Join The New York Times Senior News Assistant Kenneth R. Rosen for this practical nuts-and-bolts course on writing the book proposal that will get your book in the door to publication.
May 6 – June 30, 2019
The idea you have feels bigger than a magazine or newspaper article. It feels like a book.
But do you write the book first? Or do you find a publisher to back you?
Writing is a business for which everyone should be paid. Handsomely. Period. The amount of physical and emotional anguish that writers endure — pitching, writing, editing, revising, and promoting — can feel devastating. No writer should be paid pennies on the dollar for blog posts no one will ever see, nor should the emotional burden be saddled for free. However, there are times the prospective return on investment–on your time spent writing an unsold piece—can be both emotionally and professionally rewarding. And one type of preemptive writing could very well lead to a financial windfall…
I’m talking about the book proposal. A book proposal is a one-stop-shop summary and promotional guide for your book, containing everything from chapter outlines to excerpts and marketing strategies. The length can be anywhere from a few pages to a few dozen pages. This proposal is often used to sell nonfiction books, including memoirs. Some agents or publishers may even ask a novel to be presented with a quasi-book proposal, outlining comparative titles and the author’s publishing history.
Writing a book proposal is no easy task, however. In fact, it may feel more daunting than the actual writing of the book! If you follow these four steps, writing that first book proposal will come easier, and you’ll be one step closer to selling your book for (hopefully) a large advance! How about that for time well spent?
Nonfiction manuscripts that are not memoirs begin as proposals before growing into book projects. Moving from how to structure your proposal, to the meaty chapter outline and excerpts, and to best-practice techniques for submitting to agents and publishers, this workshop will tackle the beastly (and often prosperous) animal that is the first steps to publishing your nonfiction book.
We will take a broad look at publishing and book proposal writing:
- By studying the language used on book jackets to channel the structure of an inside flap and the language of the publishing industry.
- Learning to work from a template and to build your own for use later.
- Publishing credits and how to get the proposal noticed and where to begin when seeking literary representation.
Some of the Topics We’ll Cover
- Week 1: What is a book proposal? How can it benefit me? The layout, the project, the roadmap.
- Week 2: Book jacket emporium and the comparable title.
- Week 3: Audience, promotion and platform. Or, is my social media presence a deal-breaker?
- Week 4: The four key components.
- Week 5: The secret ingredient.
- Week 6: Putting it all together and the special sauce of literary spice and allure.
- Week 7: The Query Letter.
- Week 8: Agents and onward.
At the end of our eight weeks, you will have a solid book proposal outline and introductory section of that proposal.
Class Delivery Format
The online class is a blend of instruction, writing and workshopping. The class has a weekly format involving learning, discussions and conversation/participation deadlines and writing.
You should come prepared to discuss your idea for a book and three books that are similar to the one you would like to write.
Who Should Take this Class?
The class is ideal for all levels of creative nonfiction and memoir writers. Fiction writers may find the drafting and chapter outline specifics helpful. While novels have been sold on single-chapter proposals, it is often an exception and not the rule.
Highlights of the Workshop
- Class size: we maintain small class sizes so each participant has ample opportunity to engage with one another and the instructor, getting detailed comments and suggestions on the work submitted.
- Collaboration: over the course of the workshop, as the instructor and fellow writers get to know your work, they will be able to specifically target those issues you care about most and help you toward the goals you’re striving to attain, celebrating and helping you enhance your natural voice and views.
- The online format makes the workshop part of your daily life, something that becomes part of your writing practice and everyday activity, making it an effective and highly productive experience.
How the Online Workshop Works
- After enrolling, you will receive an email with some information about your workshop. A few days before the workshop is to begin, you will receive your username and log in information for our secure online classroom.
- Once the course begins, you will have unlimited access to your secure online classroom. Log in any time to enjoy ongoing conversation, post work and feedback, and download materials from the instructor and fellow students 24/7.
- The class takes place according to a weekly structure: each Monday, the instructor posts lecture and conversation notes, readings, and other pertinent information. You can take the full week to engage with the materials and enjoy the ongoing connection and chat any time.
Kenneth R. Rosen, a senior news assistant at The New York Times, is a senior fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism, a Robert Novak fellow, and a 2019 MacDowell Colony fellow. He is a contributing writer for WIRED, and is at work on two books: a work of literary nonfiction about tough love treatment programs for juveniles (Little A, 2020) and a book on the synthetic fiber known as Kevlar (Bloomsbury, 2019).