Let’s be realistic. You have no say in the final format of your book. You could describe a fully illustrated, four-color coffee table book and your publisher could accept your proposal and publish a text-only pocket book.
So what’s the point of a proposal section on format? It’s a chance to share your vision — your concrete, one-day-to-be-printed vision — with the publisher. And even though you might not get the ultimate choice in format, your suggestions send important messages.
Suggesting a format that is ridiculously wrong for your idea, ludicrously expensive to print, or downright impossible will mark you as an amateur, someone unfamiliar with book publishing. For example, let’s consider The Pop-up Book of Old Growth Activism, a hardcover to be created in full color, with pop-up cedar trees on each page combined with profiles of environmental activists. Here’s the problem: full color hardcovers are expensive, and pop-up books are most economically published in Asia. So, even if you can guarantee thousands of buyers (many thousands), you will still have to explain the contradiction between your wish to protect the environment and your wish to print in China and ship the books back.
On the other hand, sharing an appealing and realistic format allows you to create a vision of the book in the publisher’s eye. It will explain how long your book will be, and include any out-of-the-ordinary considerations. It doesn’t have to be long. When in doubt, go with the basics on this one. And if you’re going to refer to a specific book, as I do below, make sure it’s recognizable. In this case, I’ve chosen a book by a Vancouver author in a proposal designed for a Vancouver publisher.
This is a workbook-style project, similar to Sarah Ellis’s A Young Writer’s Companion. It should be softcover and large enough to be comfortably used as a notebook. Ideally, line illustrations and use of a second color would enliven the text.
I’m imagining 128 to 144 pages. The manuscript itself would consist of about 2,500 words of body text and an additional 2,500 words of sidebar text. And, because it’s meant to inspire activism, it will of course need to be printed on recycled paper.
To read more about this subject:
Proposal Writing 3: The Summary
Proposal Writing 2: The Outline
Proposal Writing 1: The Reasons Why