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Ask the Writing Coach: In a Book Proposal, Do You List Unrelated Books & Articles?

Todays question comes from Kathleen Burns-Kingsbury
Today's question comes from Kathleen Burns Kingsbury

Kathleen Burns Kingsbury asked how much information about previous publications to include in a book proposal. Specifically, she traditionally published a book called Weight Wisdom. Should she include information on this book in her book proposal? How about articles?

She asks, “When you are writing a book proposal is it best to just list the publications and articles that relate to the topic or is it more effective to list all the books and articles you have had published regardless of the topic area?”

In terms of articles, you generally want to mention the publications, not necessarily the specific articles by title. So, as long as the titles are national, I would include them, without saying the exact topic. For smaller or regional publications, I’d be more inclined to lump them together, “…published articles in dozens of regional and local magazines including (name the biggest ones)…” For online articles, I’d mention the traffic of the website or number of readers of the article, if you have access to that information, since the publisher may not know how impressive a credential it may be.

Kathleens first book is unrelated in topic to her new book.
Kathleen's first book is unrelated in topic to her new book.

Kathleen says, “Weight Wisdom is co-written and was well received. I am now in the process of pitching a new book idea that I will be writing alone and that is not directly related to the topic of the first book. My new book proposal is on money psychology and how we can use it to make more money and be more at peace with our dollars and cents.”

My biggest question would be, “How many books sold? Is it still selling?” Publishers will look at BookScan numbers to see how successful the book was. I assume she’s looking for a good-sized publisher.  If the book sold more than 10,000 copies, it’s probably worth mentioning. If it didn’t sell that many copies, even if it got good press, I would play it down. She should certainly mention any great press she got from the book (but she doesn’t necessarily have to mention the book).

If you do mention your book, it’s important not to confuse the issue. Distance yourself from subject of the first book a bit–play down the subject of the first book.

Lisa Tener

Lisa Tener is an award-winning book writing coach who assists writers in all aspects of the writing process—from writing a book proposal and getting published to finding one’s creative voice. Her clients have appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, CBS Early Show, The Montel Williams Show, CNN, Fox News, New Morning and much more. They blog on sites like The Huffington Post, Psychology Today and WebMD.

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