How do you physically envision your book? Do you see your novel as a jacketed 6×9-inch hardcover with a $24.95 price point? Are you writing a romance that you can see as a mass market paperback that someone can tuck in their purse or read on the beach? Or do you visualize something more fancy and eye-catching? Maybe a lenticular cover that flips between two images? Or a cookbook that comes in a recipe box?
We both worked for publishing houses (Chronicle Books and Running Press) where format was always up for discussion in acquisition meetings. Our publishing companies specialized in gift products, where a compelling package can be the deciding factor in a customer wanting to hug it and pet it and call it their own.
When it comes to your book project, we want to challenge you to think outside the box, or spine, as the case may be. If all the books on your subject are weighty, does a more portable, pocket-sized book make sense? Could you offer a unique material or special feature, like a waterproof fly-fishing guide or scalloped edges on a pretty gift book?
Different formats and/or bells and whistles to consider when developing your book proposal:
- Paperback vs. hardcover
- Dust jacket, belly band (a paper band that encircles the book, usually containing sell copy), or fold-out flaps
- Pocket-sized or smaller
- Wire binding (so the book lays flat)
- Larger type (for easier reading)
- Water-resistant pages
- Box or kit
- Book-plus (meaning is it a book plus something, like a toy)
- Die-cut trim (so book is a special shape, such as round)
- Special textures on pages (such as fuzzy or scratch and sniff)
- Pocket or envelope built into cover
- Special charm on a hangtag (a ribbon bookmark)
Thinking about how you can make your book’s format special or unique can help catch a publisher or agent’s eye, demonstrates that you’re a creative thinker, and may just be the thing that sets your book apart from the rest of the titles in your subject area.
When you compile your submission list, take time to dive into each publisher’s catalog. Do they have a pre-existing format into which your book would fit beautifully? Mention this in your proposal, as publishers already have pinned down the sourcing and pricing on these special specifications and will be able to assess your project with real numbers and real interest.
Taking the extra time to think of how your book looks, as well as what it says, may be just the thing that lands you a book deal and drives sales.