I promised, back at the beginning of the month, to send out a proposal to an agent. I feel unprepared, like a parent sending their child off to kindergarten for the first time. However, it must be done, eventually. I am a writer after all and this is, inevitably, the next step.
But, how do you construct a book proposal? How do you prepare your little beauty to step out of the nest with confidence?
As you might very well know, there are many ways to publish and I plan to try the Mount Everest of them–traditional publication.
The following is advice on, and an outline of, a basic book proposal. You might ask when is the appropriate time to write one of these and the answer is two fold. Non-fiction proposals can be both before and after the book is finished, but for Fiction there is no wiggle room. You must have a completed novel before sending in the proposal.
Please keep in mind that each agency, agent, and publisher, might have different criteria of what they need. Please see their submission guidelines before submitting. Also, do your research. Don’t spend your time sending your thrilling space odyssey novel to a nature magazine. Know who you are submitting to in order to find out what they usually publish. Otherwise, all of your time and mental strain over your proposal is for naught.
This is your elevator pitch. In two or three paragraphs write the synopsis of your book, What is this book about? This might be the only time you have the attention of an agent or editor so make them beg for more. Having trouble knowing how to write one? You can find examples of these on the back of nearly every book. Also, bounce ideas off your writer friends.
II. Target Audience
Who is the audience? Is it a children’s book? Is it a YA novel? Is it a picture book? Is there a market for it? If your work can reach a secondary audience name them as well. Basically, name all parties that might be interested in this book. Don’t be bashful, but be realistic. Your grandma will probably not be interested in your book on Weapons of the World.
III. About the Author
This is your time to shine. Who are you? What is your experience or credentials? Do you have a blog or twitter following? Do you have another platform? One thing to be encouraged by is if you are a first time author there are agencies that are looking especially for first time novelists. You don’t have to have 300 short stories published for someone to read your work. Though, it wouldn’t hurt.
If there is an audience, what other books are currently reaching them? Please do not say you are writing a YA book that reaches the EXACT SAME audience as Harry Potter. While it may be true, it draws unfair comparisons. Know other books that might be in closer competition.
If you are writing a Romance novel, read the back of every romance novel in your local bookstore then write down the ones that sound similar to yours. After this, go home and research them until you are the expert in what is selling, and how you can do better.
V. Marketing and Promotion
Unfortunately, authors are expected to do more for their sales in recent years, especially if they want to be successful. This means speaking engagements. This means book signings and radio or television appearances and interviews in the local paper or your favorite magazine.
This might sound both intimidating and presumptuous. The best place to start might be an author you know who has experience in these sorts of things. If not, ask the local bookstore manager how authors do book signings and even go to a few of them yourself. Then check at the library to find out what you need to do to get some talking time there. Also, if there is a local radio station or university that owns a radio station or television spot, call and talk with them.
Don’t forget your blog, Twitter account, Facebook, and any other social media/writing outlet you might utilize. All can be used for the promotion of your book.
VI. Sample Chapters
I don’t think I need to say a whole lot about this but the particular agency where you are sending your novel may have certain criteria. It might be the first two, three, or five chapters or merely a few of the best chapters in your book. Read the guidelines carefully and do EXACTLY what they say.
In conclusion, the one thing I would like to stress the most if I have not already is, be sure you follow the rules! Don’t deviate. Don’t be “creative” or try to stand out. Don’t reformat your proposal using cute font. Be professional and serious, no rose perfumed parchment. I don’t know how many times I have read or listen to an interview with an agent that said the reason a lot of novels are disqualified is because they are either not good, or don’t follow the directions in the submission process.
It’s Friday, (WOOHOO!!!) and this means there is only one more week to go on my self-imposed book proposal deadline so I had better get cracking. If you are ready to do the same, good luck my friend.