First things first: place the word “Overview,” bolded and underlined, at the top of this section, like this (you’ll start all your section this way):

You never get a second chance to make a first impression, and this is yours. Your opening section should be just 3 or 4 paragraphs long, and summarize everything about your book: what it’s about, who will buy it, why they will love it, and who you are.

For most of us, editing ourselves so severely is the hardest part of the whole project. We can talk and talk (or write and write) about what we’re passionate about, but whittling all that passion down into just a few sentences is murder.

The best advice I have? Imagine you are writing the back cover of your own book, or the Book Description on Amazon — those lovely little paragraphs that tell you everything you need to know about the book, and why you have to buy it.

Wanna know a little publishing secret? All the cover copy, back cover, inside flap, author bio, online description, even most of the press releases are not written by a magical PR team at the publisher. They are written by you. The author. It’s fun to think about a third party loving your work and waxing poetic about it. In reality, it’s you bragging about yourself. Looking at yourself and your work like you are a third party. The more you can get that done now in your proposal, the more time you’ll save yourself later in the publishing process.

A great way to get started:

  1. Grab a couple of your own favorite cookbooks and read their back covers/book descriptions online. Immerse yourself in the marketing language of the book overview.
  2. Select one that really speaks to you, that is similar to what you wish you’d already written about your own book, and type it up verbatim.
  3. Now go back and replace every sentence with your own information.

A perfect example is Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito’s Baked: New Frontiers in Baking:


    Hip. Cool. Fashion-forward. These aren’t adjectives you’d ordinarily think of applying to baked goods.

    Think again. Not every baker wants to re-create Grandma’s pound cake or cherry pie. Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito certainly didn’t, when they left their advertising careers behind, pooled their life savings, and opened their dream bakery, Baked, in Brooklyn, New York, a few years back. The visions that danced in their heads were of other, brand-new kinds of confections . . .

    Things like a Malt Ball Cake with Milk Chocolate Frosting, which captures the flavor of their favorite Whoppers candies (and ups the ante with a malted milk ball garnish). Things like spicy Chipotle Cheddar Biscuits that really wake up your taste buds at breakfast time. Things like a Sweet and Salty Cake created expressly for adults who are as salt-craving ?as they are sweet-toothed.

    Which is not to say that Lewis and Poliafito sidestep tradition absolutely. Their Chocolate Pie (whose filling uses Ovaltine) pays loving homage to the classic roadside-diner dessert. Their Baked Brownies will wow even the most discriminating brownie connoisseur. And their Chocolate Chip Cookies? Words cannot describe. Whether trendsetting or tried-and-true, every idea in this book is freshly Baked.

A few more tips:
As tempting as it is to slowly reel in the reader with a story, keep your set-up super short and sweet. As they say in the newsroom: “Don’t bury your lead.” To accomplish this, sometimes I start with a single overview summary sentence, and then launch into my story.

Don’t forget to include a quick introduction of who you are with any highlights of your experience as a writer, cook, media personality, or expert in the field (and yes, being a parent or teacher makes you an expert!).

And list some of your best recipes by name with quick descriptions of what makes them great.

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