Sample Book Proposal
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sample extended outlines.**)
by Michael A. Banks
It is the dream of nearly every writer (and would-be writer) to write full-time. I know, for it was a dream I pursued for 12 years, until making my own break in March, 1983. I know the dream well, from living with it and from the words of thousands of other writers.
And I know well the life of a full-time writer. Like many dreams viewed in often-harsh light of reality, writing full-time is not what most expect. It's not an easy life, even when you have a bestseller on your hands. There are things about it I hate, just as I hated of the obstacles and detours I encountered on the road to making the dream a reality. But, had I known in advance of obstacles, I would have followed the same road. The only difference would have been that I could have avoided most of the unpleasant encounters along the way.
Had the book I am proposing herein been available in 1981, when I first started my journey from dream to reality, I would certainly have bought it. I would have bought this book because I had made my decision to write full-time, and needed all the help I could get. And I would have bought it 10 years earlier, when I was just starting out, with only a couple of article sales under my belt, because even then the idea of writing full-time seemed attractive.
Unfortunately, this book wasn't available then. So I learned how to be a full-time writer the hard way. To be sure, I had advice from other full-time writers--from freelance columnists to Stephen King--but none were able to really convey the feeling of writing full-time, and none could lay out each and every detail or each and every aspect of the writing life. (This was due more to lack of time than anything else, though some full-time writers cannot really teach others about writing, and others do not want to talk about "the hard parts.")
In Breaking Away, I intend to lay out those details, and let the reader feel what it's like to write full-time. Further, I will help the reader determine his or her readiness for the challenge, and help him or her make all the preparations necessary--up to and including making the Decision. I'll also show the reader how to survive as a full-time writer. To return to the metaphor I used a few paragraphs back, I'm giving the reader a map of the territory--and putting up road signs. Most of what I have to say will be from my own perspective, but I'll not leave the reader with a single viewpoint. (My own
memories of what it's like to be wanting to learn won't allow me to do that!) I'll temper my own viewpoint with the experiences of other full-time (and former full-time) writers, in quote and anecdote. I'll also quote professionals in various fields of importance to the would-be full-time writer--psychologists and bankers, for example.
This book will be honest and pragmatic, in its accounts of the experience and in its advice to the reader. The reader won't like some of what I'll have to say, because it may be at odds with what the reader hopes for, but the reader will know that I'm being honest and providing sound advice.
I've several goals in writing this book, some implied by the foregoing. I want to help those making the break avoid certain pitfalls, if possible. I want to let the reader know what it's really like to be a full-time writer, and what it takes to be a success at writing full-time. I also want to show the reader that writing is in large part as pragmatic an enterprise as any form of self-employment, and that talent and hard work often aren't enough. (Along with that, I intend to show the reader that lack of success in writing full-time isn't necessarily a sign of failure.) Finally, I want to help the reader who does make the break survive as a writer--whether it's as a full-time writer, or as a former full-time writer returning to writing on the side.
The accompanying outlines of Breaking Away detail the book's content, but here's a summary:
* Part I, "Previews," introduces the idea
of full-time writing as a career and shows
the reader what it's like.
The three chapters in this section also tell
the reader what to expect, and show the
reader what I and other full-time writers
have experienced in making the break.
This section also touches on what it takes
to write full-time.
* The six chapters in Part II, "Preparations
and Going for It," show the reader exactly
what to expect as a full-time writer, detail
ingredients for success, help the reader
assess his or her ability to make it full-time,
and give the reader step-by-step
instructions on planning for, preparing for,
and making the break. (Those instructions
cover the both personal and professional
elements.) The section wraps up with a
chapter covering how and when to make
the final decision, and how to actually do it.
* Part III, "Now that You're on Your Own,"
deals with the aftermath of the break and
staying alive as a writer. (That's "staying
alive," in more than one respect.) In four
chapters, this section shows the reader
how to make the transition and handle the
inevitable disturbances that accompany it.
It also shows the reader how to deal with
cash flow, accounting, taxes, and other
Surviving professionally is covered in a
chapter on marketing that covers not only
how to market one's work, but also how to
develop oneself as a marketable
The final chapter gives the reader some
detailed plans for generating income as a
writer in non-traditional ways (that is, in
ways other than selling to book and
magazine publishers), and how to pick up
extra emergency income.
An Afterword gives the reader some
additional advice on making the decision
and living with it, as well as how to deal
with the possibility of returning to the
workaday world. The Afterword gives the
reader a close look at my perspective on
the good and bad elements of writing
full-time, and why I'm still at it despite job
Two appendices point out resources of
special importance to full-time writers,
including organizations for writers and the
self-employed, online writers' networks,
and books and magazines of special
interest to the full-time writer.
Note that I will be specific with numbers,
formulas, and other aspects of writing
Style and Approach
The style will be informal, "me-to-you," throughout, addressing the reader in second person. I intend to be entirely candid about feelings, money, experiences, and more (though I'll certainly not push this to the point of "naming names," or anything likely to cause legal problems).
The up-front approach is intended to give the reader a hands-on guide that shows rather than tells. My own experiences, descriptions, anecdotes, and commentary will be supported by quotes from well-known writers working in a number of fields, as well as the aforementioned non-writing experts.
The overall tone of the book will be positive and "up," though realistic. I want to encourage the reader to keep on writing and work toward writing full-time.
I have been writing full-time since March, 1983; I began writing with intent to publish early in 1971, and first saw print in a national publication three months later. My publishing credits include 36 books (several in multiple editions), more than 3,000 magazine articles and columns, and 41 short stories. My books have received favorable reviews in publications ranging from The New York Times to the Smithsonian Magazine to The National Review.
My work has appeared in reprint and in original in the U.K., Japan, Spain, and South America. (I'm currently writing monthly columns for several publications--one in Japan.) In addition to writing books and magazine material, I've written ads, brochures, catalogs, and cover copy. I've also evaluated and edited novels and non-fiction books, and have agented my own work and that of others.
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