Writing Nonfiction Books (Part 22)

Publishing Process at B & H Publishing Group (Con’t)

Len Goss, who was Senior Acquisitions Editor at Broadman & Holman Publishers, now B & H Publishing Group, gives us his four basic steps that he used in reaching the publishing decision. Here are steps 3 and 4:

  1. Decision: If things look positive from the editor’s perspective, the project then goes to the publications board. This committee usually includes all the editors, the people from marketing, the sales team, various business managers, the publisher, and so on. The editor presents a summary of the manuscript to this group, and also present things like the author’s credentials, a summary of the critical reviews, his own evaluation, and a summary of the financial projections. Financial projections are done on all books. They include projected sales figures, an estimated cost for producing the book, and an analysis of projected cost versus projected sales.
  1. Contract: If most of the members of the publications board see the project in a positive light, then the standard “rich and famous” contract is offered to the author.

All editors have this in common according to Len: They are paid to process words into communication packages. They achieve this by getting the right idea together with the right author. It may be the author’s idea or the editor’s. But ultimately the rubber meets the road when the right idea gets into the hands of the right author. When this mix is achieved, the publishing house has a winning book.

There are thousands of book proposals received annually by each publishing house. To give yourself an edge, attend a writers’ conference and meet personally with book editors and agents to establish a working relationship with them. Then, when your manuscript crosses an editor’s desk, he can say, “I met her at the Write to Publish Conference and discovered her exciting idea for a potential book.”

This ends the series on “Writing Nonfiction Books.”

Writing Nonfiction Books (Part 21)

Publishing Process at B & H Publishing Group

Various publishing houses approach the editorial function differently. Yet, the main job of all editors is to find good manuscripts, develop them, and then sell these manuscripts to the in-house departments. Thanks go to Len Goss, who was Senior Acquisitions Editor at Broadman & Holman Publishers, now B & H Publishing Group, for his four basic steps that he used in reaching the publishing decision. Here are his first two:

1.Evaluation: The editor who receives the proposal is going to ask some hard questions about it. Does it fit squarely within the general publishing parameters of the publishing house? Does it fall within the mission statement? Is the topic timely? Is the topic significant? Is the manuscript’s readability level about right? Is it well written? Is the structure of the project coherent? Does the manuscript or the book idea stimulate thought and inquiry? Is it generally usable for courses in the typical curriculum? If so, which courses and at what level? Is this an economically viable book? Will it attract a reading audience?

2. Review: What usually happens when an editor’s initial response is favorable is that he or she will ask for the opinions of colleagues in the publishing house. In many cases, the material is sent to outside reviewers who are asked to read and evaluate the manuscript. The outside reviewers are chosen for their expertise in the subject matter of the manuscript. Sometimes manuscripts are sent to several reviewers, all in the attempt to determine the strength and weaknesses of the author’s position or presentation. When the editor receives all the reviews, he or she must then weigh them and decide whether to reject the project or move it to the next stage, which in most cases means taking it to the publications board at the publishing house.

Writing Nonfiction Books (Part 20)

The fifth and final part of a book proposal is the Sample Chapters.  Normally two or three are included in a book proposal. These are double-spaced and should reflect the quality and substance of your book. I suggest sending the first two or three chapters to give the editor a sense of continuity. Some authors prefer to send the first, middle, and last chapters; others prefer to include a chapter with specific significance. You be the judge regarding what is best for your manuscript. The chapters should be double-spaced.

It is important to keep your entire proposal under 40 pages. When an editor or agent first looks at your manuscript, he or she will probably only give it about 20 minutes. If it is too long, the editor will not be able to get a good overview in a short time.

Different publishing houses and agents have different requirements for writing a proposal. What I have given you here will be required by most of them, but they may also want additional material. Be sure to check the proposal guidelines for the publishing house or agent to which you wish to send your book proposal before completing it.

I think writing the proposal is the hardest part of writing an entire book, but a good proposal can be your ticket to receiving a contract.

Writing Nonfiction Books (Part 19)

The fourth part of a book proposal is A MARKETING PLAN.  It shows how you plan to market your book. Do you have a website? Will you blog? What social media do you use? How many followers do you have? In today’s market, it is vital that you market your own book and that a publishing house knows you have this capability before they give you a contract.

Here are my social media sites.

I post a weekly blog on my website at: www.Christiancommunicator\blog\

My Facebook address is: www.facebook.com/Susanosb. I currently have 2340 followers, most of whom are authors or people in Christian publishing.

My LinkedIn address is: www.linkedin.com/in/Susanosb/. I have 2412 followers on Linked-in. This is more of a professional organization than Facebook.

On Twitter: Tweet to Susanosb. I have 538 followers.

To be perfectly honest, I need to post more often on social media and develop more contacts. I usually only post once a week.

There are other social media sites, but I don’t want to spread myself too thin. Only set up what you can handle well.


Writing Nonfiction Books (Part 18)

The third part of a book proposal is a Competition (or Comparative) Analysis. Check the Internet at Amazon.com and Christianbooks.com for books similar to yours. Also check with your local Christian bookstore. Write an analysis, showing how your book compares to these other books and why you think your book will sell. Here is part of the comparative analysis I did for the book, Wounded by Words:

 Wounded by Words: Healing the Invisible Scars of Emotional Abuse will help victims recognize the signs of their emotional abuse. The subtleness of this type of abuse often leaves the person confused, or she may not even be consciously aware of the problem, especially if the abuse began in childhood and continued into adulthood. Wounded by Words is written by women who were verbally abused as children. Later the women married men who continued the cycle of emotional abuse in their lives. But Wounded by Words is much more than their stories. It includes the stories of many other individuals who, at various times in their lives, suffered demeaning, caustic words, causing a loss of self-esteem and self-worth. Skills for coping and Scripture references are provided throughout the book to lead the reader on the path to renewal and wholeness through Christ.

Healing the Scars of Emotional Abuse, rev. ed. Gregory L. Jantz & Ann McMurray, Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003, $12.99, ISBN: 0800758714. There are no bruises to yellow and heal, no gaping wound to point to. But, in spite of their invisibility, emotional wounds are a very damaging form of abuse. Whether caused by words, action, or even indifference, emotional abuse is very common—yet often overlooked. In this helpful guide, Christian therapist Gregory Jantz examines why emotional abuse is so common and damaging. He reveals how those who have been abused by a spouse, parent, employer, or minister can overcome the past and rebuild their self-image. This book is from the psychologist’s viewpoint rather than the victim’s.

The Healing Touch: A Guide to Healing Prayer for Yourself and Those You Love, Norma Dearing, Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002, $12.99,  ISBN: 0800793021. Our society is brimming with people suffering the effects of past abuse, rejection, physical illness, bad choices, and unhealthy relationships. Author and radio personality Norma Dearing has spent thousands of hours listening to and praying with those in need of emotional, physical, or spiritual healing. In The Healing Touch, she shares stories from countless people who have been set free from unhealthy relationships, unholy unions, addictions, generational influences, and physical illnesses associated with these. Wounded by Words focuses on just verbal abuse.

Beauty for Ashes, Revised Edition, Joyce Meyer, New York: Time Warner Book Group, 2003, $12.99, ISBN: 044669259X. A victim of childhood abuse, Meyer outlines the truths that brought recovery to her life and offers biblical advice to help you deal with emotional pain, grab hold of God’s unconditional love, and wait for his timing in healing painful memories. You’ll be encouraged by her journey from tragic youth to triumphant adult. This is one woman’s story of abuse.


Writing Nonfiction Books (Part 17)

The second part of a book proposal is The Chapter Outline. Keep it brief. Write a short paragraph summarizing each chapter to give the editor an overview of your book. This can be a vital tool for understanding the entire manuscript if the book proposal reaches the stage where it is considered by a publishing house committee. Some publishing houses prefer a synopsis of the book rather than a chapter outline. This is usually the case for fiction.

Here are the first three chapters of my chapter outline for my book, Wounded by Words.

Chapter 1:  Hurtful Words – Caustic words and demeaning statements can be as dangerous to our well-being as any weapon. People often use words that dominate and control when they feel insecure themselves. Unfortunately these words are often directed at close family members, often children, and the outcome is much pain and suffering. The tension resulting from these heated words often leads to the telling of lies by both parties.

Chapter 2:  Invisible Scars – Verbal abusers isolate, disorient, and indoctrinate their victims. Whether they are children or adults, the abused are usually family members. Depression, behavioral problems, and physical illnesses are a direct outcome of the emotional abuse. Often these results are not easily seen.

Chapter 3:  Distorted Self-esteem – Standing in front of a mirror reflects our physical image, but not the image of our soul. Often a woman who is verbally abused thinks others have a low opinion of her. The pattern of abuse creates a feeling of rejection and worthlessness. Emotional abuse is a learned behavior for both the abuser and the victim. It undermines the foundation of the family.

Writing Nonfiction Books (Part 16)

Here is a sample query (or cover) letter:


Dear Editor: (Send to a specific editor)

Wounded by Words: Healing the Invisible Scars of Emotional Abuse offers hope and healing through Christ from these unseen hurts. Women who have grown up with the harsh reality of verbal abuse understand the pain and suffering it causes. The results of this kind of mistreatment may not cause bruises and other visible injuries, but nevertheless, the scars are there. These scars remain in the heart and mind, causing fear, powerlessness, and dependency.

In Scripture, the stories of Leah, Joseph, Hannah, Job, Abigail, King David, Mary Magdalene, and Mary and Martha demonstrate examples of verbal abuse. How they overcame this invisible destroyer is encouraging to us all. These stories demonstrate how God dealt with emotional abuse in biblical times, and He expects us to deal with this issue today as well.

Accurate statistics are hard to find. But surveys show that emotional abuse exists in marriages and other family relationships, the workplace, nursing homes, college campuses, and many other situations. One out of four women admits to being verbally abused. In one study, 77 % of women reported emotional abuse in combination with physical abuse. In this same study, 43 % experienced emotional abuse as children or teenagers, and 39 % reported verbal abuse in a relationship within the last five years.

Growing up in an alcoholic home, Karen Kosman learned the pain of demeaning, caustic words. Susan Osborn also was verbally abused by her mother. Later both women married men who continued the cycle of emotional abuse. Once again angry, thoughtless words daily eroded their self-esteem. Gradually through Scripture, counseling, and God’s love, healing began. Today, both women are remarried to supportive, Christian husbands, and the cycle of abuse has been broken. Susan is a CLASS staff member and has published over 30 books. Karen is an inspirational speaker for church groups. Jeenie Gordon has dealt with numerous patients who have been verbally abused in her 30-plus years as a marriage and family therapist. She has published 10 books, one of which was a Gold Medallion finalist.

Wounded by Words contains 12 chapters filled with personal stories of people who have experienced verbal abuse. The issues these people have learned to deal with will provide hope and wholeness for those who are in the process of finding answers. We transition from one story to the next with inspirational thoughts, biblical truths, and practical advice for the reader. We invite you to join our ultimate mission of bringing understanding, hope, and healing to women who are struggling with verbal and emotional abuse.

Yours in Him,

Susan T. Osborn                                   Karen Kosman                   Jeenie Gordon






Writing Nonfiction Books (Part 15)

A book proposal is comprised of five parts:

  1.   A cover letter
  2.   A detailed chapter outline or synopsis
  3.   A competition analysis
  4.   Two or three sample chapters
  5.   A marketing plan

The Cover or Query Letter should basically answer four questions:

  1. Why are you qualified to write this book?
  2. What is it about (told in one paragraph)?
  3. Who is your audience?
  4. Why will this book be marketable?

Also, make sure the publisher realizes you are familiar with their house and sees that your book will fit into one of their book lines. This letter should be only one typewritten page if possible. The problem with most cover letters (and with most book proposals in general) is that they are too long and cumbersome.

I use the term cover letter and query letter interchangeably, because your cover letter should be a strong as your query letter. If your proposal makes it to committee, and I’ll talk about that later, most of the committee members will only read your cover letter. It’s quality can make or break a contract!


Writing Nonfiction Books (Part 14)

Book Proposal

 “You never get a second opportunity to make a good first impression. –Mark Twain.

Most publishing houses and agents want to receive a book proposal rather than an entire manuscript. A few publishers prefer only a query letter. An editor or agent spends an average of twenty minutes reviewing your book proposal, so it is imperative that you provide the correct material and that your manuscript looks professional. To determine the submission format for each publishing house, check the Christian Writer’s Market Guide or check each publisher’s writers’ guidelines online.

There are many different ways to do a book proposal. I am giving you the simplest form. If this is your first book, you want editors to read an actual chapter in the 20 minutes they will allow you. I would suggest trying to keep your proposal under 40 pages.

If an editor or agent requests a manuscript from you, then in that case, follow those specific guidelines. For example, New Hope Publishers, which my recent books are with, wants a very detailed proposal. Our first one was 54 pages, but keep in mind this was requested material.


Writing Nonfiction Books (Part 13)

Here are timelines on two of my books to give you an idea of how long it can take from the time you present ideas to publishing houses to the time your book is actually released.


Wounded by Words timetable: One-sheets and query letters, started marketing July, 2004. Was told we needed a professional involved.

Added family therapist as co-author and marketed proposal July, 2005.

New Hope Publishers offered contract December, 2005.

Book due to New Hope, August 1, 2006.

Original release date, August 2007.

Actual release date, February 2008.


Too Soon to Say Goodbye timetable:

One-sheet, July 2006

Proposal, May 2007

New Hope Publishers offered contract December, 2007.

Book due to New Hope, October 15, 2008.

Release date, July 2009.

This book was put on the fast track.