Book Proposal Questions

“We work in the dark – we do what we can – we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion, and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.”

Henry James, The Middle Years

While I think over what James meant about doubt and passion, I continue to work on a book proposal. It is nervy stuff. Without a style sheet to go by I am making decisions that might jeopardize my chances for a good review.

All book proposals demand a sample chapter. I get that. But how long should that chapter be? At this late hour I fear I need more words for my sample, even though I’ve told the story in the amount I used. I have 4,700 words. Gleanings from the net suggest I should have 10,000. Perhaps I should have worked up two chapters. Hmm.

Proposals should be double spaced. I get that, too. But that means a space between paragraphs should be four spaces. Two hits of the return key, not one. Without additional spacing, how else could you tell your paragraphs apart? Yes, indenting would work. But how many spaces for the indents? Three? Five? Most web pages I’ve read say indents aren’t wanted. What is wanted is unformatted text. Like an ASCII text file.

What about sidebars and callouts? How to note photographs, figures, and tables? In each case the general rule is to have double spacing at the beginning and ending of sidebars and double spacing as well for images. Leave out the image itself and simply include the caption. 1 inch margins all around. Until you find your header is sitting at .5 inches, requiring the top margin to actually be 1.25 or 1.5 inches.

The resulting sample chapter I have looks so awkward and full of wandering white space that I prepared an additional file for my proposal. This .pdf file is formatted with all of the photographs and maps I’d like to see used. My thought is the publisher can ignore this document if they want. But it gives them a chance to see all the images that are not in the bare bones sample chapter. I hope they are not offended. I don’t want to make it seem like I am designing the book for them. Sigh.

“Our passion is our doubt.” So says James. Right now I have plenty of passion.

Henry James

About thomasfarley01

Freelance writer who specializes in history, technology, and human interest stories.
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