As an acquisitions editor for a major publishing house, it’s my job to review book proposals from aspiring authors. But over the years, I’ve met dozens of writers who want to assemble a book proposal but don’t know where to begin.
If you’re sitting down to crank out a proposal for your book, start by identifying the angle.
My favorite question to ask writers is this, “What is the boldest statement your book has to make?”
This tells me what you’re angle is. And when I read proposals, this is the gem I’m looking for above all else.
If you’re a newbie, you may be wondering what the heck an angle is, anyway. No, you don’t need to find your high school protractor and compass to develop it.
Your angle is your unique slant on how you see the world, written in your unique voice, and it’s the engine that drives your book as a whole.
Far too often I read proposal overviews hunting for the angle, but it is nowhere to be found.
When this happens, I’m more likely to move on to the next in the stack than spend an afternoon searching for it.
In addition to the editorial benefits, there’s a scientific reason for developing an angle.
The brain is designed to light up and release dopamine—known as the happy hormone—when faced with a fresh idea.
Neuroscientist Martha Burns says of this phenomemon, “I like to refer to dopamine as the ‘save button’ in the brain. When dopamine is present during an event or experience, we remember it; when it is absent, nothing seems to stick.”
Conversely, the brain ignores and skips over information that is old and familiar.
Editors read through a shocking amount of proposals each year, and we’re all looking for one thing: a fresh concept!
So make our day by doing the work, developing your unique slant, and giving it center stage in your proposal.
Stephanie Smith is a reader, writer, and all-around word nerd. She lives in Grand Rapids, MI with her husband, where she serves as an acquisition editor at Zondervan and is pursuing her masters in theology at Western Theological Seminary. Find her on Twitter/Instagram at @heystephsmith and join her monthly email newsletter for writers looking to find their angle, write like they mean it, and do it in style at www.slantletter.com.
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