Why proposals only for non-fiction?

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Ossie
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Why proposals only for non-fiction?

Post by Ossie » May 30th, 2010, 8:03 pm

Hi guys - am I the only one who finds it strange that you can throw any fiction at a publisher with nothing more than a completed final draft, whereas for non-fiction, publishers expect a full proposal: target market, who would buy, what can you personally do to boost sales etc? If you already had all this, why would you need a publisher? And, if publishers do want to see it (which makes sense for them), why not for fiction too?

Oz

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Bryan Russell/Ink
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Re: Why proposals only for non-fiction?

Post by Bryan Russell/Ink » May 30th, 2010, 10:59 pm

Ossie wrote:Hi guys - am I the only one who finds it strange that you can throw any fiction at a publisher with nothing more than a completed final draft, whereas for non-fiction, publishers expect a full proposal: target market, who would buy, what can you personally do to boost sales etc? If you already had all this, why would you need a publisher? And, if publishers do want to see it (which makes sense for them), why not for fiction too?

Oz
Well, with non-fiction you don't even need a completed book. You sell on the proposal. Certain kinds of information, as you stated, along with sample chapters. That's, um, pretty nice in some ways. You don't have to spend years writing a book and then find out no one wants it. It's a little odd to say "nothing more than a completed final draft" for fiction, when that's actually a lot more work than a proposal (though the proposal might be much more of an annoyance as a task). The markets are pretty different, too. In fiction, the book stands on its own. In non-fiction they want the author to have authority. The author has to convince both publishers and readers that they're the best one to offer this information - they require expertise in the field. In fiction the proof is basically always in the pudding. There is no expertise except having written a great book.

And the reason you want a publisher if you already know all this information is because they can help you make the book the best it can be, and then they will get the book in front of hundreds of thousands of potential readers. That's the point. Now, they're really hoping non-fiction (and even fiction writers, these days) can help convince these readers to buy. The more you can do to boost sales, the more likely they'll be to acquire your book.

Anyway, hope that's useful in some way. Or at least not too depressing.
The Alchemy of Writing at www.alchemyofwriting.blogspot.com

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Quill
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Re: Why proposals only for non-fiction?

Post by Quill » May 30th, 2010, 11:32 pm

That was a great explanation, Ink.

And when you say that writing a proposal can be an annoyance, I heartily agree, from experience. A lot of what they want in a proposal is stuff you won't use in the actual book, so it definitely involves extra work. I was so shocked when I attended a conference and then read a book detailing all the sections a good proposal includes, not mention as you did, needing to prove one's expertise in the field, that I've come to fiction as a refuge, after thinking I had some valid non-fiction books in me.

Others may not find the proposal writing phase of a project as unpleasant. My temperament, I'd rather write a query and a synopsis after the fact.

Ossie
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Re: Why proposals only for non-fiction?

Post by Ossie » June 6th, 2010, 8:31 pm

I guess that's very true: I actually enjoy (mostly!) the physical act of sitting down to work on the actual book, but the proposal is an annoyance because it's all extra stuff that's not "the book", or, worse, doubling up on stuff that is in the book but needs to be presented in a slightly different format for the proposal. I too was surprised at all the various elements a completed proposal is expected to have these days, and the cheerleading that is required - not to mention trying to demonstrate that you are the absolute best of all the 6 billion people on the planet to be producing this work. I'd rather provide the map once I've already been where I'm going & know how to get there.

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