Thanks, Dan, for your guidance and support.  You were completely generous in sharing your insights, experience and practical knowledge on how to develop a great query and a great story. Consulting with you kept me focused, organized and motivated. You’re a terrific mentor for any writer interested in producing top-notch narrative, non-fiction pieces.  

Jan Smith

Freelance Writer

Newark,  New York

The Proposal Factory

No matter how well you think you could write an article or a book, you’ll never get the chance if you cannot produce a truly attractive proposal. Editors at magazines and publishing houses are deluged with them.  Many read the first two lines and toss them aside. Yours has to hook the editor with its opening sentence, and then demonstrate, all the way through, that the book or story you’re proposing is not only a winner, but that you are the writer for the job.

It’s hard, but it’s not impossible. And here’s a little secret: Editors are desperate for good proposals. If they don’t have good books or articles to publish, they’re out of business. Editors earn points with their bosses by finding great new writers. So while they are demanding, they want you to succeed almost as much as you do.

My wife, Margaret Knox, and I have been earning a good living as freelance writers since 1987, writing for such magazines as The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and The New York Times Magazine. We have produced three well-reviewed non-fiction books. We are very good at writing proposals. In fact, the one that first got us into The New Yorker was, my editor there said, the best proposal he’d ever read; he uses it as a model when teaching classes at Columbia Journalism School. Here it is:

I’ll share others with you when we’re working together. Please also look at Wordwork, my blog about making a living as a writer, which contains a lot of good free advice.

I can help you produce proposals that will command attention.

Take a look at my articles and my four books: Smoke & Mirrors, Citizen Coors, Nine Lives, and Gun Guys. You can do anything I can do. All you need is a little advice and perhaps a swift kick.

Want to make a living as a writer? It all starts with the proposal....

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"Dan helped me ask myself questions that wouldn't have occurred to me otherwise, which is exactly what I needed to get started."

                                                -- Josh Hanagarne, author of

                                                The World’s Strongest Librarian,

                                                            Gotham, 2013

I worked with Dan Baum on my OpEd entitled “For The Love of Money” which was published on the front page of The Sunday Review section of The New York Times. Dan's guidance was invaluable in honing my message, and his incisive editing made the piece shorter, cleaner, and better. I could not recommend him more highly, and plan to work with him again in the future. 

                                                        -- Sam Polk