Well, I just did this, so I should know, right? ... *scratches head and thinks hard*
Okay, so basically I put together a cover letter, which was about 3 pages along and served as my "prospectus"--it included all that stuff about what is this project, who will it appeal to (everybody!), why is it important, and is it done yet. I followed some advice I received which said "mention recent important books that it's like" (the academic equivalent of the movie pitch: "it's like Lassie meets The English Patient, but the main character is Forrest Gump"...). Same advice recommended mentioning a few books on the press's recent list that it would fit well with...
Then, a CV.
Then, a table of contents and chapter summary. If the press specifically asked for it, I added to these a list of potential illustrations, and in 1 case a partial bibliography. Each of these things was a single page.
Then I considered the question of "sample text": if they asked for 1 chapter (or in 1 case, 2 chapters), I included exactly that. For presses that simply asked for a "prospectus", I included a 15-page excerpt. I think there was one press that specifically said "don't send us text", and I didn't.
That was it.
Part of what confused me, reading about the process, was that some people used "prospectus" to refer specifically to the "proposal" part of the packet, and some to the entire packet of materials, including the writing sample. And they all looked like they wanted such specific things... I just tried to streamline the process as best I could, and am keeping my fingers crossed.
Good luck! Hope this helps...
Well, yes, as I said, the presses I'm looking at are all specific about each of those areas and I plan to follow their instructions closely. What they Don't tell me is what needs to be in the cover letter (so I asked randomly). And, since I've never been trained to write chapter summaries, I asked about those too. Honestly, I am reading the authors-pages of the presses very carefully!
My chapter summaries are pretty basic, and came straight out of my introduction, so they basically just give shape to the project ("Part 2 is case studies; I have chapters on X, Y, Z, and A, and here's why it all fits together"). They don't do anything elaborate like say how done each chapter is.
In terms of the cover letter, I couldn't think of anything to put IN the cover letter except for my proposal ("Dear X, Please see attached proposal. Please like it."--as you suggest) so I just combined them.
(...That was 3 pages single-spaced, BTW.)
If it'd be helpful, I'd be happy to post a quick ¶-by-¶ walkthrough of my cover letter/prospectus thing.
Thanks, but by the sound of it, the presses/series you're sending to want something a good bit different than the ones I'm looking at (wanting a lot in the letter that my places all want in other parts of the proposal).
So I've read these, and they seem fine. Mostly, though, they reveal the depths of my ignorance about book proposals. In other news, what Beowulf do you use in class?
depends on the level, but I like Seamus Heaney's for intro stuff. Avoid the trans in Longman as much as possible.
Check. Thanks. Still trying to decide whether to use it my Viking class, given that it's not really a product of Viking culture.