One thing good about searching for an agent or a publisher for a non fiction book is that, unlike a novel, the book need not be written already. Most publishers and agents will want the following things:
• An overview of the book .
• The author’s bio/CV and marketing plan.
• A table of contents, chapter summaries and sample chapters.
As always check the website for the individual publisher or agent you’re sending to as they may want particular things and not others. Let’s look closer at each of these.
Overview of the book
Think of this as an advert for the book. It tells what your book is about. It should pull out all of the exciting things in your book. It should tell the publisher why your book is the very best on this topic and why you are the best person to write it. What will your unique take on the subject be to add to the discussion? The book overview should be about 1-2 pages long.
Author’s Bio and Marketing Plan
Your bio should talk about everything relevant, with the most important bits at the beginning. If you’re writing a book on the history of the Bakgatla royal family, you should not start your bio with where you went to primary school.
Perhaps you’ve worked in the Bakgatla kgotla your entire life or you write the historical column in their monthly newsletter. These should be at the top of your bio. Your bio needs to shout why you are THE expert on the topic that you’re writing about.
You should also include if you are a regular speaker on the topic. Mention the places where you have spoken or appeared on panels. This is what we call the writer’s platform. Other parts of your platform include your presence on the internet.
Do you have a Twitter account? Do you have a professional website or blog? How many visitors do these get per month? As for marketing, for a non-fiction book the publisher will assume that you already have a platform. Perhaps your book is about overcoming rape.
You might have groups you work with that have already mentioned that they would buy the book when it comes out, tell the publisher this. In this section, talk about what you have done or are currently doing to build up fans and potential book Know your competition. Maybe your non-fiction book is on life counselling.
There are hundreds of such books on the market. Talk about those books and what they are lacking that yours has. Talk about who you expect to buy your book. Is your book a how-to guide to setting up a business in Botswana? Is it for foreigners wanting to come to Botswana and start businesses or for Batswana entrepreneurs? Show the publisher you know who you’re writing for.
Table of Contents, Chapter Overviews and Sample Chapters
Most agents and publishers will require a detailed table of contents (with appendices) so that they know what topics will be covered in the book. Also you’ll need to write chapter overviews for each chapter.
These should be written in the style you intend to use for the book. Will your book be casual and friendly or academic? As for the sample chapter that you send, it should be written exactly as you want it to be in the final book. It needn’t be the first chapter; you rather choose the most exciting chapter in the book.