A surprising number of authors find crafting a proposal is a great deal harder than it is to write a a course in miracles videos. Most of us are poor salespeople, but strong writers, and that’s what is needed make an agent or publisher hunger for your masterpiece. The proposal is the show piece that allows you to move up to the next rung on the publishing ladder.
When To Propose
A propos not required if your book is a novel, but key parts of it can be very helpful in convincing the agent or publisher that representing your book will be profitable. It gives you the chance to outline the market for the book and the way you intend to reach those readers, and that information is extremely important to a publisher. Complete proposals are a must when your book is nonfiction. The reason for this difference should be obvious. The key to a novel’s success is its style, pace and characterization. These cannot be relayed in a proposal. Conversely, the principal element in most nonfiction books is content, and that can readily be demonstrated.
Your nonfiction proposal can be submitted well before you complete your book. You will need several sample chapters to send as part of the proposal. No fiction manuscript will be finally accepted until it can be read in its entirety, although an agent may ask for a synopsis of your novel prior to receiving the completed book.
Sell, Sell, Sell
The proposal is really a major expansion of your query letter. Now that the query has opened the door, it is essential that you seize this opportunity to give the agent or publisher the confidence that your book will be a profitable investment. The key question is always whether or not a profit can be made. Therefore, flowery praises from family and friends have no place in the proposal. Nor do meaningless adjectives. Only hard facts will sell. Your proposal must offer:
* A solid analysis of the market for your book.
* An evaluation of the competition your book faces.
* The uniqueness of your book.
* The effort you will undertake to build sales for the book.
These are the issues that matter, and must be described thoroughly.
Setting It Up
There are many sources to guide you as you develop your document. Look for Michael Larsen’s How to Write a Book Proposal, Peter Rubie’s Writer’s Market FAQ’s or many of the other guides that you can locate on the Internet. As Michael Larsen points out in the opening of his book, publishers are hungry for new books and new ideas. “The challenge,” he points out, “is to get the proposal to the right editor at the right publisher at the right time.” I would add that it must be the “right” proposal. One that both describes the book and entices the agent who reads it.
What To Include
Opinions vary somewhat among the experts on the sequence of the different segments of the proposal, but all generally agree on the overall content and that the document must be looked upon as a selling tool. The average book proposal runs between 35 and 50 pages. It should be sent with a very brief cover letter that serves principally as an introduction to remind the agent who you are.
Title Page: Place your contact information in the top left hand corner. The book’s title and author’s byline should appear about half way down the page.
Table of Contents: There should be a TOC to help direct the reader through a proposal of this many pages. It should contain a brief description of each chapter.
Hook: You should make every effort to develop a powerful hook (also called tagline) for your book. This should be a short statement about the book preferably in one, but never more than two, sentences. It should be both punchy and informative.
Overview: This is one place the experts disagree. Some believe it should be a narrative that discusses the need for the book, its uniqueness and why you are the ideal writer to tackle this task. Others feel the overview should be a detailed précis of the book, offering the reader a real understanding of its content.
Author Location of this segment may vary depending upon your credentials. If your track record as a writer is impressive or if your status as an expert in the subject matter has been established, you will want to place this segment directly after the overview. If you are inexperienced with modest credentials in the field you are writing about, I suggest moving the segment to a location after Marketing and Promotion.
Marketing Potential: Your challenge is to convince the agent that a substantial population exists that is waiting, indeed eager, for a book like the one you are proposing. This is key, since both the agent and the publisher will equate potential profit with the size of the market. This is one of the most important sections of your proposal. The decision the agent will ultimately make will depend in great part on the information you supply here.
Competition This is a double edged sword. A large number of books published on the general topic you are writing about can indicate the subject has been surfeited or it can substantiate the wide popularity of the subject. Your book takes on great importance if you can convince the agent that it and the approach you use are unique and bring a new level of understanding to the subject matter.
Head to the library and check Books in Print, published by Bowker. This publication will give you a list and short description of every book currently in print. Forthcoming Books, another Bowker publication, lists books that are in production, but not yet released.
Promotion:This too is a key component of the proposal. No book can succeed without strong promotion, and today that onus falls directly on the author. When selecting books to represent, the level of promotion you, the author, are willing to undertake and finance weighs heavily on an agent’s or publisher’s decision.