As one of the FT and McKinsey team that filters Bracken Bower Prize entries for our judges, I’m always pleasantly surprised by the overall quality - and I’m delighted a number of our finalists have managed to land publishing deals. Still, there are few do’s and don’ts worth bearing in mind:
DO give the judges a flavour of the book. Outline how the whole work would hang together, but try to write your proposal in the style that you would adopt, rather than in bullet points.
DO write as much as you can. Brevity is a virtue, but in this case you would be better writing 4,999 words than sending a few short paragraphs.
DO submit a book proposal - not a business idea or an advertisement for your company. This is not the place to get your business plan noticed.
DO think about the title - but DON’T agonise over it. Judges will look at the whole proposal. There are no extra points for a clever title. It will probably change if your book makes it to publication.
DO make your biography relevant. The judges don’t need your life story, but if you’ve done something that makes you particularly well qualified to write this book, make sure you include it.
DON’T miss the deadline. Some of our finalists admit they filed their successful entries with seconds to spare - like good journalists - but there are no extensions.
DON’T copy. We run longlisted entries through an automated check for plagiarism. Quotations are fine, but the computer won’t swallow large chunks of undigested text from elsewhere.
DON’T write in a foreign language. The optimist who decided submitting his proposal in Russian would catch the judges’ eye was sorely mistaken. English only, please.
DO have fun. Remember that we are looking for proposals for books that are “compelling and enjoyable”.
Andrew Hill is the FT management editor and helps organise the Bracken Bower Prize and the Business Book of the Year Award.