Putting Together a Non-Fiction Submission: Really Useful Links by Lucy O’Callaghan

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Lucy O'Callaghan

Lucy O’Callaghan

Putting together a non-fiction submission is very different from a fiction one. With a fiction submission, the novel has to be finished and edited to be as perfect as you can make it. With a non-fiction submission, you have to have a solid idea, plan, and sample chapters ready. It acts as a business case for why your book should exist. I have put together some links to articles and podcasts that I hope will help to guide you in putting together your non-fiction submission.

  1. https://www.janefriedman.com/start-here-how-to-write-a-book-proposal/

This article from Jane Friedman is full of great information. She tells us that while publishers will expect the writing to be solid, they’re probably not expecting a literary masterpiece. ‘To learn how to lose weight, readers don’t need a poet; they need a clear communicator who can deliver her ideas and methods in a way that will help and inspire readers to achieve their goals.’ You need to convince the publisher why this book matters right now to the intended readership. How does it offer something new and surprising that doesn’t feel like everything that’s come before?

You need to provide a market overview and competitive analysis to support and strengthen the evidence of the need for your book. Your marketing plan is an essential component of your proposal and you must ground it on what you can accomplish today; make it concrete and realistic. You won’t need to send a fully finished manuscript but you will need to send a chapter outline and a sample chapter that is well-written and well-researched.

  1. https://jerichowriters.com/non-fiction-how-to-write-a-nonfiction-book-proposal-with-examples/

A non-fiction book proposal is about your target market, platform, and marketing plan. Your proposal should illustrate what you plan to do to make your book successful and that there is a place in the market for you. This article breaks down and explains the components of your book proposal.

  1. https://www.writersandartists.co.uk/advice/how-to-submit-a-non-fiction-proposal

Andrew Lowrie writes this article for Writers and Artists, and he reminds us that up to 30 people in an editorial meeting may be considering your submission, one of dozens they consider each week, so it needs to be concise and it needs to be structured so that even if they only read the first page, they will know what it’s about. He shares a format that has served him well when putting together a non-fiction book proposal.

  1. https://thewritelife.com/how-to-write-a-book-proposal/

This article from The Write Life shares a 19-step guide for non-fiction writers putting together a book proposal, including the one-sentence description, purpose and need, book structure overview, and unique angles.


  1. https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cudGhlY3JlYXRpdmVwZW5uLmNvbS9mZWVkL3BvZGNhc3Qv/episode/aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cudGhlY3JlYXRpdmVwZW5uLmNvbS8_cD0zMjI4Mg?hl=en-IE&ved=2ahUKEwiwzZDK9uz7AhVEUMAKHZaiBJEQjrkEegQIEBAF&ep=6

This podcast episode from The Creative Penn discusses what makes a non-fiction book stand out from the crowd. What are the essential elements of a non-fiction book proposal if you want to pitch agents and/or publishers, or if you want to prepare for effective self-publishing?

  1. https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cubmljb2xlcm9jY2FzLmNvbS9mZWVkL3BvZGNhc3Q/episode/aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cubmljb2xlcm9jY2FzLmNvbS8_cD0xMjAx?hl=en-IE&ved=2ahUKEwiwzZDK9uz7AhVEUMAKHZaiBJEQjrkEegQIEBAU&ep=6

Writing on Wednesday podcast host, Sarah, shares how she wrote her non-fiction book proposal over 8 months and gets into the specifics of writing in an industry where authors pitch directly to publishers, not agents.

  1. https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly9iZXN0c2VsbGVyZXhwZXJpbWVudC5saWJzeW4uY29tL3Jzcw/episode/ZjZiOWIwOWItZWI5YS00MDY1LWI2YWItMzMwODgyNGI0ZGNk?hl=en-IE&ved=2ahUKEwiwzZDK9uz7AhVEUMAKHZaiBJEQjrkEegQIEBAd&ep=6

This podcast is from The Bestseller Experiment. Jenn T. Grace is the founder of Publish Your Purpose, a hybrid publishing company that helps first-time authors get their books written. Jenn takes us through the first steps of writing non-fiction and memoir, the essential elements of a book proposal, and how to make your books stand out from the crowd.

  1. https://greenleafbookgroup.com/learning-center/publishing-information/published-podcast-ep-51-how-to-write-a-successful-book-proposal-with-jennie-nash

The Green Leaf Book Group podcast speaks to author and book coach, Jennie Nash. They dive deep into the art of creating a successful book proposal and Jennie shares what it takes to craft a compelling proposal and offers advice for authors embarking on this process.

Although your non-fiction book may not need to be completed, a huge amount of work is needed to go into your submission proposal. It is important to spend the time and effort to make it the best it can be. I hope this week’s column has been useful for you. Please get in touch if there are any topics you would like me to cover.

(c) Lucy O’Callaghan

Instagram: lucy.ocallaghan.31.

Facebook: @LucyCOCallaghan

Twitter: @LucyCOCallaghan

About the author

Writing since she was a child, Lucy penned her first story with her father called Arthur’s Arm, at the ripe old age of eight. She has been writing ever since. Inspired by her father’s love of the written word and her mother’s encouragement through a constant supply of wonderful stationary, she wrote short stories for her young children, which they subsequently illustrated.
A self-confessed people watcher, stories that happen to real people have always fascinated her and this motivated her move to writing contemporary women’s fiction. Her writing has been described as pacy, human, moving and very real.
Lucy has been part of a local writing group for over ten years and has taken creative writing classes with Paul McVeigh, Jamie O’Connell and Curtis Brown Creative. She truly found her tribe when she joined Writer’s Ink in May 2020. Experienced in beta reading and critiquing, she is currently editing and polishing her debut novel.
Follow her on Instagram: lucy.ocallaghan.31. Facebook and Twitter: @LucyCOCallaghan

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