How To Write A Book Proposal, By Jimmie

Step One – November 2012

Receive news that a publishing company is accepting full book proposals from women writers.  The deadline is midnight, March 15, 2013.  Get excited and yap about it to everyone you meet for three solid days.

Step Two – December 2012 thru February 2013

Push book proposal far from your mind.  You have plenty of time.

Step Three – February 28, 2013

Realize in a sudden panic at 3:00 a.m. that you only have two weeks to complete the book proposal.   Berate yourself mightily for an hour or two then phone all friends and family members (at a reasonable hour, of course) to explain why you will be unavailable to them for the next 15 days. Tell them you love them then turn off your phone.  It is also best if you shut all off social media sights like Facebook, Yahoo, Google, etc. but everyone knows you would never do that in a million years.

Step Four – March 1, 2013

Begin your research on what a full book proposal entails.  Understand with a slow, sickening realization that this is worse than any term paper you have ever written.  Understand that as much as you talk about yourself on your blog and to your friends, a book proposal is a more narcissistic and self-involved project than you have attempted to date.  Did you guys know you have to sell yourself?  I didn’t.  I do now.

Step Five – March 1 – 14, 2013

Write like mad.  Massage your fingers when they cramp from the typing.  Dream of your book.  Leave a notebook beside your bed so that when you have a revelation at 2:00 a.m. you have a place to write your thoughts.  Make arrangements to stay late after work every night so that you have two giant monitors and fantastic internet service at your disposal.  You also want no distractions. Save your proposal in no less than three locations.  Losing that work is something you don’t even want to think about. 

Step Six – March 1 – 14, 2013

Do research.  Focus on what others have done before you and how it can help you now.  Realize that everyone who has ever written a book before you is a genius and you are an idiot. Wonder how 50 Shades of Gray ever got published (Gray? Grey?  I have no idea. Didn’t read them).  Reread some of your work and laugh out loud and then continue on with the proposal because you know that most of what you have is very good and that if you never pursue this, you will never succeed at this.  Repeat this step a minimum of five times.  You must second-guess yourself and then take pride in your work alternately.  It’s how you keep your weight down during this process. 

Step Seven – March 15, 2013

Receive an early morning phone call from Martie that Poppa is gravely ill and in a helicopter on his way to Vanderbilt.  Begin to cry at the office and then work like a dog so that when he finally gets to Vanderbilt you can leave and drive 90 miles an hour to the hospital where you sit for hours in the CCU.  Rub Poppa’s head and talk nonsense, as he is, about anything you can think of, just to make him stop hurting, just to calm everyone down.  Mention that you wrote a book.  When Poppa shows the merest sign of lucidity, he will say, “You wrote a book?  What is it about?” Tell him then, and explain about the book proposal and say “Yes, sir” when he says, “Make sure you turn it in.”

When Brother Bear gets to the hospital, you hug him then leave.  You have 90 minutes to put the finishing touches on your proposal.  You thought you were going to have five hours.  You were wrong.  You italicize everything, add commas, write the query letter and send it off three minutes before the midnight deadline.  Then you go to sleep with acid in your stomach worrying about Poppa.  The next morning you check your email to see that the proposal was received.  Then you wait for two months before hearing who won the coveted prize of a publishing contract.

Monkey wrenches you might encounter:

  1. You will think that Twizzlers will aid in the writing process. They do not.  Do not be lulled into the false sense of security they give with their unique waxy strawberry flavor.
  2. You will feel that you have enough time to make healthy dinners during this process.  You do not.  Subway needs to become part of your dietary plan during this time.
  3. Never forget the ponytail holder.  Your hair will annoy the ever-loving shit out of you during this process.
  4. Do not answer the phone, even for a quick question!  This is bad!  The person on the other end of the line will have every interest in eventually ending the call and you will not.  You will drone on for as long as they let you until they finally just hang up while you are in mid-sentence.  For those of you not in the know, this is called Procrastination. 
  5. Give yourself a pat on the back for staying late every night at work to really focus on your project.  Then take it back when you find yourself alone in the office with the one person who also is working late, the person who sits right next to you, and the person who is so quiet during the day that you are surprised when everyone leaves at how she begins a running monologue for one and half hours.  She is talking to you, telling you the same story over and over again, only changing a word here and there so it sounds different. She does not take a breath between sentences.  She is relentless yet sweet so you can say nothing other than the occasional “mmm hmmm”.  Go to the bathroom and when you get back, you’ll find that she is still talking, loudly and with force, and that she didn’t even realize you were gone.  Go to Subway, get some dinner, eat it, and when you get back, she will still be nattering on as if you never left.  When she finally leaves for home and all is quiet at the office, weep a little for the lost time.
  6. That might be it.  That whole process is a bit fuzzy now as time has passed and I cried a lot. 

So that’s how it’s done, people.  A book proposal in seven easy steps.  Piece of cake.  

I got this, right? 

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7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kat Haislip
    Mar 25, 2013 @ 09:02:24

    I would read and buy multiple copies of a book written on notebook paper and stapled together, you know, with one of those industrial type and a Amy-Lou drawing for the cover! I hope and pray you “win” but know that the win came when the Lord gifted you with your ability to write, make people cry, laugh and think beyond the norm all because of your words. And also know that your success shouldn’t be measured by the book you publish but the people who’s lives you touch. Not to mention….lots of really famous people didn’t get famous until they croked…no deadline pressure then. :). Please keep us posted on the response.

    Reply

  2. Aunt Anne
    Mar 25, 2013 @ 09:12:30

    What a wild ride! How lucky David and Susan are to have loving family nearby during such a crazy, scary time!

    I too hope you win, but I also hope that if you don’t you’ll try again and again. There was a fascinating article about Kate Atkinson, one of my favorite authors, in the New York Times Magazine yesterday. She got her start writing short stories for women’s magazines, and won her first book contract on the strength of those stories plus a partially finished novel. There are lots of ways to keep trying! XO

    Reply

  3. studiobukowski
    Mar 25, 2013 @ 09:50:53

    Inspiring, Jimmie! Thanks for the step by step. I’m in the same procrastination mode on a project of my own, so this post is a good kick in the butt reminder to just do it! I’m printing this to keep with me to remind me when I put it off again.

    Reply

  4. Roxanne
    Mar 25, 2013 @ 13:18:46

    You did it!!! I’m so proud and happy for you!

    Reply

  5. Linda
    Mar 25, 2013 @ 14:35:48

    Good for you for getting it done! I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you. Give my best to the family.

    Reply

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