Part 2 in the series…..
The thought of writing a book proposal was really intimidating for me. I’d been sent a couple of proposals that looked so professional, and so much like their resulting books, I felt lost. At the time, this probably told more about the flimsiness of the ideas I had kicking around. But also, it indicated the simple fact that I didn’t understand how to get from idea to finished product, which paralyzed me.
Without someone guiding me through the steps, I’m not sure I would have found the sequential process that led to my own professional looking proposal that looked something, just a little, like my book. With the assistance of my agent, I took a series of baby steps that each built off the previous little step.
The first step was to write a table of contents. To do so, I opened up ten books about ice cream, and read their table of contents. They were rather similar, so I tried them on for size to see if they felt right.
Chapter 1- basic information
Chapter 2- recipes of ice cream
Chapter 3- other recipes of slightly different ice creams
Chapter 4- a third kind of ice cream just a little different than the rest
Chapter 5- yet more recipes even more slightly different than the rest
Chapter 5- recipes for things that go with ice cream
How people broke these recipes up is fairly telling about them and their approach to ice cream. Some people, actually many people, broke them up by the four seasons that inspire flavors. Others broke them up by emotions. When I thought about what broke up the flavors for me, it was very clear. I thought of my ice creams as Custards, Phillies, Sherbets, and Fro-yo’s. As for the chapter on stuff that went with ice creams? Mine were all add-ins, carefully balanced for frozen textures, all built in service of a highly textured scoop chock full of goodies. Which led to the final chapter, composed scoops.
As for the first chapter, basic information, I knew I wanted there to be nothing basic about it. I wanted to present all the information I use to understand and create ice cream.
I started by calling it “a field guide to ice cream” but we changed it to “the knowledge” as I started casually referring to the three main sections in the book as The Knowledge, The Recipes, and The Scoops.
Now I had a clear table of contents to work with, and from here I started to build the proposal. Here is the original table of contents I proposed. Things were added, and altered. For example, my early idea for the composed scoop section was to organize it by color. (In the end, the organization was entirely dictated by the art we had created for it, for example, landscape vs. portrait orientation, or wether the art spanned two pages or one.)
Section 1- The Knowledge
The five components of ice cream
Stablizers and friends
Section 2- The recipes
Frozen Yogurt bases
A rainbow of composed scoops-
With a working table of contents, I started to “flesh it out” adding which recipes I wanted in each chapter, and short paragraphs about what the chapters in The Knowledge would contain. I did the easiest work first and created a list of 30 or so composed scoops. From there I filled the base and add-in chapters with the recipes that would be used to create the composed scoops.
Every time I sat down in front of the proposal, I tweaked the chapters, adding flavors, deleting others.
Then, with the table of contents full, I picked a sample recipe and wrote it out the way I saw it looking in the book. Once I felt it was solid, I chose a few others and built them in the same fashion.
I chose a piece of the Knowledge section, and wrote sample text as well.
Now I had the core of my proposal following these tiny steps.
- research tables of contents.
- Build my own table of contents.
- Fill the chapters with content.
- Take a single recipe and polish it.
- Take 3 more recipes and build them like the first.
- Write sample text for informative chapters.
The remainder of the proposal included a bio of myself, press I’ve garnered, and photographs of my ice cream.
I had known early on that I wanted this book to be highly visual, and included Anna Posey, the illustrator I worked with in the proposal too. If I had met the photographer I wanted to work with at that early stage, I would have done the same. Likewise with a co-author if I had not written the book myself. This simply involved their bio, press, and sample illustrations from their portfolio.
The sample text for the proposal was speedy for me, as I wanted to be the writer. If you want a co-author and don’t have one ahead of time, the proposal will indicate this, and the copy editing portion of the proposal will be longer. Do find someone to help with this, while you can leave a lot about the writing to the imagination of the editors you are pitching this book to, you don’t want to leave too much or they might imagine themselves passing.
With all the content for the proposal completed, I sent it to my agent, who helped me clean it up, format it, and sent it to a proofreader. Then before I knew it, I had something similar to the proposals that had intimidated me so much.
I’m going to attach a link to my own proposal, so you can see it. There’s nothing to hide, most of it made it into the book anyways! Hopefully it helps any of you pastry chefs out there with a book idea get one step closer to your goals.
Here is a link to the proposal my agent and I sent out!