One thing that I’ve learned over the past twelve years of writing for publication is that there is a LOT to learn about it. It never ends. And that’s a good thing because that means I can’t be satisfied with my status quo. And it means that I’m keeping my mind active while I’m learning. When you start nudging that 70 years mark keeping your mind in top shape is a very real concern.
One of the many helpful things I’ve learned is how to write proposals for my book submissions. (Many thanks here to my buddy Jill Roman Lord and my agent Cyle Young.)
Whether you are sending your manuscripts out to editors or agents creating a professional proposal is important.
The bad news is that most every agency and publisher that I’ve contacted has their own guidelines for proposing fiction manuscripts and nonfiction ideas for books. Also, nonfiction proposals have even more requirements than fiction.
However, there are some basics that belong in every proposal. Let’s talk about those things.
A LETTER OF INTRODUCTION that is brief (no more than one page) and explains who you are, how you know of this publisher or agency, and what your story is about. Here’s a good place for your one-paragraph back cover copy or your tagline.
YOUR CURRENT CONTACT INFORMATION
YOUR BOOK’S WORKING TITLE, GENRE AND PAGE OR WORD COUNT
YOUR BOOK’S TAGLINE – a one or two sentence description of what your story is about (My Little Princess is the story of …)
BACK COVER COPY – a short paragraph that hints at what the story is about and hooks the reader’s interest in your story (When Joe Blow falls from a mountain and lands in a tree top his eyes are open to …)
YOUR BRIEF BIO – regarding your writing and publishing history – even things you’ve done for free in magazines, anthologies and newsletters. Include your blogging history also.
YOUR CREDENTIALS – this includes your education and your experience (including volunteer) as related to writing and publishing, your professional memberships AND any training or experience you have related to the subject matter of your book. (ie: If your story is about a girl and her horse include any training or experience you have as a horse rider or trainer.)
COMPETITIVE ANALYSIS – THIS is the hard part. Many of the agencies and publishers you propose to want you to do some research into books similar to yours published in the past four or five years. Note the titles, authors, illustrators, publishers and copyright dates. Then, note how each book is similar to, and different from YOUR book. Include five to ten books you’ve researched.
This is very time consuming and very important.
STORY SYNOPSIS – In two or three sentences BRIEFLY describe your story. Don’t give away the ending. Do use a hook to make your reader curious.
MARKETING STRATEGIES – here you list ideas you have for promoting and selling copies of your book when it is published.
Lastly, follow the publisher’s or agency’s guidelines about sending the entire manuscript, or the first three chapters, or whatever they specify.
KEEP IT NEAT AND PROFESSIONAL LOOKING. USE PLAIN WHITE PAPER, BLACK INK, A 12-POINT FONT THAT IS EASY TO READ. No sparkles or sprinkles or perfume!
Sounds like a lot of work, doesn’t it? It is! But one more BIG thing that I’ve learned is this:
If I can’t create these files or answer these questions my manuscript probably isn’t yet ready to submit. That’s a painful thought. But it is less painful for ME to discover for myself that my manuscript isn’t ready, than for up-teen rejections to scream in my face that it isn’t.
To request a list of online resources related to writing proposals please email me at email@example.com .