One of my private coaching clients is discerning the format of the food/cooking book she wants to write. Part of her wants to write a memoir and part of her a cookbook. One would be more story driven, and the other more recipe driven. She was then questioning whether she needed to write a book proposal for a memoir and wanted me to tell her what to do.
As a coach, I try to avoid giving direct responses to my clients that can be perceived as telling them what to do. Not giving a direct response is a challenge because that’s often what my coaching clients desire – someone to validate their next step. As a coach, I want to facilitate their decision-making process, and let them create their own results. But, in this instance, I wanted an informed answer, from someone in the trenches, about writing a book proposal for her book concept.
To get an informed answers, I emailed colleagues who are editors at traditional publishing houses and university presses. I asked them if they received a submission for a food memoir, would they expect to see a proposal or manuscript? Much to my delight, they all responded. (Never underestimate the power of asking and never be afraid to ask!) And here are their answers:
Editor #1: She needs to write a proposal but does not need to write a full manuscript.
Editor #2: I would advise the author to put together a proposal if possible. It is a wonderful and helpful exercise and ultimately will be a strong snapshot for a publisher or agent to gather information quickly about the project. It is important to include marketing thoughts and comparable books as well.
Editor #3: My recommendation would be to put together a book proposal first to solicit either an agent or traditional publisher, whether or not she has a manuscript completed. When soliciting an agent or editor, they are going to be bogged down with submissions so even if she has a completed manuscript, a comprehensive proposal is going to be much more compelling to catch their eye. My recommendation would be to keep it simple but engaging (around 8-10 pages is about perfect because you can include a lot of important information without asking too much time of the agent/editor.)
Editor #4: A proposal is a way to go. That’s what literary agents and editors/publishers are going to want to see: an outline, sample chapter, author bio, competitive/comparative title overview, marketing strategy.
So if you’re reading this, and want to find a publisher for your cookbook or your food memoir or any work of non-fiction related to health, wellness, or food, write a proposal. Don’t write your entire manuscript. To read more about writing a proposal, here’s a bunch of blog posts that will be helpful to you:
Steps To Write A Cookbook: Write A Cookbook Proposal (complete with a cookbook proposal checklist)
Writing a Cookbook Proposal – 5 Tips for Success
Q & A: How Do I Write a Cookbook Proposal that Attracts Agents and Publishers?
Cookbook Proposals: Writing Your Cookbook’s Summary
Cookbook Author Interview: Jeanne Sauvage – A terrific way to get a sense of the process is to write a cookbook proposal.
Cookbook Proposals are Important
Cookbook author and culinary dietitian Maggie Green coaches aspiring cookbook authors in the process of writing cookbooks, cookbook proposals, and building their author platform. Download her checklist “Am I Ready to Write A Cookbook?”.