What A Publisher Wants


Rich Selling
I recently received an inquiry from a publisher asking that I write a proposal for a book they’d like me to write. This publisher deals in strictly formatted, non fiction books. There is not a lot of opportunity for creativity, nor is there a pot of gold at the end of this particular rainbow.

Because the style is so very structured, the editor enclosed a form to fill in, essentially a formatted proposal – I am to fill in the blanks. I’m in the throes of decision about the book, but the proposal form is interesting in that it reveals fairly precisely what this publisher wants. I’d like to share that with you.


1. Author information. No surprise here. They want to know current careers and leadership roles and educational background. My connection to my community, memberships in organizations. Previous works. Am I currently under contract? A community reference.

What’s it about? Fifty percent is my character and credentials and the other fifty percent is marketing.


2. Book information. Time span of book (it’s a history). A preliminary outline of chapters topics. A summary of why this book is unique. Why is it a good fit for the publisher? Sources and rights for any images. Rights for electronic publishing. Are there competing books out there? 

What’s it about? Whether this book will sell and if all rights secured.


3. Publicity and Sales. Will I be active in sales and promotion? What bookstores, gift shops, specialty stores, unique sales opportunities exist for my book? What community organizations will get behind it? What traditional and non-traditional and loca news outlets will get behind it?

What’s it about? Marketing, marketing, and marketing.


4. Schedule. How long will it take me? What major event in my area might a release date be timed to?

What’s it about? Market timing, marketing.


And there it is! These are the concerns of this publisher. As you can see, a small portion of the information requested is dedicated to the author’s credentials, a bit is about the scope and rights and ‘hook’ of the book, and all the rest? Marketing.


Everyone in the book business struggles with marketing. That will be an increasing emphasis in future book sales. Keeping in mind that this publisher deals in a specific type of book for a specific audience, I none-the-less believe that the general tendencies found in this outline can serve anyone when writing a book proposal. Just go heavy on the marketing!

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