It is best to send a publisher a proposal or letter of inquiry instead of the entire manuscript since few publishers accept unsolicited manuscripts.
BOOK PROPOSAL GUIDELINES
The most important aspect of a manuscript submission to publishers is the book proposal. The author needs to prepare a carefully detailed and compelling proposal to convince a publisher that his or her book is worth publishing. The proposal is extremely valuable in negotiating a good sale by allowing publishers to evaluate the project quickly and to determine their ability to market the book successfully.
Your proposal represents the promise of your book; it must be distinctive and engaging so that the editor becomes enthusiastic about signing your project. The difference between a good proposal and an excellent one can determine whether you receive an offer - and can make the difference between a modest advance and a large one.
Every book is unique, but almost every proposal contains the elements listed below:
About the Book
Give a brief (three to five pages) overview and introduction to your project. Think of this section as the information that would be used in the jacket copy, book synopsis and market survey.
Describe the reasons you were inspired to write the book and what makes it valuable. Make sure to explain what makes your book different from other, similar books and mention any special features or approaches you offer.
Give a two or three paragraph synopsis of the contents, illustrating in detail the logic your book follows to satisfy its premise.
Explain why you as an author are uniquely qualified to write this book. Include relevant experience and credentials, as well as any supporting professional expertise or publishing credits.
Market & Competition
Who is the audience for your book, and why do they need to buy your book? Provide demographic data that reinforces your hypothesis.
Address the competition. List each title that would be in direct competition with your book, along with the author, publisher, and year of publication. Explain why your book would be better, or how it fills a vacant niche in the market.
Provide a brief chapter-by-chapter outline of the book. Try to convey both the content and tone of each chapter succinctly. Where possible, use quotations, anecdotes and examples to describe your chapters.
Include one or two sample chapters, preferably not the introduction or first chapter, to give the publisher an idea of your writing style and the actual content of the book.
Describe the physical form you plan for your book. Be sure to include:
- proposed book length, measured in words
- state how many, and what sort of, photographs and/or illustrations will be used
- list any special considerations for book size, format, design or layout
- estimate how much time you will need to deliver the completed manuscript.
About the Author
Provide a detailed biography of yourself. Stress your background experience in your field and credentials relevant to your book. If applicable, attach a copy of your resume or curriculum vitae.
Dave Godfrey was truly a man of diverse interests and talents. Born in 1938 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, he acquired a BA from the University of Iowa and an MA from Stanford University in English literature in the early 1960s. At Stanford he met his future wife, Ellen, and also enrolled in Wallace Stegner’s celebrated creative writing program, numbering among his fellow students soon-to-be famous authors such as Larry McMurtry, Ken Kesey, and Robert Stone. Armed with a subsequent MFA in creative writing from the University of Iowa, he taught with Canadian University Services Overseas in Ghana in the mid-1960s, then returned to North America to earn a PhD from the University of Iowa and teach at the University of Toronto.
Godfrey’s two years in Africa provided the inspiration for a number of his short stories and his novel The New Ancestors, which won the Governor General’s Award for fiction in 1970, besting Robertson Davies’s Fifth Business. His time in Africa also introduced him to a powerful and enduring icon — Anansi, the trickster of folktales who often takes the form of a spider. That creature became the colophon for and lent its name to Godfrey’s first venture into publishing: House of Anansi, the small press he co-founded in 1967 with Dennis Lee to publish contemporary Canadian poetry and literary fiction.
Next came New Press in 1970, a company he launched with Roy MacSkimming and James Bacque to publish books on political and social issues. Ever restless and searching, he founded a third publishing venture in the early 1970s with Ellen and moved to Erin, Ontario. Like Anansi, Press Porcépic (renamed Beach Holme Publishing in the early 1990s) focused on poetry and literary fiction with the addition of drama and some non-fiction. In the mid-1970s, the Godfreys took Press Porcépic with them when Godfrey was appointed head of the Creative Writing Department at the University of Victoria, eventually adding to their list young adult titles in the form of the Sandcastle imprint as well as science fiction and children’s picture books.
For Godfrey’s generation the afterglow of centennial year led to a confident and new Canadian nationalism. Godfrey played a major role in developing the Canadian-owned publishing industry. He was a founding member of the Independent Publishers’ Association (later the Association of Canadian Publishers), helped set up the Association for the Export of Canadian Books (now Livres Canada Books), lobbied successfully for federal and provincial government financial support for Canadian-owned publishing houses, and co-authored, with Robert Fulford and Abraham Rotstein, Read Canadian: A Book About Canadian Books, a guide to the best writing about Canada in a number of different areas.
In the 1980s, Godfrey’s creative and ceaseless intellect took him to computers and the role they could play in the cultural industries. He wrote Gutenberg Two: The New Electronics and Social Change, and with Ellen created software for distant learning as well as an Internet service provider company.
After retiring from teaching in the late 1990s, Godfrey turned his attention to wine and became a vintner on Vancouver Island. He is survived by his wife, Ellen, and his daughter, Rebecca, both talented, award-winning authors, and his son, Samuel.
Kirk Howard, President & Publisher, Dundurn
Past President, ACP