[Podcast] Caryn Rivadeneira on the Hard Work of Book Proposals and Her Writing Disciplines

1 developing the writer's mindset 3 honing the writing craft podcast post May 24, 2021

By Melissa Parks and Dave Goetz

There's the book idea. But first there is the hard work of book proposals. To grab the attention of the editorial committee and the pub board, the proposal needs to stand out. 

It's a craft.

Professional writer Caryn Rivadeneira learned the book proposal craft over two decades of writing and publishing 13 books for both adults and children. "Your proposal has to stand head and shoulders above all the others proposals to get a book deal," Caryn says.

A strong book proposal does more than just identify your thesis, structure, and comparable titles. It demonstrates why your book matters and why it matters that you are the one to write it. It can't be too general, nor can it be too eccentric (after all, it has to have mass appeal).

The hard work of a book proposal is foundational not just to publishing your book but also to writing a book. Caryn says that writing a book proposal before a book is fully formed helps her identify if her idea has depth--if it can be sustained over the course of ten chapters.

She says it forces the author to ask, "Is this really a book, or just a magazine article?"

When you spend the time on a proposal, you give yourself ample time to explore this question. Each chapter must  be substantial enough to serve a purpose in the narrative arc of the book.

The narrative arc, typically associated with fiction writing, is paramount in nonfiction writing, according to Caryn. You start with the problem--why you're writing the book in the first place. Then you continue to build a case for why the problem exists. Then you must resolve the problem with your idea. 

For Caryn, when she writes her book, she goes back to the structure of her proposal. While she hasn't answered all the questions in the chapter summaries, she has the big ideas to work with. And that simplifies the writing process. 

Whether or not you intend to pitch a traditional publisher, seek the support of a hybrid publisher, or self publish, crafting a book proposal provides a roadmap for your book writing journey.

Tune into today for more advice from Caryn on finding time for writing, what a good book agent does for an author, and why some writers prefer to self publish.