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How Is More Important Than Why

Anna Leinberger Posted by Anna Leinberger, Editorial Manager, Acqusitions, Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.

Anna is a writer and editor for Berrett-Koehler in Oakland, CA. More on killer book proposals and writing can be found on her BK Blog.

How Is More Important Than Why


At Berrett-Koehler, we believe books can change the world.  Our authors believe this, and they live their mission outside the writing they do in their professional lives. Hundreds more aspiring authors want to change the world, and send us proposals about why they too want to publish a world changing book.  There is just one tiny problem with this- Why is not enough.

What is really compelling?

The answer to “Why another sustainability book?” Might be “BECAUSE THE PLANET IS DYING!” Which is certainly the case.  It is an urgent need that many people are desperately trying to address.  In order to see a book, specifically your book, as contributing a valuable answer, however, we need to hear more than just “there is an important reason!” There are always important reasons for solving people’s problems, but ultimately the fact that we need to fix the environment does not help me to fix the environment. 

So How do I convince you?

Funny if you should ask HOW? Because the answer is to tell me how, in the proposal.  I want to know exactly how you propose to solve the problem you have convinced me needs solving.  When writing your proposal, the last thing you want to do is keep the meat of the book back.  Spend about a paragraph telling me why this issue merits a book, but spend a full half of the proposal building a rock solid case that demonstrates exactly what steps you and your readers need to take in order to fix the problem.

Not only does this convince me that you really know what you are talking about, it also makes for a much more engaging and interesting book proposal.

(Protip: You want a prospective editor or agent to find you proposal engaging, interesting, and compelling.)

Telling me what the book will accomplish is not enough- demonstrate for me HOW the book will accomplish its goal, and I will be much closer to picking up the phone to say “I think you have a book here!”