NYR iOS app Android app More

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Arielle Ford

Arielle Ford

Posted: June 23, 2010 02:44 PM

How to Create a Bidding War for Your Book Proposal

What's Your Reaction:

Linda Sivertsen is an award-winning author and ghostwriter, whose 6- & 7-figure book deals have been covered in the national media and hit the New York Times list. I was excited when she agreed to share her insights with all you aspiring and experienced published authors.

Fear is a killer.
It kills hopes.
It kills dreams.
It kills careers.
It kills relationships.
In a flash, it killed my parents.
It almost killed me.

Are you hooked? Good. That was the whole point. Life coach Rhonda Britten and I used the most tragic moment of her life--the murder/suicide of her parents when she was fourteen--to open her book proposal. It worked; grabbing editors and making them want to read on, in a hurry. First through the end of her hook page, and then into the play-by-play riveting Overview section. Within hours, nine of the biggest publishing imprints in New York were bidding like wildfire on her book, Fearless Living. It soon sold around the world, on the strength of that proposal.

That's the goal. Create something so fascinating or cutting edge or heart warming that publishing VIPs can't help but turn the page. Of course it doesn't have to be sensational or live-or-die. For instance, I also love this one...

Handwrites letters with a fountain pen. Dragon tattoo under tailored suit. Collects teapots. Skinny dips every chance he gets. Supports local artists. Business card: heavyweight paper stock, embossed, black on white. Tiffany wedding bands. Tango lessons. Conservative. Craves order. Fried blonde hair. Vaulted ceilings. Matte finish. Ambitious. Vintage dress slips, $1 from Salvation Army. An old farmhouse on ten acres. Gracious. Golden retriever. Goatee. Dances naked to drum 'n bass. Never diamonds....

Is it just me, or is that intriguing text? Yep. Little Brown and Company paid six figures for the proposal that started with this hook (for the stunningly beautiful book Style Statement by Danielle Laporte and Carrie McCarthy).

An agent I adore once told me that she rarely sees authors open with a strong hook page, and she's not sure why. I think people get intimidated, which makes sense. We're so busy writing our book (or thinking about writing our book) that the last thing that feels natural is switching gears to don our marketing hat. But don we must. Writing is rewriting, as the saying goes, but it's also something else... SELLING. We're all in sales. Plain and simple. You can bust your hump writing for an audience of three (you, Mom, and Rover), but wouldn't it be more fun to receive fan letters from people around the globe thanking you for changing their lives? Imagine getting on a plane and the person next to you pulls out your book! It's like being a new pop artist and hearing your first single on the radio. Rock star moments, baby.

An actual Hook Page may not feel like the right opening for your proposal. Perhaps it feels better to you to put your hook in the Overview section instead. That's okay. Just make it good. As in: Tight. Clean. Clear. Free from typos and jumbled sentences.

And, remember to play with it. Have fun. Even if your topic is serious, you want people to want to keep reading. That's the whole point.

Linda Sivertsen teaches weekly Book Proposal Tele-courses and writing retreats in Carmel and Breckenridge. To sign up for her next Book Proposal Tele-seminar, click here

Arielle Ford has launched the careers of many NY Times bestselling authors including Deepak Chopra, Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Neale Donald Walsch & Debbie Ford. She is a former book publicist, literary agent and the author of seven books. To learn how to get started writing a book please visit: www.HowToWriteMyBook.com