So you have an idea for an illustrated gift book, or what we in the industry do not call a “coffee-table book”? How do you go about getting it published? In much the same way you would a nonfiction book, but with some key differences. I see lots of information on how to draft a proposal for a novel or commercial nonfiction, but I’ve seen next to nothing on illustrated books, the kind I work on every day, so I thought I’d lay out a few basics for the would-be authors out there. Please keep in mind that all the information you’re about to see is my own take on what makes a good proposal and I’m sure that others would have different opinions.
What topics do illustrated books cover? At their core, illustrated gift books are really just nonfiction. Add pictures or drawings, and almost any topic can translate. It’s not limited to art and photography, the topics traditionally associated with coffee-table books. In fact, some of the most successful titles are in fashion, interior design, cooking, craft, humor, pop culture, history, and nature.
What does an illustrated gift proposal look like? It looks a heck of a lot like a nonfiction proposal. Only with pictures. Your proposal should include a summary of your idea and a detailed section on your platform and bio as it relates to the project. You can also describe the specs you envision for your book. Is it an oversized, expensive volume with 300 images and a cloth case? Or a small, impulse buy with 150 images? If you’re not sure, it’s okay, but if you have very strong feelings about the look and size of your book, you should spell them out. Chances are editors will have their own idea about appropriate trim size and page count for your topic, but it helps us to understand your expectations for the book as well.
Then, you should include a sampling of images that would appear in the book. I know this sounds obvious, but you would be amazed by how many proposals we receive that have no images. How are we supposed to judge the merits of a visual project without seeing the visuals?! The number of images really depends on the content, but you should include at least 10-15. The best way, in my opinion, to send images is in a lo-res, emailable PDF. Don’t bother to “design” your images or lay them out as you imagine they would appear in the book. This can actually hurt your proposal if your aesthetic doesn’t match the house you’re pitching and it may be harder to see the potential in images if they’re over-designed. Simple, full-bleed images in a PDF are ideal for easy viewing and distribution. If you’re sending a hard copy, same rules apply. One large image per page is fine. There’s one exception: graphic design proposals. Since design is an integral element to your book, we do want to see designed sample spreads.
Do I need to submit a full manuscript? Wait, do these books even have words? Yes, they have words. (I have gotten this question. It hurts me.) (more…)