Wednesday, May 22, 2013

WRITERLY WISDOM: TINA M CHO







It's time once again for WRITERLY WISDOM where every Wednesday we sneak a peek into the world of writing and publication.  I first met my next guest through Facebook groups like 12 X 12 and Children's Book Hub.  We had writing in common but soon I discovered we also has a shared interest in martial arts...me as an instructor in TaeKwonDo, and her as a cheerleader for her children's own training in this lovely art.  Now we share yet another common interest...she is delving in the non fiction genre of writing and I can hardly wait for the day when I am able to dip my fingers into those same waters.  Today she shows us how to create a solid non fiction proposal. Take it away Tina...


How to Write a Nonfiction Proposal
By Tina M. Cho

Thank you, Donna, for having me on your fabulous blog! I just finished writing a nonfiction book in which I had written the proposal. In fact, the way I pursue and write a proposal might be slightly different from others.

I was taught by a wonderful mentor, Nancy I. Sanders, who showed me how to get a book contract BEFORE you write the book. And so before I even write a proposal, I send a simple query to the editor to see if they are even interested in my topic. Why bother researching for several months if editors aren’t interested? Furthermore, I select book ideas that will fit in with a publisher’s existing line of books. After I hear back from the editor that yes, they’d like to see a proposal on a certain topic, I reply by saying I’ll send them a proposal in a month or list a date. This way of querying before writing the proposal is a good way to get published. This book may or may not be near and dear to your heart, but it’s a way to get published and build your resume. I’ve written three books this way and have one more being seriously considered.

So once I get the green light to write the proposal, I do the research on my topic for the book. From there, I write the proposal package. I’m calling it a package because a proposal is more than one item. A proposal consists of the proposal itself, a table of contents (TOC) or book outline, and sample chapters (1-3). For all of my proposals, I only wrote one sample chapter but very detailed TOC’s. You’ll want to check the submission guidelines for the publisher you’re targeting. Sometimes they have very specific guidelines.

Now I’ll explain the seven components of the actual proposal document. Other web sites will have the same information but maybe in a slightly different order. This is what works for me.

Proposal

I. Overview

This is the introduction to your proposal, the overview, general summary and essence of your book. You want to hook the editor by showing why your topic is relevant and important. My overview sections have been 3-4 small paragraphs. Why did you choose this topic? Is it popular right now? Is it in the news? Here is where you can give a tiny bit of historical information if needed as well. The next little paragraph can show your passion and excitement for the topic. Why is it important to you? And lastly, what can your book offer or do for people?

For example, for my proposal The Girls Guide to Manners and All That Good Stuff, which is forthcoming from Legacy Press Kids, I first gave an overview of how the topic was popular and in the news as Prince William and Kate were getting married. I noticed many articles on etiquette. Even Barbie came out with a movie about etiquette. And universities have added etiquette/manners classes! So I used those as a background and hook. Then I told my passion of why I thought this topic was relevant. My own daughter could use a book about it, along with other girls her age. (This book idea fit into the publisher’s existing line of books.) And my last paragraph explained what this book would have to offer to the specific audience, who are 8-12 year-old-girls.

II. About the Book

This is just a small paragraph explaining a little more about your book and target audience. What components will be in your book? Will each chapter have crafts, activities, recipes, or stories? This is where you can hint at your general plan and make-up of the book.

III. The Need

This is where you explain in 2-3 small paragraphs why your book is needed in today’s market. Does it correlate with Common Core Standards? Does it fill a need? Share the research and show or prove why your book needs to be published. You can also share statistics or demographics of your audience if need be.

For one of my proposals, I discovered that no other books existed on the topic for the target age level audience.

IV. Competition/Market

You need to list titles, authors, and publishing information about comparable books to yours. Use the search function in Amazon or Barnes and Noble and find comp books. Even though there might be many on your topic, an editor at another publishing house might say, “Hey, this is a popular topic for school, and we need one in our catalog, too.” However, after listing the comparable books, write a sentence explaining how your book is unique and different from the ones listed.

V. Promotion

How can you help promote the book? What do you already do? Blog? Twitter? Facebook? Book Reviews? Speak? Share your platform of what you already do and maybe list statistics of how many followers. Perhaps you already are an expert on this topic and lecture or speak about it.

VI. About You

Here is where you list your bio, credentials, other published works, and why you should be the one to write this book. If the book is about science projects, and you’re a former science teacher, then show the connection!

VII. Summary

This is just a 1-2 sentence summary of the proposal. For example, “I look forward to seeing the potential “Title of Book” out in the market someday so that it will [whatever need it will fill or offer to do for people.]

After you write the actual proposal, you’ll need to sketch out a book outline or table of contents. How many chapters do you envision? Give a sentence summary for each chapter and then list detailed points for the components of each chapter. In my experience, the more detailed, the better. If the chapter involves activities, crafts, recipes, or other things, then name them. Tell the editor exactly what the reader will be doing. This makes you as a writer more knowledgeable and organized. And, having a detailed TOC helps for when you later go back to write the actual book after the proposal has been approved. This could be a couple months to a year!

And lastly, write your sample chapters and make sure they follow your book outline. When you have your proposal package ready, follow the directions on your publisher’s web site and either snail mail or email it to the correct place. I hope this has been of some help to you all! Best wishes on your future proposals!








Tina is an author of 25 guided reading books from Lakeshore Learning and Compass Media.  A coloring book, God Is So Good, from Warner Press was published in 2013.  Three nonfiction books are forthcoming from Legacy Press Kids.  She is a former elementary teacher who currently homeschools her 5th grade daughter and 2nd grade son.  Though she grew up in Iowa, she is now living outside of Seoul, South Korea.

Website: http://tinamcho.wordpress.com



52 comments:

  1. Wonderful explanation, TIna! You should give a seminar on this at a SCBWI writers's conference.

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    1. Hi Laura! I agree...if I could ever afford to attend a SCBWI conference I would gladly go to one of Tina's seminars...great post!

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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    2. Yes, I agree with Laura. This topic would fit right in at an SCBWI conference, and you would make a great presenter. Thanks for the helpful post, Tina!

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    3. Hi Hannah! If someone were to start a petition, I would be one of the first to sign it...;~)

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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    4. Thanks for your compliment, Hannah!

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  2. Excellent information, Tina! I am bookmarking this for my reference. Thanks Donna for having Tina as your guest. It's been a while since I've written a nonfiction piece but I am inspired to go back to it. Thanks.

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    1. Thanks, Romelle. I hope you can use the info and land a nf contract!

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    2. Hi Romelle! I have such a HUGE interest in getting into nonfiction and have some ideas already but lack sufficient time to be able to do proper research. Now that my summer time at the school is doubling my already full days it will probably be next fall before I can dive into my nf ideas...;~(

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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  3. Tina, I have such respect for you and all you've accomplished with your writing. You've done an excellent job with this post! Thanks for sharing. And I agree with you about Nancy Sanders--she's helped so many of us writers. Her book Yes! You Can... is another resource for authors who are interested in this market.

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    1. Hi Evelyn and welcome to my blog! I think I've heard of Nancy Sanders book Yes! You Can...will have to look for it this weekend to add to my growing list of books I need to read...;~)

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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    2. Thanks, Ev, for your note. We were blessed to be led by Nancy. Hope you're doing well!

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  4. Wow! Excellent information! Thanks!

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    1. Hi Penny! I couldn't agree more...;~)

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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  5. Wonderfully written, cler overview Tina. I can see why you have met with such success!

    I agree with Laura re: an SCBWI presentation. AND - do you know about this conference: http://www.childrensnfconference.com/ Worth planning a trip back to the US if they run it again. You'd be a fabulous instructor!

    - Cathy

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    1. Hi Cathy! Maybe we should start a petition and try to get Tina added to a conference here? ;~)

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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    2. Wow, thanks, Cathy! Is this the conference Laura Salas is presenting at? Do you know--I've never been to a writer's conference! my dream someday. I'd love to come to the US for anything!

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  6. As a newbie author, I didn't quite understand the difference between a proposal and a query. Now I do! Bookmarked for sure, thank you both. :0)- Donna L Sadd

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    1. Hi Donna! It took me a while to understand the difference myself. Then I started getting confused when contests would state they wanted query letters for their picture book submissions but what they REALLY wanted were cover letters...two ENTIRELY different things...lol...

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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    2. Glad this clarified things for you, Donna Louise! I was in your shoes a few years ago and had those same questions.

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  7. This is what I love about the 12 x 12 community. We have some amazing talent with skills that blow your mind. I agree that Tina should be standing before a group of writers conducting her own workshop. This is great info. I've also bookmarked this page.

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    1. Thanks, Pam. You're all so wonderful. I've never been to a writers conference. This is just stuff I've learned the past few years.

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    2. Hi Pam! I hadn't heard from you in a while so I'm glad you found this useful.

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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    3. Hey Donna, I'm in school. Yaaay and Yikes! It's challenging but fun. However, I've been lurking about reveling in your accomplishments. Congrats on the book festival. Still trying to convince myself to join you on Fridays. I dipped my toe in once and gave the story such an unusual turn. Nevertheless, I'm summoning the courage to try it again. They're fun! This was a great post! Thanks

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  8. Great write-up. I will be bookmarking for reference. I agree with the others you should teach this at an SCBWI conference.

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    1. Thanks, Darshana. I'm so flattered that everyone says I should teach this. I hope you can write a proposal and land a contract!

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    2. Hi Darshana! I'm so glad people are finding this WRITERLY WISDOM posts so helpful...I'm learning tons of new stuff...;~)

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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  9. Terrific post on how to write a non-fic query, Tina; thank you! And congrats on your forthcoming book about manner! :)

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    1. Thanks, Teresa! I hope you can use the info someday.

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    2. Hi Teresa! Are you currently writing non fiction stories? It's something I really would like to expand into...

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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  10. Hi Donna,
    I'm so glad you had Tina over to explain "how to submit a proposal".
    Tina, I love this. I'm keeping this for my files.
    Congratulations on all your writing endeavors and success in the publishing world. :-)
    Tracy

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    1. Hi Tracy and welcome to my blog! Tina really did a lovely job of not only explaining what a proposal is, but also giving a perfect step by step on how to do a great one...

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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  11. Thanks, Tracy. I can see you using this info for your books someday.

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  12. Thanks for this, Tina! I will bookmark this for the future. And because of you, I am reading Nancy I. Sanders book on writing beginning readers and chapter books! So good to see your smiling face on the photo.
    Donna, thanks to you, too, for featuring Tina today.

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    1. How neat, that you're reading Nancy's book! I hope to see beginning readers and chapter books from you!

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    2. Hi Jarm! Don't you just love the bookmark feature? It sure helps me keep the articles close to me when I need them! ;~)

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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  13. Great post, Tina! Full of wonderful, helpful information! Thanks so much for sharing all your wisdom! And congrats on all those books!

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    1. Thanks, Susanna. It's just stuff I've learned along the way.

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    2. Hi Susanna! I don't know about everyone else, but I'm sure learning a lot from all my lovely guests!

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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  14. Excellent, Tina. I agree with Laura, you should work this up as a seminar for an SCBWI conference.
    -Carrie

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    1. Hi Carrie! Maybe someone from one of the SCBWI seminar committees will see this great post and invite Tina to states next year! I'll keep my fingers crossed...;~)

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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    2. Thanks, Carrie. Again I am flattered that you think this should be a workshop!

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  15. Hi Donna e-mail me at jphillipson@rocketmail.com please

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    1. Hi JP! I just emailed you...

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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  16. "Donna L Martin's ON THE WRITE TRACK" has been included in the Sites To See for this week. Be assured that I hope this helps to point many new visitors in your direction.

    http://asthecrackerheadcrumbles.blogspot.com/2013/05/sites-to-see_24.html

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    1. Hi Jerry and welcome to my blog! What a pleasant surprise! I am honored to be included in the Sites To See on your own blog and hopefully others WILL check it out...

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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    1. Hi Erik! I absolutely agree...I intend on using this list in my own near future!

      Thanks for stopping by and come back any time!

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  18. Thanks, Erik. I KNOW someday you'll have books out there!

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