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The Nonfiction Query

I’ve talked a lot about a nonfiction proposal, but I’m not sure I’ve ever talked about what I look for in a nonfiction query. Thanks to a reader’s question, I will.

As I’ve discussed before, platform is incredibly important to nonfiction. Whether you’re writing memoir, narrative or the type of nonfiction I represent–business, current affairs, mind, body, health, and personal development–agents take your platform into consideration.

When reading a query, I want to see your platform. Yes, the book blurb is important, but who you are is just as important.

Breaking Down the Query

  1. Introductory paragraph. This is very similar to any cover letter. A short paragraph greeting that introduces you and your book, including the title, genre or market, and projected word count. The genre and market can be specific–a business book targeting entrepreneurs. It can also just say business book.
  2. Book Blurb. I’ve written a ton about this, but am also amazed how many nonfiction writers try to avoid this. You need it. If you were writing the back cover copy on your published book what would it say? This is your blurb.
  3. Bio/Platform. Who are you? This only needs to be one paragraph but should highlight who you are that makes you special. I want more than your credentials, I want media, workshops, speaking engagements, social media numbers, everything that makes you a name others recognize without any work from me.

Bio/Platform Sample

I’ll be posting more “how I pitched” posts that will include nonfiction to help you see samples. In the meantime, let me share the one I wrote for author Leisa Peterson. As you’ll see, Leisa’s bio was more than one paragraph and, actually, longer than the pitch for her book.

Introducing Leisa Peterson

As the founder of and the Art of Abundance podcast, Leisa helps clients and followers create abundant lives.  She has been featured in  The Wall Street JournalFastCompanyForbesThe Week and Huffington Post

Prior to starting her company, Leisa worked with and for some of the top financial services companies in the world including Wells Fargo Bank, Wells Fargo Advisors, State Farm Insurance, UNUM Life Insurance and New York Life.  In her role as a business development executive with these companies she has collaborated with brands including Federal Express, Pitney Bowes, Ford Motor Company, General Motors and Dell Computer to name a few.  During her 22-year corporate career Leisa has spoken to audiences of over 1,000 people.

Leisa’s Art of Abundance podcast and blog provide insights on money, abundance, and entrepreneurship.  The Art of Abundance podcast has received over 180,000 downloads.  Leisa has interviewed influential leaders including Dan PinkJonathan FieldsT. Harv EkerKristen NeffAnodea JudithBob BurgTom CorleyJohn Lee DumasAmanda Steinberg, and Barbara Hudson (Stanny) to name a few. She’s also been regularly interviewed on other podcasts including, most recently, Jean Chatzky’s. Jean has offered to blurb the book.

What Leisa’s bio shows is not just her experience and credentials, but also her connections, the media she’s already received, and the potential reach the publisher has when selling her book. That’s her platform.

Category: Blog


One comment

  1. Thank you for this informative blog entry. You continue to give out useful information for writers and authors and I think this deserves some recognition. No wonder you were named agent of the year. Congrats.

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