A blog reader writes in with this timely question: "I've just written a nonfiction book. What do I do next?"
First order of business is congratulating yourself on having completed something so challenging. Second is stepping back from your masterpiece and thinking about a professional nonfiction book proposal. Usually I recommend these before you write your book, since most nonfiction trade books are sold on the basis of a proposal and a couple of sample chapters rather than a whole manuscript. Why? Because nonfiction editors often like to think with the author on the crafting of the book -- it has to work on their particular list. But there is certainly no rule one way or the other. You can create a proposal now based on the book you have already written.
Think of a proposal as a business plan for your book. It demonstrates to a publisher who you are, how your qualifications make you the perfect author for this book, who will read it and why, and how you plan to promote your work. There are other aspects as well. Your future editor will likely take copies of your proposal to an acquisitions meeting where it will be discussed in business terms. Different houses have different ways of deciding what books to acquire, but a great proposal is the basis of just about everyone's system. If you click the link at the upper right of this page you'll see a list of books I recommend, and there are two proposal titles.
If you're a tenure-line faculty member at Georgetown this is free. If you are not on Georgetown's faculty, you can hire Booklab to work with you on a professional nonfiction book proposal. Please send e-mail for a sheet that details just some of the ways we work with authors on this all-important aspect of nonfiction book publishing.
The image above shows a different kind of proposal.