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Writing about writing is the hardest thing.

The day has come. You’ve written, polished, and honed the manuscript for your memoir. Go you! Now it’s time to get that baby out there, and for that you need your beautifully crafted book proposal.

But does the thought of writing that beautifully crafted book proposal fill you with dread? Let me help with that.

In my last two posts (here and here), I looked at what a book proposal is and why you need one. Now—what about the how?

In essence, a book proposal consists of eight different sections, each with its own requirements. That might sound a little overwhelming. But, if you take each section one at a time, it is a task well within your grasp. After all, you have just written a memoir! In fact, it will almost certainly give you a deeper understanding of your work and a wider appreciation of who your readership might be.

Sections of a book proposal:

  1. Overview

  2. Author Bio

  3. Competing/Complementary titles

  4. Target Audience

  5. Platform/Marketing

  6. Chapter Summaries

  7. Sample Chapters

  8. Query Letter (separate but indispensable)

The Overview

In the webinar I present with Joanne Spataro on writing a book proposal for your memoir, we look at all the sections in detail, but in this post we’re going to focus on the Overview. For many writers, this is the hardest task of all. Here are some helpful things to remember:

Don’t let your heart sink at the thought of writing that Overview. You can do this!

Some people call it the summary or the synopsis, but whatever you call it, this is the first stop for the agent or editor who's looking at your proposal.

The Overview is the hook. It's the “what's grabby” about this book. It's almost like a version of jacket copy.

Ask yourself: what does my story mean? What's it about? What's its purpose? What are people going to get out of this?

Because the Overview is the most difficult section of a book proposal to write, it’s often best to write it after you’ve completed all the other sections—even if it sits up the front of your book proposal document. Once you have completed the other sections, you’ll have a much clearer idea of how to talk about your memoir, so your Overview should be easier to write.

First, you need to get some distance between your deeply personal memoir and its jacket copy.

How do you do this?

It’s a matter of shifting your perspective. You must have an out of body experience to write the overview. You must step outside of your lived experience of this memoir, or even your lived experience of writing this memoir. You must step outside of that body—and it's a remarkable experience, like you're floating above yourself, and you're just looking down on it; you're outside of the story.

Another way to gain that space is to get a fresh pair of eyes on your Overview. If you have a trusted person, someone who's a published author themselves, or maybe a journalist, or just someone who's canny and savvy and a bit commercial, and who will give you the hard truths, then ask/cajole/bribe them to read it through.

No doubt about it—it's difficult, but if you can somehow manage to gain that distance you’ll be able to write your Overview.

In my next post, I’ll be looking at another section of the book proposal that fills writers with a sense of impending doom… Yes, we’re going to look at Platform and Marketing!

I’ll help you answer these questions:

Apart from your besties and your immediate family, who is going to read your memoir?

Are you too self-effacing to blow your own trumpet (or saxophone)?

What should you do if your social media profile is non-existent?

If you want to learn more and get practical guidance, click here to access an on-demand webinar How to Write a Book Proposal for Your Memoir. This is an in-depth conversation with memoir expert Joanne Spataro, in which Joanne and I discuss the details, the whys and wherefores, as well as the pitfalls of writing a book proposal for your memoir. You’ll be guided through the entire process with useful pointers, tips, and expert advice.

Photo by Varun Gaba on Unsplash


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