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Nonfiction Book Proposals Anybody can Write (Revised and Updated) Rev Upd Edition

47 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0399528279
ISBN-10: 039952827X
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Editorial Reviews Review

I know: we all want to write a Great Novel. But in the meantime, don't you have a few terrific ideas for a nonfiction book, too? The subtitle of this book is "How to Get a Contract and an Advance Before Writing Your Book." Doesn't THAT sound better than competing with John Grisham and Tom Clancy? Eighty-five percent of all new titles are nonfiction. So dust off those memoirs, dig up those recipes of Aunt Edna's. Lyon takes you step by step through the process of how to discover and pitch your nonfiction book idea to the best market. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“The perfect tool with which to create a successful book proposal.”—Mary Alice Kier and Anna Cottle, Cine/Lit Representation, Literary Agency and Media Consultants


“Elizabeth Lyon knows book proposals the way a surgeon knows anatomy.”—Gary Provost, author of 22 books including 100 Ways to Improve Your Writing


“This book is pure gold! I received an offer from a large publisher who stated that my proposal was professional and well-written; even my agent said it would be the standard in the industry. I owe a debt of gratitude to Ms. Lyon.” —Mary Jeanne Menna, author of Mom to New Mom: Practical Tips and Advice for the New Mom


“Don’t try to sell your next nonfiction book without consulting it.” —Gerald Gross, author of Editors on Editing: What Writers Need to Know About What Editors Do


Nonfiction Book Proposals Anybody Can Write gave me the structure I needed to produce a coherent, organized proposal. Everything my agent wanted to see in my proposal was there because of Elizabeth’s book. I was able to send my proposal within a week, and three months later, my agent was responding to bids from four large publishing houses. One of them paid me an unusually high advance for a first-time author. I will always be grateful to Elizabeth.” —Sallirae Henderson, M.Div., author of A Life Complete: Emotional and Spiritual Growth for Midlife and Beyond



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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Perigee Books; Rev Upd edition (December 3, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 039952827X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399528279
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #389,699 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

The author of six books for writers, Elizabeth's last book, Manuscript Makeover: Revision Techniques No Fiction Writer Can Afford to Ignore, was featured in "The Writer" magazine as one of the "8 Great Writing Books of 2008," and described as "perhaps the most comprehensive book on revising fiction."

Elizabeth Lyon is an independent book editor, instructor, conference speaker, and author. She began her full-time career in 1988, teaching dozens of community ed writing and publishing classes and workshops in Eugene, Oregon. She led three critique groups of writers on a weekly basis in her home for 13 years. She consults with writers, and edits their whole or partial books, queries, synopses, and proposals. Elizabeth has participated in the publishing success of dozens of nonfiction books, novels, 'indies' (self-published books), and contest winners.

She lives in Springfield, Oregon. She volunteers as a Neighborhood Watch Coordinator and is contemplating a cozy mystery series. When not writing e-booklets on writing, she is concentrating on finishing a memoir. For details about editing services, client successes, and to sign-up for announcements of future writing booklets, contact:

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

108 of 110 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 5, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you are a nonfiction editor or agent, you get to see hundreds (maybe thousands) of book proposals. Soon you get a sense of what works and what doesn't, and how to organize it all. Those of us who write books don't have that benefit. This book helps close the gap.
I found the template helpful because it had a lot of detail and success models in it. On many pages I scribbled several notes to myself of how to use the point made in the book in my next proposal. Although I have written and sold two books in the past and read two other books on book proposals, this one added a lot to my knowledge.
In fact, I had an epiphany in the middle of reading the book. I suddenly got it: The editors who may be very interested in my next book may not know anything about my subject, not have time to learn, nor the background to appreciate the nuanaces. Yet they will take a little precious time to consider my ideas if I just make them easy to understand, fun to absorb, and exciting to contemplate. With that insight, I am very excited about writing my next book proposal!
I urge you to read this book and apply its lessons.
My only quibble is that the book has little in the way of examples of proposals for business books, my genre. The Herman and Snell books are better for examples if that is your subject.
If you are serious about wanting to sell your book, I strongly urge you to read this book as well as the Herman and Snell books on the same subject. Good luck with your sale!
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70 of 73 people found the following review helpful By Bert Krages on December 15, 2002
Format: Paperback
Of the several books available on how to write nonfiction book proposals, this one is the most comprehensive. Some of the areas it covers particularly well are the importance of credentials and presentation. However, it provides solid information in all the important areas. It takes more time to read this book than the others on the topic but the time is well spent. Editors and agents are always impressed by book proposals that are informative, succinct, and well prepared and following the guidelines in this book will help you prepare an impressive proposal. Prospective writers often ask me to recommend books on writing book proposals and there are several that I recommend depending on the writer's temperament. I am always encouraged when writers select this one because the level of commitment usually reflects a quality proposal.
Note: Beginning in December 2002, the book is published by a new publisher. The proofing issues that inadvertently slipped through the cracks with the second edition have been corrected( e.g., chapter 14 is now included in the table of contents).
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45 of 46 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 2, 2003
Format: Paperback
As a literary agent, I endorse this book and recommend it to my clients who are working on nonfiction book proposals because, in my view, it is the most thorough and clear book on the subject. A number of the titles listed on E. Lyon's website are books I represented and sold. They were developed following these guidelines. It is one thing to tell a writer to develop "a great hook" or "write a strong concept statement" and quite another to actually explain what these things are and why they are needed. It is important for the writer to understand the purpose of each piece of a proposal and how it will be used by the agent and editor to grasp why the approaches explained in this book are so valuable. Beyond having a strong salable subject and good writing skills (or a good co-author or ghostwriter), in today's publishing world even smaller publishers want to see a solid marketing plan and publicity ideas. Elizabeth provides guidance to develop one. There are quite a few books on this subject offering a broad range of expertise, but this one is the best. As someone else pointed out, the errors in the previous edition were the responsibility of the original small press-- a reminder that many things like title and cover design and certainly page layouts are not left up to the author! Natasha Kern
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Danny Iny on June 8, 2006
Format: Paperback
The position of an aspiring writer, trying to break into the published market, is not an enviable one. Here's a fairly common scenario: writer spends a year or two writing his book. He pours his heart and mind into the manuscript, and once it's done, he starts sending it out to publishing houses. Responses aren't immediately forthcoming; it's a big manuscript, so it tends to sit at the bottom of busy publishers' to-do lists. Finally, if he's lucky, he gets a response - someone actually wants to publish his book. Only they want a lot of it changed, to make it more marketable.

It doesn't have to be this way; there's a better process to follow. You start with a query letter; a short letter of a few pages outlining the idea for your book. Since it's short, publishers are likely to read it much sooner. You get replies sooner, too; to the people who are interested, you send a full-blown book proposal - explaining in detail what you want to write, who will buy it, outlining the book, and providing a sample chapter or two (preparing this proposal is much, much easier than actually writing a whole book).

If a publisher likes the idea, you can be extended an offer, including a cash advance for the book. If something needs to be changed about the concept, it can be done before you've actually written the whole thing. Basically, this process means much less work, and getting paid for your work quite a bit sooner.

In "Nonfiction Book Proposals Anybody Can Write", Elizabeth Lyon explains in detail how to go about putting together a book proposal that a publisher will read and like, so that you will be offered an advance to write your book. If you want to make your living as a writer of books, you absolutely must have Lyon's book on your reference shelf.
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