A Nonfiction Writer’s Audition for Our Agency

Every word in a nonfiction proposal has to be right. The sample chapter has to be as enjoyable to read as it is informative. The proposal has to generate as much excitement as possible
in as few words as possible. But even that may be a small part of the challenge for arousing the interest of agents.

Here is what I email to new nonfiction writers who want to submit a proposal to our agency. I hope it gives you a perspective on what it takes to excite New York publishers about books from new writers:

A book is like an iceberg: Writing is 10%; marketing is 90%. –Chicken Souperman Jack Canfield

Many thanks for writing about your book. Somebody is going to publish it. Out of necessity, our goal is to sell books to New York houses, and they want writers with a platform and a strong promotion plan. So the challenge is to maximize the value of your book before you sell it. Because it’s harder for publishers to launch new authors, publishers want authors who are ready to launch themselves. As agent Rita Rosenkranz says, publishers aren’t buying promise, they’re buying proof. Because we can usually tell from a platform and a plan if we can help a writer, that’s where we like to start.

The plan in your proposal will follow “The Author’s Platform,” a list in descending order of impressiveness of what you have done and are doing, online and off–including numbers when
possible–to give yourself and the subject of your book continuing visibility with potential book buyers. A plan shows how you will use your platform to sell books. Editors won’t believe a plan unless it makes sense based on what the author is already doing.

Your plan starts under the subhead “Promotion” and begins like this: “To promote the book, the author will:…” This is followed by a bulleted list of what you will do, online and off, in
descending order of impressiveness, and when appropriate, how many of them. Begin each part of the list with a verb.

Numbers are very important to publishers. For example, having a blog and writing “Will give talks” won’t help. Publishers will want to know how many people read your blog and how many talks you’ll give and to how many people, which, again, has to be based on what you’re already doing.

If one of your goals is being published by a New York house, you’re welcome to email me just your title followed by your platform and promotion plan, written
as I’ve suggested, in the body of a letter, not as an attachment,
followed by your query letter, whenever they’re ready. Regard your ability to follow these suggestions is a compatability test. Please call me at 415-673-0939, Monday to Thursday, 11 AM-4 PM, California time, if you have questions.

If you haven’t already done so already, please check the helpful information www.larsenpomada.com. My book, How to Write a Book Proposal has more information about promotion and building a platform.

If I can’t help you as an agent now, our site describes how I may be able to help you as a consultant.

Hope we can help.

Mike Larsen


If your goal is to be bpublished by a small or midsized house outside of New York, you may not need this ammunition to sell your book, and these publishers buy books directly from writers.  But it’s important for you to find books and authors to use as models for your literary and financial goals. Go for it!

I write the blog to help us both understand what we need to know about writing, publishing, promotion, and agents. I hope you find it worth reading and sharing. Rants, comments, questions, corrections, and ideas for posts greatly appreciated.

The 9th San Francisco Writers Conference / A Celebration of Craft, Commerce & Community / February 16-20, 2012 / www.sfwriters.org / [email protected] / https://sfwriters.info/blog / @SFWC / www.facebook.com/SanFranciscoWritersConference / 415-673-0939 / 1029 Jones Street / San Francisco, 94109

San Francisco Writers University / Where Writers Meet and You Learn / Laurie McLean, Dean / free classes / www.sfwritersu.com / [email protected] / @SFWritersU




  1. Mike Larsen says:

    Many thanks for writing. Glad you found the post helpful. Please write or call with questions. Best of luck with your writing.


  2. Dear Mr. Larsen – They say timing is everything, and reading your Blog tonight was perfect. I had begun to research how to find help with a book proposal and ended up on your website, which I enjoyed very much. I am going to send you an email with a quick question about something I read on your website. Thank you so much for your honesty about the process of becoming a published author. Have a great evening.



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