you like to see my proposal?” In my experience, unless the submission guidelines specifically ask you to send in a query letter first, you should send the whole proposal, thus hopefully cutting down on the time you spend waiting for a response.

Also, when you send out a proposal, number the pages.

One problem that is fairly consistent throughout your proposal is your use of “their” when referring to a single patient. This is a very common mistake, since “their” has the benefit of being gender neutral. But “their” is also plural, so you cannot use it as the possessive for a singular noun. My advice is to alternate using “his” and “her” throughout the proposal.

In the “Promotion” section of your proposal, make sure you outline a definite plan for giving lectures on a book tour. Make it very clear that you’re willing to do all the things you list in order to promote your book. Making a vague point that an unidentified person could give lectures in non-specific places is not saying much at all. Tell the editor/agent where you are willing to tour, what lectures you’re willing to give and where.

Additionally, when you’re talking about sending the book to The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, National Geriatric Nursing Association, etc. what do you mean exactly? Do these groups have magazines that will review your book? Do you know people in positions of power in these organizations that will give you cover blurbs? Be specific when discussing how you intend to use these organizations to promote your book. And get rid of the general idea of sending your book to small papers desperate for content. Instead, make a list of local newspapers, publications, radio stations, etc. that you could write to about your book in hopes that they would review the book or interview you.

I think your proposal is laid out well here. You take us through all the chapters and their content. However, when we get to the last chapter (21), and turn the page, the proposal seems to start over again with “Your Responsibility.” Is this the introductory chapter? The first chapter? Is this the actual book now, or is it still summary material for the agent/editor? Indicate exactly what this is. Similarly, when we come to the next section, called “Diabetes,” I wonder again if this is a sample chapter pulled from later in the book? Is this for a patient/reader, or for the agent/editor’s own information? Make this clear. Why include the diabetes chapter here?

A recurring problem you have in this chapter is an inconsistent use of “blood sugar” and “blood sugars.” Sometimes I understand why you need to use one or the other, but sometimes, whether or not you pluralize the word seems random. Just make sure this is consistent throughout. Also, this chapter gets pretty technical, and while I was able to follow most of it, I got a bit lost after the boxes detailing when you should check blood sugar. As I’ve marked on your manuscript, that paragraph seems very technical to me, and not clear. Since you’re writing this book for laypeople, it will probably be a good idea to dumb down the language a bit here, and take your time explaining things in very plain English. For instance, it’s never really explained, in a practical way, how a person goes about checking their own blood sugar. It might be a good idea to include a diagram or step-by-step information about this. Patients will get instructions from their doctors, but it may be a good idea to have a reminder in your book, in case they forget.

Those were all the points I felt needed a bit more explaining, but please, if you find any of my comments confusing or nonsensical, don’t hesitate to email or call.