Nonfiction differs from fiction in that it’s not necessary to complete your entire book in advance of querying. This can be good or bad depending on your point of view, especially if you also write fiction and are accustomed to writing, rewriting, rewriting again and then querying the finished product. As primarily a novelist, this has been challenging but not impossible, especially since this particular story is so personal.
The linchpins of a great nonfiction book proposal are your sample chapters. While there are many facets to the proposal and all have their place in the eyes of an agent or editor, the sample chapters can often make or break your proposal. Your idea may be incredible but without the backing of great writing, it will fall flat. This is no different than the first pages you submit with a fiction query. The writing can often close the deal.
The idea must still be solid, something an agent or editor can really grab hold of and believe in. Don’t forget that. But the time you take to write & rewrite your sample chapters completes the entire package.
For those who write nonfiction, please tell us about your experiences writing sample chapters. We all have something to share and I’d love to hear from you.