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What to worry about, and what to let go

September 16th, 2010

Today in the nonfiction trade publishing workshop for scholars, we discussed some key differences between a prospectus and a proposal, and how to approach those editors whether they work at the trade divisions of university presses, or at trade presses (FSG, Knopf, Norton, Random House, etc.).

An author asked whether the sample chapter had to be chapter one, and I said yes because it’s so important to see how the book begins.  Openings are absolutely things to fuss over… an editor doesn’t want to hear “It really gets going on page five,” or “Chapter One is background, and Chapter Two is where I get to the meat of the argument.”

However, another author asked about the title, and I suggested that’s not as big of a deal in the prospectus or proposal stage.  Unless you have an amazing title in mind, it makes sense to give the project a robust working title that conveys at a glance what the book is about, rather than something fun or clever, but not necessarily clear.  Editors expect — at least at this stage — a working title only.

So worry about your opening, and don’t (yet) fret over your title.  More from the workshop soon when we post video clips!

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