I am currently concentrating my non-fiction efforts in health and wellness, relationships, popular culture, women's issues, lifestyle, sports, and music. I am also drawn to memoirs that speak to a larger social or historical circumstance, or introduce me to a new phenomenon. And I am always looking for a work of fiction that will keep me up at night!
Queries are preferred via email. PLEASE no attachments until I express interest. For non-fiction queries, initial contact should just be a pitch letter. For fiction queries, I prefer a summary, your bio, and the first chapter as text in the email (not as an attachment). If I express interest I will need to see a full proposal for non-fiction and the remainder of the manuscript for fiction. I receive many submissions and regretfully can't reply to each one, so please understand that if you don't hear from me in two weeks it is most likely because the project isn't right for my agency.
For email submissions: Submit@ZimmAgency.com
For non-fiction works (except memoir), publishers do not need to see the entire manuscript. They buy projects based on a proposal.
The book proposal is the most important document you will prepare for your project. It can often serve to focus your ideas but most of all it should serve to succinctly present the entire arc of your project. It is important to remember that you are trying to convince an editor that yours is a story that hasn’t been told before and you are the best person to tell it. Be sure yours is an original idea, or told from a different perspective. Nonfiction books should entertain, educate and inspire. Or at least two of the three.
Book proposals vary widely, from ten to fifty pages. They can be straight narrative or mostly statistics. They can have extensive outlines or brief summaries. Your proposal simply needs to reflect your project effectively in the way you deem most appropriate. It may take many drafts before it is in good shape, but take your time! And don’t forget to proofread it carefully. This may sound obvious, but spelling errors or missing pages don’t send a good message.
Here are a few guidelines to help you prepare your proposal. Keep in mind that each proposal will vary, but none should be without the following:
Here is where you hook them. An editor will have a general sense of the project because she or he has been pitched by the agent beforehand, but this is your chance to show personality, writing ability, and a more detailed concept of the project. This can involve presenting the project as the answer to a large problem, talking about why you are so passionate about the project, displaying the urgent need for the information, or just telling an anecdote to illustrate your ideas.
The overview can range from one page to ten, depending on how you approach it.
Who are You?
Now is the time to convince the editor that you are the ideal person to be writing this book. We refer to it as an author’s “platform,” meaning how many people already know about you and how well you can get press and market yourself. Good platforms come in many shapes and sizes, but for example, a person who does 50 speaking engagements a year, has a national magazine column, and writes a blog has a good platform. Awards, teaching history, work experience – all of this should be included here.
If there are areas where you are not strong, consider getting a panel of experts to read the project and get blurbs from them, or have someone prominent in the field write a foreword for the book. Sometimes a co-author is appropriate.
Especially important. If an editor warms to a project, the first thing they will do is bring it to an acquisitions meeting in which sales and marketing folks scrutinize the heck out of it. You need to give the editor as much ammunition as possible in order to make it through this stage. Define clearly the audience for your book. If it is increasing all the time, say so. Talk about recent articles/TV shows/media that prove your topic is “hot.” Mention any and all special connections to groups in the field. Do your homework here. If you have ideas as to how to reach the audience, (besides “I think this would be of great interest to the producers of Oprah”) list them in this section. This is where you will be proving to the publisher how your platform will help sell books. It is never a good idea to forget that the job of this proposal is to prove to the publisher that they have a clear path to selling books. If they don’t see the opportunity, or envision the audience as too small or too difficult to reach, it won’t fly.
You need to research thoroughly any and all other books in your arena. The impetus here is to prove a market and define why your project is different/better. Make sure you are choosing books that are still in print and from major publishers. Go to bookstores, troll Amazon, talk to local booksellers. This shouldn’t be looked at as an opportunity to trash other works, but it is appropriate to gently point out weaknesses or faults. You can be general here, as in “all the other books on this topic are told from x point of view, and mine will be from y point of view.” Or you can go through book and book and point out the differences. When citing a title the format should be TITLE, Author (Publisher, year).
This is where the editor gets a sense of the overall arc of the project. Each chapter entry can be from one sentence to one paragraph, but no more than that.
In general I like to work with 1 or 2 sample chapters. The publisher needs a sense of the writing style and “feel” of the book.
In almost no case is fiction sold on proposal. Too much of it rides on the feel of the book. The plot can certainly be summarized, but the voice, the character development – these things can not. Works of fiction are presented in their entirety. But your biography is certainly something that makes a difference. Writing courses, awards, past publication, newspaper/magazine articles, blogs, and endorsements from well known writers all make a difference. Again, the goal is to show the publisher that your platform is sufficient enough to help them sell books.