Part 2 in a series about the development of SO YOU CREATED A WORMHOLE, from idea to proposal to book contract to shelves.
Once you start to realize what the hell it is you’re going to be writing, you might start to wonder how best to sell it.
Co-writer super best friend Nick Hurwitch and I landed at that spot once we started developing the idea of the structure of So You Created a Wormhole. Having written a little bit of the book — an introduction, namely, plus a detailed outline of what we planned to cover within the book — I started looking into what we would need to accomplish before writing the entire manuscript.
I’m not entirely sure where I came upon this knowledge, because I feel it’s not really known that works of non-fiction have a different process than that of the standard novel when it comes to selling books to publishers. Novels are a full-manuscript affair, with the book written out ahead of time and then sold as a completed work. Non-fiction isn’t like that. How I came to determine that, I have no idea, but I decided to do a little research to figure out what we should be writing, if not the complete book we intended to make.
As it turns out, there is a process for non-fiction books (of which So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel is one, just barely) that’s different from fiction. That process begins not with a manuscript, but with a proposal. As we discovered thanks to Google, the proposal includes a lot of information about the book that stretches beyond what’s in the actual book.
Here’s an interesting thing you don’t often hear about publishing: Authors are among the largest marketing forces for their books that there is. A primary component of our proposal had to do not with the book itself, but with the work we’d be willing to put in outside of the book to promote it. Luckily, being well-connected journalist-type guys, Nick and I had quite a few media contacts we’d made over the years in internships and at school. That likely helped our chances incredibly.
Our proposal included the following:
- An overview, which started with three or four sort of “narrative” paragraphs in the tone of the book, followed by a summary of the entire plan: our tone, our idea, what we planned to cover and how we planned to cover it.
- A marketing and promotion section, in which we discussed our media contacts, our social networking outreach, and all the other things we planned to leverage to get the book in front of eyeballs. Early on we included the idea of doing a webisode series based on the book, which we’ve just started working on in the last week.
- An about the authors rundown explaining who the hell we are and why the hell someone should give us a publishing contract, basically. We explained our qualifications and the grunt work already done to make the book happen.
- A chapter overview that ran down the table of contents for the book and everything we were planning to cover in each chapter.
- Three sample chapters meant to illustrate what we were actually envisioning. This was especially important because So You Created a Wormhole is actually like two projects: a textbook up front, explaining time travel as seen in films and books such as Back to the Future and The Terminator; and an era-by-era field survival guide at the back. As such, we included two textbook chapters and a survival guide chapter to fully illustrate what we were planning.
That was basically it. That proposal was used to pitch the book to agents (we eventually landed with the incredible Brandi Bowles of Foundry Literary and Media) and, after that, to publishers.
Building the proposal wasn’t anything special, either, beyond the work it took. We spent about a month putting it together, including the additional sample chapter work we had to do (some of which was already finished by that point). To find out what the proposal entailed, we just googled it. There’s a fairly standard format for these sorts of things, which is easily replicated.
This link is a good example of the nonfic proposal format, and it’s basically what Nick and I used when we created our own.
I’m think I’ll post our actual proposal here in the next day or two, along with a few tips that helped us along the way.