How to Submit - Non-Fiction
When selling nonfiction, you don’t have to write the entire book: in fact, it’s often preferable not to, since that way the editor and publisher can put their own “spin” on the project, provide their own input to make it as marketable as possible to the audience that they (and you) intend to target. Instead of the book, then, you write a “proposal” – a business plan that tells the publisher how you propose to write the book. We’re not talking about a long document – anywhere from 10 to 60 pages – but it’s a crucial one.
Keep the following issues in mind when you’re actually sitting down to write:
- ● Sales Tool. A proposal is a sales tool that the agent uses to sell the book to the editor – and that the editor uses to sell the book to the publisher and other editors, to the marketing people, possibly to booksellers and other publishers (for foreign sales), and so forth. You can’t be subtle and can’t be modest: if you are, at least half the people reading your proposal just won’t get it.
- ● Accessibility. In most cases, editors and publishers (the publisher is the business person who runs the publishing house – s/he’s the editor’s boss) are often very young, often in their 20’s or 30’s. So you need to try to make the proposal as accessible as possible. This means that you should consider using charts, side bars, graphics, tests, and so forth to make the proposal as interactive as possible, as well as to make it look interesting on the page: remember that you’re giving this to somebody who was raised on TV, so s/he may have a very short attention span. Of course, the extent of the “look” of your proposal really depends on the subject matter – so if you’re dealing with very serious subject matter, and we’ll be targeting an academic or very serious house, you need less of the “look”; but a more commercial house may require more bells and whistles.
- ● Complete & Concrete. Although the proposal is not supposed to be complete, you should also keep in mind that some editors are not that great at “connecting the dots” – meaning that you should try to make the proposal as complete, and concrete, as possible. Even if your vision of the book changes over time, you still want the editor to feel comfortable and confident that you know what you’re doing, that you can write the book, and you know how you’re going to do it. This comfort level is very important, and the more ways you’re able to demonstrate it, the better (for example, in your Chapter Outline (see below), you could estimate the number of pages per chapter – even if you really don’t have a clue how long the chapter will be, since you haven’t written it yet).
OK, now you hopefully have some general idea on what the proposal will do; here are the issues that every proposal should cover (you can use the sections as we’ve outlined them here, or modify them as you see fit):
- 1. The Hook. 1 Page; often optional. Depending on the material, it often helps to have something to immediately make the proposal accessible. For example, if you’re writing a book on who needs health insurance, maybe start with a test for the reader, on whether s/he needs health insurance; a proposal for disturbed kids may begin, “Does Your Child Need Help?”. Similarly, if the book relies heavily on your writing style, perhaps a brief single page excerpt might do it. Whatever you choose, you want something to immediately grab the reader and pull her in. Some editors say that they like to learn three or four things in the first couple of pages (especially in prescriptive nonfiction), so that’s another way of approaching this.
- 2. Overview. 1-3 Pages. Sidebars often helpful here. I like the editor to be able to find all the information right in the Overview. This is exactly like the “Executive Summary” of a business plan, if you’ve ever written one. Here, as clearly and briefly as possible, set out the highlights of the book: what it’s about, why it’s an important subject, who will be reading it, who the author is, what will set it apart on the bookshelf. Editors, when they’re interested in a book, fill out a so-called “Tip Sheet” that they pass around in Editorial Meetings. The Tip Sheet will include the following information:
- ○ Title and subtitle;
- ○ “Sales handle” or “log line” – a single-sentence description describing the proposal in a clever nutshell;
- ○ Production specs including estimated word count, approximate delivery date, and the need/availability for photographs, graphics, or illustrations;
- ○ A paragraph-length positioning “memo”, describing where the book will fit in the publishing world;
- ○ The most relevant comparative titles;
- ○ Other relevant marketing information;
- ○ A brief description of the author and the author’s credentials, including the author’s previous book sale history.
- 3. Author. 1-5 Pages; C.V. and previous publications can go in an Appendix. Who are you, and why are you the best person in the whole world to write this book? That’s the biggest question that a publisher will ask – these credentials can quite easily make or break a book sale. This is no time to be modest: include other books you’ve written on the subject; your advanced degrees; your media interviews; your lecture schedule (regionally, nationally, and/or internationally), your great personal marketing contacts (e.g., “I was Oprah’s Love Slave for years”); whatever – include them here. Your credentials may be nothing more than a passionate interest in the subject, which is also fine – but tell us.
- 4. Annotated Chapter Outline. Varies on the proposal, but plan on spending 1/2 to 3/4 of a page per chapter, assuming that an “average” book chapter will be 20 pages long, when complete. As clearly and concisely as you can, set out what each chapter will do, and how the book will be organized. Write it as interestingly as possible (so try to avoid “this chapter will discuss…”, which adds extra verbiage), in a style that mirrors the book itself (using the same tense, perspective, and so forth), but at the same time make clear to the editor that this is only a summary – that there’s a lot more material that you haven’t been able to cover.
- 5. Sample Chapter. 15-30 pages; may include several sample chapters, but that may not be necessary. Other than the Author’s Credentials, this is the most important part of the proposal. Show that you can write well, communicate effectively, organize your material efficiently, and keep the reader’s interest. Obviously what chapter you choose to use will depend on what material you already have available, but you want this chapter to be a representative (i.e., “sample”) chapter of the book – not an introduction, or summary. For narrative nonfiction (by way of example), you should show the editor how you address the following types of issues:
- ○ How characters are introduced and developed;
- ○ How facts and medical/expert jargon are dealt with;
- ○ How a scene is set;
- ○ The kind of momentum/pacing the book will have;
- ○ How dialogue and other “novelistic” elements are handled.
- 6. You’ve now dealt with the “personal”, most important aspects of the proposal; now you need to concentrate on the supplemental information to really sell this. In order to do this effectively, the basic premise to keep in mind is that you need to fit your book in with the rest of the publishing world. My break-down into three sections here is fairly arbitrary, but all the issues need to be addressed somehow.
- 7. Positioning. 1-2 pages, maybe less. Fit your book into the greater world of publishing. Find several wildly successful books on whatever subject – it doesn’t have to be at all similar to yours – with authors who have credentials similar to yours, with marketing contacts similar to yours, and explain how your book “will be the next” wildly successful book because it has a lot of “package” similarities. Be reasonable and realistic: find books by authors whose credentials really are similar to yours, with a writing style or world view or angle that is somehow similar to yours. “This is the Longitude for dog lovers”, and so forth.
- 8. Market. 2-8 pages; may include letters of support from celebrities, sponsoring organizations, etc. Who are your readers, and how will you reach them? Do you give lectures and seminars? Have a great web site? Any great publicity tools already in your pocket? (e.g., Dateline wants to do a special on you.) This tends to be a hard section to write, but it really helps if you’ve gone out and gotten information to give the publisher on how many, and what kind, of people will be interested in purchasing your book – it shows you’re a “go-getter” and will be effective at selling your book even without the publisher’s support. FYI – never rely on a publisher’s plans for publicity – authors always complain that publishers don’t do enough to get the book into the public eye, so you need to be your own best advocate. Show it here.
- 9. Competing Works. 1-4 pages. Go to your local bookstore and determine where your book will fit on the shelves – and then find the titles that are your book’s closest competitors. Show that the book has a niche – that the bookseller will know where to put it, so it doesn’t get lost and remain unsold. On the other hand, the book can’t get lost among dozens of other similar titles – so explain what sets your book apart from the others, why the reader will buy yours and not theirs. How you do this depends on the books, but you should never disparage another book (after all, it may have the same publisher/editor who will be looking at your proposal) – you should just explain why yours is different (meaning “better”). Complete the following sentence: “My book is the first book that…”
So that’s it. We know it seems like a lot, but when everything’s said and done, you’re writing one chapter, putting together an outline, and then putting on a lot of ribbons and bows to make this into an effective sales tool. Good luck!
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How To Submit - Fiction
Please review individual agents’ to find the right agent for you. Please do not submit simultaneously to more than one agent at Folio.
Step #1: Find the right agent for you. Visit 'The Team’ page to review agents or use our agent wizard to find the right agent for you
● Please wait until you’ve got a completed, polished novel or a complete nonfiction proposal with a sample chapter to query any of us. Our nonfiction proposal guidelines can be found here.
● Be sure that your cover letter, manuscript, and supplemental materials are properly formatted, and the best you think they can be: that means, at a minimum, double-spaced, well-proofed, well-written, and well-presented.
● Please contact us about one project at a time. You may have a drawer full of fabulous yet-to-be-published manuscripts, but only tell us about the one you feel is the most polished, the most ready to go.
Step #2: Contact the agent
● All agents provides details on how to submit queries. Please follow the directions
Step #3: Await Response
● All agents will read your queries as soon as possible. Most Folio agents will respond to let you know of their interest or to inform you of their decision not to pursue representation. If you do not hear back from the individual agent, please understand that the sheer volume of queries can be overwhelming and on occasion, it’s simply not possible to send a personal response declining representation in every case.
Additional information about submissions
How To Write a Query Letter
A query letter is the letter you write to an agent, editor, or publisher, asking if he or she might be interested in reading more of your material. Sending all of your material without being requested to do so is frowned upon in the publishing industry.
Above All Else, Proofread Everything.
Keep in mind that Folio’s agents only accept electronic submissions.
Your letter should:
● Be no longer than one page, if double-spaced and printed out.
● Have a catchy but professional introduction (how you heard of agent, great plot idea, etc.).
● Detail your experience (credentials for writing the book – can be professional and/or personal experience). Your credentials are crucial for nonfiction, and may be less important for fiction, but sell yourself. Nobody thinks it’s bragging.
● Include details about the project in a short paragraph. If fiction, one- or two-line “log line,” plus word count and genre, if appropriate; if nonfiction, a brief description of the project, plus finish this sentence: “My book is the first book that…”
Also include, if relevant:
● Links to press clippings about you or other books you’ve written (don’t assume that we’ll click on the link, but it doesn’t hurt to have it there).
● Anything else the specific agent, in his or her bio page, may request.
● Include attachments or force the agent to link to your Website to read sample materials – make it as easy for him (or her) as possible.
● Make the cover letter longer than one (1) page, if printed out.
● Mention other manuscripts sitting in your drawer, asking the agent to choose which one to see. Discuss only the best, strongest, most salable manuscript you have.
● Send it until it’s the best-written, tightest prose you can possibly write.
Sample Query Letter
30 January 20XX
Mr. Ian Successful
43 Literary Lane
Novelsville, OH 44022
[Include all your contact information, so we can reach you]
123 456 7890
Mr. (or Ms.) Wonderful Folioagent
Folio Literary Management
Re: My Dog Eliot
Dear Mr. (or Ms.) Folioagent:
[The Hook] You may remember that we met yesterday at the water cooler. [or, next best] I recently completed a novel that is similar to The Art of Racing in the Rain, which I know your agency represents, and I thought you might want to take a look at it. [or, next best] I read your listing in Publishers Marketplace, and thought that you might be interested in taking a look at a novel I just completed.
[Professional, or interesting personal, background of the author that make it clear why the author is the best person to tell this tale] I have been writing for the past twenty-seven years. My short stories have appeared in Playboy, GQ, and Martha Stewart Living. [or] I am an avid dog-owner, and have owned the same dog for the past twelve years.
[Information about the novel] My Dog Eliot, a novel of 97,000 words, tells of these experiences. [possible comparison to another novel] It is similar to The Great Gatsby only in that both novels are written in English.
Since I know you are an avid dog fan, I am writing to ask if you would be interested in representing me. I am attaching/enclosing [note: only attach documents when the agent explicitly asks for attachments]: an outline; synopsis; sample chapter(s); press clippings about my other published works; endorsements by (1) bestselling authors, (2) celebrities, (3) experts, (4) other people who really would be useful for endorsements.
[submission information] This is on a multiple submission. If you are interested in reading the entire manuscript, however, I will be happy to give you exclusivity for six weeks.
(Please note: Folio Literary Management does not represent poetry, stage plays, or screenplays.)
Please note that hard copies of any unrequested materials, either sent directly to an agent or to Folio in general, will be recycled, unopened, and not returned to you.
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1. An internship at Folio Literary Management is an educationally based program consisting of two parts: first, it provides a comprehensive introduction to the world of publishing through our weekly participatory workshop ‘Intern Academy’, a twelve-week seminar led by our agents with specific examples, stories, handouts, and practical information about the day-to-day world of publishing and agenting; and second, Folio interns will work closely with one or two Folio agents to develop the intern’s understanding of publishing through a variety of tasks.
2. Some of these tasks may include:
a. Learning to evaluate query letters and manuscript submissions;
b. Assessing the process of editing manuscripts and nonfiction book proposals;
c. Perfecting the art of the pitch letter;
d. Becoming proficient in the etiquette for communicating with authors, editors, and publicists; and
e. Analyzing the ins and outs of publishing contracts.
3. Depending on your interests (multimedia, international rights, publishing contracts, romance novels, etc.), we might even be able to craft an internship specifically for you.
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5. Currently, all Folio internships are unpaid, but given the strong educational bent of the internship, we encourage applicants to contact their affiliated colleges or universities to obtain course credit for the internship if and when possible.
6. At the successful conclusion of an internship, we can use our extensive network of contacts at major publishing houses and other literary agencies to help you find a job in book publishing. Former Folio interns have successfully entered the publishing world and are now employed throughout the industry from assistant positions at major publishing houses and literary agencies to global publishing conglomerates (Penguin, Little Brown, St. Martin’s Press, Grove/Atlantic, Curtis Brown, Donald Maas, Maria Campbell, Collins Publishers, Berkley Publishing, Henry Holt, John Wiley & Sons, ICM, RMT PR Management, NAL, WME, Market Partners International, etc.).
7. Ideal interns will be interested in both the business and editorial side of publishing. They should be proficient in Microsoft Office Suite (especially Outlook), exhibit strong research and writing skills, and have a keen editorial eye. We require a minimum of 16 hours weekly for both in-office and remote internships.
8. We offer internships three times a year (Fall, Spring, and Summer). If you are ready to apply, please submit the following material to email@example.com with the subject ‘SEMESTER YEAR-AGENT(S) OF INTEREST’ (i.e. ‘Fall 2016-Jeff Kleinman’) or through your university’s internship website:
1) A one-page cover letter (include publishing or office experience, availability and location during the semester, technical/computer-related skills, genre or position-interest)
2) Your resume
3) A list of the last three books you’ve read, as well as your favorite three books
4) A writing sample of fewer than five pages (literary analysis preferred)
Internships available for the Fall Semester 2017.
Chambliss, Jamie: I'm looking for an intern who's an avid reader of literary and upmarket/book club fiction and narrative nonfiction. The ideal candidate has exceptional organizational skills, strong attention to detail, and proven internet and social media skills. This intern should be self-motivated, comfortable working on a variety of projects, and eager to learn. It is also important that the intern be a careful, observant reader able to see a manuscript's weaknesses as well as its potential, detail oriented for organizational and special project purposes, and a strong, clear writer who is able to articulate those strengths and weaknesses in concise, well-written reader reports. The intern will scout for new writers, brainstorm nonfiction projects, and evaluate manuscripts and proposals, among other projects. Previous publishing experience is preferred. Candidates must be available for an in-office internship.
Cusick, John: I’m seeking an enthusiastic intern with a passion for great kids’ and teen fiction. You should be a reader of recently-published young adult a have a familiarity with pop culture, television, and movies. As my intern, you will be responsible for reading queries and requested manuscripts, writing reader reports, and handling some correspondence. An ideal candidate will be able to come into the office two days a week.
Harris, Erin: I’m seeking an energetic intern, preferably someone with a degree in literature or creative writing, who reads contemporary novels in the following categories: literary fiction, book club fiction, historical fiction, contemporary YA, and some narrative non-fiction. As my intern, you will be responsible for reading unsolicited queries, requested manuscripts, and literary magazines; writing reader reports and personalized pass letters; staying abreast of publishing trends and scouting for fresh talent. An ideal candidate will be able to come into the office two-three days a week.
Latshaw, Katherine: Katherine represents celebrity memoir, cooking, pop culture, health and fitness, humor, blogs-to-books, prescriptive and narrative non-fiction, and select fiction. Her clients range from Burt Reynolds to Lil Bub. She is looking for a driven, creative intern who devotes part of their day to a reading list that includes pop culture and cooking blogs, in addition to staples like The New York Times and The New Yorker. Interns can expect to develop book ideas, research markets, generate reader’s reports, edit sales proposals, attend meetings, and more. Katherine's interns will also learn what it takes to secure a position in the publishing industry post-internship. Prospective interns should enjoy reading on a diverse swath of topics, including memoir, pop culture, cooking, and commercial fiction and non-fiction. Previous publishing experience is a plus; excellent communication skills are a must. Candidates must be able to come to the office for a minimum of two days a week.
Hwang, Annie: Interns applying to work with Annie Hwang should read both contemporary and historical novels, primarily women’s and literary fiction, and also be prepared to evaluate some genre fiction. Responsibilities include reading and evaluating unsolicited submissions, writing reader’s reports for requested manuscripts, handling social media and any other special projects as needed. Prior publishing and/or social media experience is a plus; excellent communication and organization skills are imperative. Must be available for an in-office internship for at least 16 hours a week.
International Rights intern: This position is supervised by the co-directors of Folio’s International Rights department, Molly Jaffa and Melissa Sarver. You will assist them in the day-to-day handling of responsibilities related to the sale of international (translation) rights for Folio books. You will have the opportunity to observe how books of every genre are pitched and sold to international agents and editors (and have the opportunity to attend meetings whenever possible), develop a working knowledge of contracts and tax forms, and help prepare for the major international book fairs in Frankfurt, Bologna, and London. If interested, you will also have the opportunity to read submissions and write reader’s reports on manuscripts of various genres (this component is optional). This position is ideal for someone interested in pursuing an entry-level job in publishing, particularly in subsidiary rights or contracts. 24+ hr/wk availability preferred. Working knowledge of Word and Excel required. Required to work in-office.
Kleinman, Jeff: I’m looking for an enthusiastic intern, preferably with strong research, writing, and editing skills, as well as proficiency in MS Word and Excel - someone who’ll be reliable, professional, and able to multitask and prioritize. Equally important, you’ll be interested in the following types of books: bookclub fiction, memoir, narrative nonfiction, historical fiction, and inspiring (not inspirational) books that make you cry. As my intern, you’ll brainstorm with me for new book ideas; read requested manuscripts; work on new initiatives; and in general be more of an interested partner than someone just plowing through a slushpile. Ideally, you’ll be able to work a minimum of 20 hours per week - several days of which in our NYC office.
Niumata, Erin: I’m looking for a smart, organized, self-starter. I’d like someone who is into reality TV, likes cooking and crafty type things, loves upmarket women’s fiction, mysteries, thrillers and anything pop culture. Must be able to read quickly and send back decent editorial reports within a week. It’s important to be in the Folio offices at least 20 hours a week.
Posner, Marcy: Marcy is looking for Chicago-based interns to read and work on a variety of queries and submissions for both adults and children.
Silberman, Jeff: Jeff has a wide range of interests that include literary and upmarket fiction, narrative and prescriptive non-fiction, memoir, sports, humor, history, science, and technology. Interns applying to work with him would be asked to read and critique solicited and unsolicited submissions, critique and edit proposals, write pitch letters, pass letters, and reader’s reports, and research publishing and entertainment industry-related topics and personalities. Interns working with Jeff are also encouraged to generate ideas for books, and to identify talented writers in need of representation. Jeff sets up weekly conference calls with his interns so that everyone can discuss projects in development. Either an in-office or remote internship is fine.
Troha, Steve: Steve is a Senior Vice President at Folio and is looking for creative interns with fresh ideas for books that will appeal to a wide commercial audience. Applicants must be interested in fiction and nonfiction, including memoirs, politics, cookbooks, health, celebrity, and high profile projects. Interns will be asked to read, assess, and critique proposals and manuscripts, write submission letters, research ideas, and craft reader’s reports. His recent bestsellers include, Misty Copeland’s LIFE IN MOTION (Touchstone), Vani Hari’s THE FOOD BABE WAY (Little, Brown), Andrew Morton’s 17 CARNATIONS (Grand Central Press), and Andie Mitchell’s IT WAS ME ALL ALONG (Clarkson Potter). More information on Steve can be found here: http://foliolit.com/steve-troha/
Weimann, Frank: Interns applying to work with Frank Weimann should read a variety of commercial fiction and nonfiction, as his projects range from military histories to memoirs to YA fantasy series. Duties include reading and evaluating unsolicited, requested, and client manuscripts and proposals, and writing reader’s reports. Both in-office or virtual internships are acceptable.
White, Melissa: Melissa is looking for an in-office or remote intern who likes to read a variety of fiction and non-fiction for teens and adults. She represents authors in the areas of YA, literary and upmarket fiction, narrative non-fiction, cooking and food writing, business and self-help, and other prescriptive non-fiction. Duties include reading and evaluating queries and manuscripts, writing editorial reports, editing non-fiction proposals and researching new project ideas. Must be well read in contemporary fiction and non-fiction and have excellent written and oral communication skills.
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AboutFolio Literary Management places both fiction and non-fiction with major publishers throughout the U.S. and around the world. We represent many first-time authors, some of whom have gone on to become bestsellers and major award-winners. We also represent many well-established authors, and work closely with them to take their careers to new heights. Folio is proud to offer a full complement of literary services in a changing publishing landscape, and provide our clients with access to marketing services, website development, and media training that it takes to make each book a success. We are dedicated to supporting authors across all platforms, from film adaptation to enhanced e-books and apps. Although each agent has particular likes and dislikes, certain criteria make a project/author particularly well suited for Folio:
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