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on March 28, 2003
I used this book, along with Larsen's "How to Write a Book Proposal" for my first book proposal, and felt they made an excellent combination:
- Larsen was great on explanation and details describing what each section required and why, but was light on examples.
- This book offered incredible examples, with great commentary, but was extremely thin on guiding you through the process of creating your own proposal. Each chapter--corresponding to each section of your proposal--runs a mere 1-3 pages. Examples are great, but direction is necessary as well. This half the book is grossly inadequate.
If Herman wanted a really great, 5-star book, he would beef up section one dramatically. However, I felt that the two together made a perfect combination, and were well worth the price of two books.
Now here's the rub:
I read two proposals a friend had sold to Random House for six figures each, both guided by a top agent at ICM, and they were nothing like the Herman/Larsen model. Not even close. Then I began working with a new agent--switching from a peddler of mostly crass-commericial work to an agent and recent editor known more for literary bestsellers. She guided me to an approach very much like my friend's ICM agent--what I'll call Model II. Finally, a friend working with an agent at Writer's House also was advised toward a Model II approach.
What I have since learned is this:
The Herman/Larsen model (Model I) is great for cookbooks, business books, coffee table books, self-help books, etc.
The model CAN also be applied to more literary work (memoirs, "serious nonfiction," bestsellers like "Longitude," "The Professor and the Madman" or even "The Perfect Storm." Let's say books with literary aspirations, whether or not you find them literary.)
I say it CAN BE applied to them, because I'm sure many serious books have been sold that way, but it's not a good fit. If you're pitching your book to a more literary niche--including "serious" bestsellers--and especially a narrative nonfiction book, I think you'd be highly advised to use Model II.
For that, see Betsy Lerner's "The Forest for the Trees" and especially Susan Rabiner's "Thinking Like Your Editor;: How to Write Great Serious Nonfiction--and Get it Published." (Be advised that Rabiner has a very narrow definition of "serious nonfiction," but the book is still extremely useful for somewhat less serious, shall we say "middlebrow" work.)
This did not have to be a big problem with Herman's book (or Larsen's). The problem is, they did not bother to TELL you this in their books. Granted, most of the examples in this book (Herman's) are purely commercial products, but he's got two in there--"Heart and Soul" and "I'm Too Young to Have a Heart Attack" which are narrative memoirish works with literary aspirations. I'm sure he sold those two with this approach, but from what I have learned, most authors would have much better odds selling that type of book for more money with model II (unless of course, Jeff Herman is actually your agent--if he's most comfortable with his model and his clients expect it, go with it. Of course WHATEVER your agent advises, go with it, because he/she has to sell it. But most people using this book probably don't have an agent yet, or are going to be confused when they've studied this and their agent is expecting something very different.)
The big problem with this book is that he's not copping to its limitations, and hence leading a lot of naive writers like me to shoehorn their proposal into an inappropriate format, which does not play to its strengths. This book is by far the biggest seller on book proposals, and I'm afraid vast numbers of writers are getting a narrow view of how they're supposed to be selling their work.
A brief disclaimer explaining which books this is right for and who should look elsewhere for a better model would have been a fantastic service and rated this book 5 stars. As is, it's probably hindering nearly as many writers as it helps.
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on March 19, 2007
outdated, pick something on the same subject by someone else that was published this year; this one has extremely stale info. The world of publishing has changed dramatically since it was written 8 years ago or more, with much new info about cybermarketing and other strong ways of reaching audiences and potential publishers. Also, make sure the book you read is about the kind of book you have written /are writing. There are different approaches needed to reach publishers, depending.
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To those seeking guidance with writing a book proposal to obtain a literary agent's services or to obtain a contract from a publisher, I strongly recommend both this book and Michael Larsen's How to Write a Book Proposal as well as Strunk & White's The Elements of Style. True, there is some duplication of advice in the Larsen and Herman books which convinced me that the advice is sound. Given the importance and -- yes -- the difficulty of writing a book proposal, and given the competition to obtain a literary agent and then a publisher, the investment in all three books is indeed a small price to pay.
The Hermans organize their excellent material within two Sections: "All Aspects of the Proposal -- And Some Advice Thrown In," and, "10 Proposals That Sold -- And Why." The 12 chapters which comprise Section One do indeed provide just about everything an author needs to know about preparing a book proposal. The Hermans then shift their reader's attention to ten successful proposals and include a wealth of comments and suggestions in the margins of each. For example:
"This is a great first paragraph in that it clearly states what the book is about and establishes the author's expertise." (page 85)
"This is a good example of integrating biographical material with persuasive information." (page 99)
"This is an excellent Table of Contents. It is clear, organized, and clever without being hokey." (page 116)
"Although she wasn't mentioned on the title page, [Kathryn] Lance is the collaborator. Her bio sketch is strong in its simplicity. Her writing credits are voluminous, but she doesn't use up space here with a comprehensive listing. Instead she showcases only credits relevant to+ the success of this particular project. Comprehensive author resumes were also attached to the proposal package as an addenda." (page 174)
"This is a blending of `markets' and `promotions.' This is fine, but it's better to separate them. Although promotions are part of an overall marketing strategy, `markets' occupies a unique place in the proposal, while `promotions' can describe the details of a marketing plan."
These five annotations correctly suggest the specificity of guidance which the Hermans provide to their reader as she or he examines ten proposals which resulted in the publication of the books they describe. Perhaps while reading this immensely informative book, others will have the same reactions that I did: That it was written expressly for me, that the Hermans had anticipated all of the questions I needed answered (and then carefully answered them for me), and that -- meanwhile -- they were disabusing me of whatever misconceptions I may have had about the process by which to obtain the services of a literary agent and/or secure a publishing contract.
To repeat, given the importance of an effective book proposal and difficulty of what the preparation of one involves, I strongly recommend that this book be consulted in combination with both Michael Larsen's How to Write a Book Proposal and Strunk & White's The Elements of Style.
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on May 3, 2004
Write the Perfect Book Proposal: Ten Book Proposals That Sold and Why is one of my all time best books for writers. Writing a good book means next to nothing if you can't write a great book proposal since that is what editors need to get the process rolling.
I love this book because it gives solid examples of what to do and how to do it. The book is well written, easy to use, and filled with suggestions. This book will help you no mater what type of non fiction book you are writing.
Jeff Herman is a successful literary agent who has lots of experience in putting together proposals. The book also discusses cover and query letters as well as some on Fiction proposals.
I used this as the model for my first proposal and sold the book in record time. Since then I've gotten an agent but the book continues to be valuable. I recommend it on all my writing classes.
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on May 25, 2003
This book is for non-fiction books only. There is one short chapter on fiction and I knew that one tidbit of information already. Don't waste your time or money on this book if you are a fiction writer.
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on April 11, 2007
Unless you are writing a book along the lines of "How To Succeed In The Business World," or a book on genealogy, or self help, I recommend that you do not buy this book. The agents who wrote the book appear to be mainly focused on books for the business world. The book that I've written is an explosive exposé on the CIA and bipartisan corruption in the government, but absolutely none of the ten "sample book proposals" in "Write the Perfect Book Proposal" were of any use. But to be fair, this book might be for you if you are writing about business, or self help, or genealogy. (One of the sample proposals deals with genealogy.)
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on February 22, 2002
Jeff Herman founded his million-dollar literary agency at the tender age of 26; then he began telling people how to make it in his world. Write the Perfect Book Proposal: 10 That Sold and Why (now in its second edition) is a tremendous resource, and yet manages to deliver "just the facts, ma'am, just the facts."
There's no extra verbiage here: in twelve extremely brief chapters, Herman outlines your book proposal and tells you how and why to follow his advice. The book (which may be read in one sitting) would be worthwhile just for this.
Even so, its real value lies in the second section, which contains ten full-length, very different, successful book proposals, annotated in the margins by Herman for maximum instructive force. This is a real treasure, and will radically jump-start almost anyone's efforts.
Whatever other books you have, this one should be on your shelf and in your hands.
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on February 27, 2003
This book is the definitive guide on how to write a strong proposal that will grab publishers attention and keep your book out of the slush pile.
Like most writers I own tons of books on writing and getting published. I followed the guidelines suggested by the authors and my book proposal for Teen Goddess was accepted by the first publishing company I tried!
I also highly recommend Deborah Levine's other book Spiritual Writing. If you write inspirational, new age or spiritual books it contains a wealth of information to steer you in the right direction.
Write the perfect book proposal is the one book I would not be without -
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WRITE THE PERFECT BOOK PROPOSAL is the resource I use to get published. My last book landed a Random House contract, and I'm reading it again to launch my next book. There is simply no better book out there on the subject. I recommend it to anyone who is serious about getting published. Thank you, Deborah and Jeff....
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on June 24, 2004
This is a great book by a top-notch agent with ten notated book proposals. However, they tend to be authored by top-notch professionals and/or experienced authors rather than folks with a certain amount of everyday experience. If you want to see how two unknown first-time authors sold their books for over $100,000, I'd recommend Mahesh Grossman's "Write a Book Without Lifting a Finger."
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