Wednesday, September 7, 2011

How To Put Together a Good Art Book Proposal

Like all reputable publishers, my employer offers, on its website, a handy batch of submission guidelines, letting folks know what elements to include in their book proposals, how to send them in to us, etc. But it's the nature of such documents to have to cover a lot of ground--they must be general enough to encompass what to put in a cookbook proposal, a humor book proposal, a parenting book proposal, or whatever the case may be. Which is why I often hear from artists that they're a bit unclear about what I really need to see in order to evaluate their project. And so, a little cheat sheet, in three easy steps:

1. Visuals: First and foremost, I need to see the art. A representative sampling of images (twenty is usually a good number) that shows the scope of what you're doing and that can be looked through easily. That last word is of paramount importance. Make it hard for the editor to review your work, and you're work will be getting reviewed by a cranky editor. And no one wants that. Nice quality laser prints or easy-to-open electronic files, either one is fine. Avoid common pitfalls: overkill (huge portfolios of dozens of fine art prints that come with little white cotton gloves in the box, myriad unlabeled disks, etc); underkill (photo prints from the drugstore, crummy home printouts, etc); technical difficulties (DVDs--not every computer has a DVD drive--software specific file types, Mac- or Windows-only files).

2. Text about the project: What is the book? If it's a monograph, photobook, or other fine art book, this could be a draft artist's statement. If it's a how-to book or other book where text accompanies the images, this could be an outline and a short sample text piece. This is also the place to make it clear what you're envisioning; to talk about where and why and how the images where made; how many of them there are; how you imagine them being presented; what your general concept and thinking behind the project are. Common pitfalls to avoid are long-windedness on the one hand, and skipping this step entirely on the other. A page or two should suffice.

3. Text about you: Include a brief author/artist bio detailing your career highlights up to now (previous books, websites, media, exhibitions, etc). Also detail your "platform." That may sound like a buzzword (because it is) but all it really means are the things that will help you to promote and publicize your book, be they statistics like the number of visitors to your website (don't inflate with non-unique hits), number of Facebook likes, number of Twitter followers, etc, or life nuggets like your upcoming gallery or museum shows, relationships in the media, potential sales outlets for the book, etc. Don't worry if you don't have all of the above--almost no one does--just talk about whatever's relevant, whatever's great about you that I can't see in the images.

Extra Credit. Comps: I'll do this if you don't, but if you want to make my life easier you can list the other books out there on the same or similar subjects (bonus points: make a distinction between which ones were published by the publisher you're submitting to, and which ones are from other houses).

And that's it! Happy proposing!

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