The good news about getting a contract for a nonfiction book is that you don’t have to write the book to sell it. You just have to write the proposal. The bad news is that often authors spend four or five months figuring out what the proposal is.

Where agents earn their commission is helping the author to understand what they should be writing a book about. Last week, my agent, Susan Rabiner, laid out seven tips for writing a better proposal. And this week’s Coachology will be 90 minutes of free help from her to get your proposal into shape. Or, if your initial idea doesn’t work, she’ll help you to come up with something else.

For those of you who think 90 minutes is too long, I just got a contract for my second book — to be published in 2008 — and I spent the last five months writing proposals until I got it right. I’d say that I spent about 900 minutes on the phone with Susan, but after 90 minutes you will at least know what you need to work on.

If you’re interested in working with Susan, please send a three-sentence summary of your proposal (include the idea and your qualifications to write it) by the end of the day on April 29.

Enter your name and email address below. No spam. Unsubscribe anytime.

10 replies
  1. Val D Parker
    Val D Parker says:

    Penelope, thank you isn’t enough for the advice you give! I want to become an essayist and a children’s picture book author. I’ve begun the path to exposing my writing outside of my inner circle (Family and Toastmasters Club in Richmond, VA) by submitting an editorial for a women’s quarterly online newsletter. It’s a start. Susan Rabiner may not be able to assist me with a book deal in the children’s genre, yet the tips you forwarded to us on this blog are wonderful! My ideals for children’s book idea have come from my experiences as an AmeriCorps reading tutor in the public school system. That experience in itself is a book! Thanks again and congrats on the second book contract!


  2. Manchild
    Manchild says:

    Hello Penelope,

    As a sign of respect, I tip my hat to you for paving a path for emerging writers to follow.

    Thank you, for sharing Susan.

  3. A Wright
    A Wright says:

    In the spirit of sharing here are two other great books for writers:
    “How to Write a Nonfiction Book Proposal” and
    “The American Directory of Writer’s Guidelines.”
    Both are essential for the budding and experienced writer.

  4. Christina
    Christina says:

    I have a proposal for a book. It’s called my life, I think I can say Ive had one of the hardest life’s out of anyone I know. At the age of 11 I was drink doing drugs cutting myself as my family watched from the side lines not even caring. At the age of 12 I was dating a 26 year old man. No one ever stop it which resulted in him taking what wasn’t his to have. At the age of 13teen I got arrested 2 times. I grew up with my mom who tryed commiting suiside in front of her 3 children more then 6 times. Which my brother followed in her foot steps when he was 18teen by taking his own life. I attempted more then once but always failed. At the age of 15teen a police officer payed a little extra attention to me && got me very drunk and got what he wanted. Ive now got my life on track by leaving that town my good for nothing family. && starting over. I am now 16 && a half and taking action to make my life better. Ive been told my the few people who know my life story to write a book. Please Help. (p.s there is so much I failed to mention due to space lol. Ive had a very hard life)

  5. Blogosfera
    Blogosfera says:

    Greeting. The place of the father in the modern suburban family is a very small one, particularly if he plays golf.
    I am from Sri and also am speaking English, tell me right I wrote the following sentence: “Poorly executed seo campaigns can put your business, at serious risk.A knowledgeable, time tested and honest seo firm is a challenging, and at times, daunting task.”

    Thank you very much :-(. Chaela.

  6. Lak
    Lak says:

    Do this again!  

    Funny I keep coming back here to read about whatever it is that I need. Blogs, books, and I find that I do that because I trust you. I may get mad at you, from time to time. And I realize that is completely irrational. Maybe all of this irrational.  Even if you have those who say you aren’t qualified to do what you do, I don’t care if you so it doesn’t matter. What you write helps me to think about things.

    Sometimes when I sit to write things flow out, but when I am trying to actually accomplish writing for profit.  It doesn’t happen.  

    But now I am thinking that maybe I want to write the book because I am lost. 

Comments are closed.