The ‘About the Book’ section for this proposal was only two pages. Yes, this is a bit longer than what you usually write in a query letter, but this is a proposal. There’s a little more room to dig into what the book is going to be about.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Whenever I talk about query letters, I like to quote other agents who say it’s all about the “hook, book, cook.” The marketing blip that snags you in, the jacket-esque description of the book, and the cook, aka, you! The chef behind the pages.
This, is your author bio.
For Sam’s bio, we had a solid three pages digging into who he is as a writer. We didn’t dive too much into platform here, because that’s a whole separate, major section of the proposal.
Sam’s bio talked about his current experience working as the spirits editor for The Manual, some places he’s been published, and a bit about his experience in the service industry. It was important not to just showcase Sam as this ‘brand’ who could write this particular book, but as a person. We spent some time talking about his literary chops in addition to his cocktail slinging ones, showcasing the breadth of his creativity and talent.
Your bio should be enticing and interesting. It should make a reader want to spend time with you, and spend time with your book.
ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER
This is a section that was a bit cookbook specific. We introduced editors to Sam’s photographer for the project, Amy Ellis. We dished a brief, one page bio about her and where her work has been featured, who some of her bigger clients have been, and wrapped it up with a link to the website.
We included some of her photography work at the end of the proposal, in addition to the pictures included with the sample recipes.
Also I cannot stress this enough, hire Amy for your projects. She’s brilliant and her work is gorgeous.
PUBLICITY AND PLATFORM
Ah yes, the dreaded platform blip.
First, let’s talk about this for a second. Because when I speak at conferences about platform for non-fiction authors, all too often I see writers visibly deflate when I mention having a platform.
It is never too late to start building a platform.
I can’t stress this enough. While it might be hard to build up a large social media following to support you as platform these days, it isn’t hard to pitch media outlets. Writing a collection of essays? A memoir? Great. There are so many places you can potentially pitch pieces to. Me, I regularly read websites like Catapult, Lit Hub, Electric Literature, Guernica, and more. If you’re trying to build your platform as a writer in that space, pitch your work around. Look up where your favorite essayists and memoirists have been (and are regularly) publishing. It’ll help.
Publication counts as platform.
If you look at Sam’s social media following, he has a little under 3,000 Twitter followers. This isn’t to talk smack about that, but to point out that his platform exists in a big way in publication.
In Sam’s platform section for Are You Afraid…, we dug into the places he writes and regularly publishes, including The Manual and other outlets that have featured his writing, including Maxim, Bloomberg, Chilled, Southern Kitchen, Thirsty, and included notes to his literary writing as well (you can see a full list of where his stories and essays are on his website).
Since Sam is involved in the spirits world, he also took the time to discuss some of the influential people in that world he could potentially share the book with. Media outlets, popular bartenders and their bars, professionals in the spirits world… dishing who can potentially lift your book up with you, is also a great thing to dig into platform-wise. There’s no guarantee, but the possibility is worth sharing.
Before you leave a comment on this post saying that your book is beyond compare, please stop. It isn’t.
When it comes to non-fiction, your comp titles should list books that your book might exist next to. In bookstores, on the shelves of readers, etc. It shouldn’t be a running list of books that are wholly similar to it, because then why are you writing a non-fiction book on a subject that’s been tackled to death?
In Sam’s case, we brought up books like The Drunken Botanist, My Drunk Kitchen, and The Geeky Chef Cookbook, all of which are humorous, pop-culture-ish, gift-ish cookbooks meant to be given as presents and discussed when you have friends over. Cookbooks that are conversations pieces. Cookbooks that are found in places like Urban Outfitters and with specialty retailers.