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3 Ways publishers evaluate book proposals and query letters

So, you’ve decided to write a book but are not sure how to acquire the interest of a publisher so that your hard work can be enjoyed by readers in your discipline. You’ve heard that book proposals and query letters are the professional tactics for introducing a new book to a potential publisher, but what exactly are they looking for?

In his recent webinar, publishing consultant John Bond shared his insight on what publishers are looking for as they evaluate your proposal or query letter.

The author:

  • How did the project come to the publisher?
  • Do they have prior knowledge of the author?
  • Reviewing their CV/body of work, are they a Mover or Shaker?
  • Do they have a terminal degree? Tenure?
  • Do their reviewer contacts know them, know of them?
  • Are they an experience author? Book author?
  • Speak nationally? Member of national organization?

The idea:

  • Is it familiar to the publisher?
  • An evergreen topic of interest or an emerging area?
  • What is the future trajectory for this topic?
  • Has the publisher published on this topic before, and was it successful?
  • What is the competition like to this book/idea?
  • Does it compliment other books in the publisher’s line?
  • Can the concept be explained in a concise manner?

The market:

  • Is it a primary market for the publisher?
  • Is it a growing area? Stagnant? Shrinking?
  • Is it a silo? Or linked to other areas? Interdisciplinary? ➢ Affluence of the customers/readers?
  • If a textbook, what level is it used at? Multiple levels?
    • Required? Recommended?
  • Easy to reach? Where do they gather? Read? Meetings?

At the end of the day, Bond says, “Have a marketable idea that people want. Explain it in the BP in a helpful and attractive fashion. Work with the publisher and don’t be blasé or adversarial. Be energetic. Be creative.”

The complete recording of his session, “How Do Publishers Evaluate Book Proposals and Query Letters” is available in the TAA Presentations on Demand library.