Tag s | book proposals

Nonfiction Checklist

Although I represent many works of quality fiction, I also look for the very special nonfiction project. As you prepare your proposal, here is a four-point checklist that might help determine if yours could work for an agent:

A Great Title

Lots of nonfiction is geared to impulse buyers. If you can convince a shopper to pick your book up from a spin rack or click and place in a virtual cart, based on a super title, everyone wins. A snappy title stating a felt need and book’s purpose quickly will do the job. Do you think you can find a market for books titled, “Save Money Now,” or “Live Happy Now,” today?

Broad but not too broad

A “marriage” book doesn’t say much. And any book on a topic that broad faces so much competition by superstar authors that we’d have a hard time making an impact for you – unless you are also already a superstar author. Otherwise, narrow your topic, perhaps to something such as, “Marriage Survival when Your Kids Rebel” or “Great Stages, Great Marriages” (about marriage at each stage of life). Work to find that sweet spot of broad enough but not so narrow that only a few people will read your work.

New and Improved

The topic doesn’t have to be new, and it probably isn’t, but what you say and how you say it has to be fresh. The way you present your idea must make readers have an “Aha!” moment, or many of those moments. So when you write your book, research what has already been written on your topic and think of a new approach that resonates.


There must be some reason why people are coming to you for this information, and you must be prepared to back up your information with facts and numbers. Reasons can include:

  • You’re an authority with an advanced degree.
  • You have the experience and/or know-how to write on the topic.
  • You have established yourself with a blog and/or some other media.

Allow me to point out that all of these factors can be in place, along with the services of a top agent, but the book might still not land with a publisher. Not every book with resonate with every editor, and most editors need to approach a team for approval before a contract can be awarded. When approaching any book project, give us any and all information that will help your book be distinguished from the other projects competing for attention. My hope for you is that your outcome will be a happy one!

Your turn:

I listed four points. What point(s) did I miss?

Other than the Bible, what is the best nonfiction book you have read lately?


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What Makes an Agent Say Wow?

As part of an interview for the upcoming Blue Ridge Writers conference in Ridgecrest, NC, May 22-26, Tamela was asked a series of questions by Al Gansky. (Be sure to check out the new conference web site.) 1) When you review proposals what stops you in your tracks? Tamela: Since …

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Why Should I Follow Your Guidelines?

Recently we had someone write and say that forcing an author to follow our guidelines when submitting a proposal is the height of arrogance. An artist should be allowed artistic freedom of expression and cramming ideas into a pre-prescribed format is squelching that creativity. While I understand the frustration and …

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Still Wanted: Writing that Sings! (What Karen Ball is Looking For)

Anyone who has jumped into the waters of agenting knows they’ll be asked one question, over and over and over:  “What are you looking for?” Well, now that I’ve got a couple of years of this amazing work under my belt, let me build on what I said when I started. Back then, I said I was looking, first and foremost, for books that glorify God, then for writing that sings, that speaks to the heart and spirit, that uplifts and challenges. Well, that’s all the same! But there are a few clarifications I want to make.  First, here’s the not so good news:

What I’m Not Looking For

Children’s & Middle Grade Books: As much as I enjoy reading these books (that’s one of the only perks to never having had children—I get all the kid’s books!), I am not representing them. It’s not that I don’t see the need. It’s simply that I’m not experienced with these kinds of books. My work lo, these many years in publishing, has been with adult books. Now, I have worked with Young Adult fiction and nonfiction, but I already have some great clients in that category and am not, at present, looking for more.

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Bring the Books (What Steve Laube is Looking For)

“Bring the books, especially the parchments,” is a sentence in 2 Timothy 4:13 that has teased readers for 2,000 years. What books did the Apostle Paul want to read while waiting for trial? Theology? History? How-to? (Maybe a little escape reading? Pun intended.)

Another writer chimed in a while ago by saying “Of making many books there is no end.” (Ecclesiastes 12:12) And if we read the statistics he wasn’t kidding. 300,000+ published in the United States alone last year.

And yet there is an allure to the stories of great novelists and a fascination in the brilliance of deep thinkers. It is what drew me to the book industry in the first place having been a lifelong reader and a burgeoning collector of my own library.

I can safely say that the allure and fascination remains unabated. I’ve had and continue to have the honor and privilege of working with some of the finest minds and talented writers in our industry. The photo above is from my office showing every book represented by our agency. Hundreds of amazing books by amazing authors.

Meanwhile I am still searching for the next great story, the next great concept, the next great writer. So, to answer the question, “What are you looking for?” I will attempt to clarify a few things.

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What I am Looking For (Dan Balow)

(Updated 1/2/2016) Every now and then it is good for an agent to update what they are looking for in proposals from authors we consider representing. Since my primary editor connections are with publishers of Christian-themed books, I need to start there, but can expand to the general market in …

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Selecting the Right Comp Titles

Whenever you write a proposal for an agent or editor, you are asked to include a section of previously published books that are similar in theme or style to yours. In the guidelines section for proposals submission on our website (link provided below), we say it this way: “A listing …

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4 Questions a Fiction Proposal Must Answer

Last week we dealt with four questions a non-fiction proposal must answer. As promised we now turn to those who are putting together a novel proposal. If you compare these two posts you’ll see why a one-size-fits-all proposal template isn’t always helpful. There are differences between the two types of proposals. …

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4 Questions a Non-Fiction Proposal Must Answer

All novelists will have to wait until next week’s blog which will address fiction proposals. Today’s topic is non-fiction. What is the Big Idea? Trying to find something unique and never before addressed in book form is nearly impossible. But each proposal needs to be clear what the book is …

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