Round-Table Session: Book Proposals that Sell

Our April 5th meeting featured six different round tables. This post is the fifth of six describing the different sessions. This round table featured Judy Bodmer, author of two books, WHEN LOVE DIES: HOW TO SAVE A HOPELESS MARRIAGE (Word 1999) and WHAT’S IN THE BIBLE FOR MOTHERS (Bethany House 2007).

Judy BodmerJudy Bodmer’s articles have appeared in Reader’s Digest, Chicken Soup for the Mother’s Soul, Moody Magazine, Today’s Christian Woman, Marriage Partnership, and numerous others. She speaks nationally on topics as varied as marriage, divorce, parenting, and writing. She is currently the director of Northwest Christian Writers Renewal Conference and the Treasurer of NCWA. She is also a freelance copy editor. Judy has been married to Larry Bodmer since 1969 and they are the proud parents of two sons. Visit her web site at

Wouldn’t it be nice to simply write a manuscript, send it to an editor or agent, and have it accepted without having to write a strategy or proposal? Keep dreaming. However, if you’ve already awakened to the reality that your book will generate no interest without a solid proposal, then I urge you to follow Judy’s advice. Using several sources (Terry Whalin’s BOOK PROPOSALS THAT SELL, WRITE THE PERFECT BOOK PROPOSAL by Jeff Herman and Deborah Adams Herman, and Jacqueline Deval’s PUBLICIZE YOUR BOOK), Judy outlined a winning strategy to develop a strong proposal.

The first highlight of the round-table discussion came when Judy illuminated this reality: make it as easy for the editor or agent as possible. Whether you write fiction or non-fiction, you must remember that an editor or agent has to fight through piles of papers and strings of emails. The easier you make it, and the more user-friendly you are, the better chance you have of someone reading your manuscript.

Another issue tackled: location, location, location. Get thee to a writer’s conference. The massive influx of book proposals has so overwhelmed the publishing houses that many editors will not consider or even look at an unsolicited manuscript. However, it does not mean that they’ve abandoned all new writers and new ideas. What a writer’s conference provides, as Judy put it, is an opportunity to look an editor or agent in the eyes, a chance to get to know them face to face. When you have the opportunity to develop a relationship with an editor or agent, your proposal takes on a personality—your personality.

A third reality in writing a winning proposal: develop a viable marketing strategy. “God told me to write it and so He will sell it” is not a winning marketing strategy. An editor or agent wants to know that you have not only a desire to write but also a plan to help promote and sell your book. Ask questions like: who is the target audience, what is the “takeaway” from the book, what perceived needs are met with this book, who else has written on this topic, and why is mine different/better? Personal marketing is very big in this day and age so express how you can stand on or build a platform for your work.

Judy covered both fiction and non-fiction proposals, and her outline addressed all the mechanics necessary to build a winning presentation. She structured her outline from Terry Whalin’s book and strongly recommends it as a source of guidance. Three principles to live by when writing your proposal: make it easy for the editor/agent, make a personal connection, and develop a market strategy. One final encouragement: if you want to publish books, become skilled at writing good proposals.

Michael DuncanPastor Michael Duncan has spent over twenty years preaching and teaching God’s word. He has spoken at churches and events across the U.S. and in two different countries. Rev. Duncan has served on staff in four churches and currently is the pastor of Mountain View Baptist Church in Darrington, WA. Michael has been a member of NCWA since 2008. He is an alumnus with the Christian Writer’s Guild, an occasional contributor to the MBBA section of the Northwest Baptist Witness, a contributor to the blog, Author Haven, and the author of the blog, From the Mountain. His first book, STARTING OUT: A STUDY GUIDE FOR NEW BELIEVERS, will be released soon. You can contact Michael at his web site


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