Monday, July 26, 2010

How Do You Write a Book Proposal, by Rachelle Gardner

There are several great books available on writing book proposals. My favorites for non-fiction are:

a Book Proposals That Sell by W. Terry Whalin

a Write the Perfect Book Proposal by Jeff Herman. I like this one because it contains ten real-life proposals that sold.

A good book for fiction proposals is:

Your Novel Proposal: From Creation to Contract by Blythe Camenson and Marshall J. Cook

If you send us a query and we request a proposal from you, we’ll send you the WordServe Literary book proposal template. Meanwhile, here are bare-bones outlines of what a book proposal looks like.

For Non-Fiction

Title page: Title, authors’ names, phone numbers, email addresses.

One sentence summary: It captures your book. It should be morehook than description.

Brief overview: This should read similar to back-cover copy. It should be exciting, informative, and make someone want to read your book. It tells the publisher in a succinct form what the book is about and who the market is. Three to four paragraphs.

Felt need: What needs will your book fulfill that your audience isalready aware of? What questions are they asking that your book will answer? What do they want that you can give them?

About the authors: Half page to a full page on each author. Why are you qualified to write this book? List any previously published books or articles along with sales figures. Make a good case for YOU as the best possible author for a book on this topic.

The market: Whom do you see as the audience for the book? Why would somebody buy this book? How is this audience reached? Do youhave any special relationships to the market? What books and magazines does this audience already read? What radio and TV programs do they tune into? Demonstrate an understanding of exactly who will buy your book and why.

Author marketing: This is where you'll talk about your platform. How are YOU able to reach your target audience to market your book? This is NOT the place for expressing your "willingness" to participate in marketing, or your "great ideas" for marketing. This is the place to tell what you've already done, what contacts you already have, and what plans you've already made to help market your book. A list of speaking engagements already booked is great; radio or television programs you're scheduled to appear on or have in the past; a newsletter you're already sending out regularly; a blog that gets an impressive number of daily hits. This is NOT the place to say that your book would be terrific on Oprah, unless you have documented proof that Oprah's people havealready contacted you.

The competition: What other books are in print on the same subject? How is your book different and better? (There is always competition.) First, give a general discussion of the state of the marketplace as regards books of this topic. Then do a list of 4 to 8 books that could be considered most comparable to yours. List the title, author, year of publication. (Only books in the last five years are relevant, unless they’re still bestsellers.) Then write a couple of sentences explaining what that book is about, and how yours is different, better, and/or a good complement to it.

Details: How many words will your book be? (Words, not pages.) How long after the signing of a contract will it take you to complete the book? (This is usually 2 to 6 months.)

Chapter outline: This is where it becomes crucial that your book is well organized and completely thought-through. You will need chapter titles, and a couple of sentences capturing each chapter’s theme.

Sample chapters: This is usually the Introduction, plus one or two chapters. Make sure they’re polished and perfect!

Those are the basics, but I highly recommend you get a good book on proposals before writing yours. Mary DeMuth has a 50-page book proposal tutorial available for $10. Click here to go to her website and order it. (Mary writes incredible book proposals and she knows what she's talking about.)


What about fiction?
If you've written a novel, you still need a book proposal but it will look slightly different. The most important thing with fiction is the writing itself, so your sample chapters must truly shine to capture an agent or editor's attention.

However, just like with non-fiction, the author's involvement in marketing is of utmost importance. So, much of your proposal will look similar to a non-fiction proposal because it's about YOU and how you can help market your own book.

In a fiction proposal, you'll be most successful at capturing attention if your first page includes a killer "hook" and a concise synopsis that doesn't necessarily tell the whole story, but intrigues the reader enough that they feel they MUST read your book.

(Jeff Gerke has a great post on writing a fiction proposal HERE.)

Here's a rundown of a great fiction proposal:
Title page: Title, authors’ names, phone numbers, email addresses.

One sentence hook: This is more of a tagline, one sentence that creates interest in the book.

Brief overview: This should read similar to back-cover copy. It should be exciting and make someone want to read your book. It tells the publisher in a succinct form what the book is about. Two to four paragraphs.

The market: Whom do you see as the audience for the book? Why would somebody buy this book? How is this audience reached? Do you have any special relationships to the market? What books and magazines does this audience already read? What radio and TV programs do they tune into? Demonstrate an understanding of exactly who will buy your book and why.

About the authors: Half page to a full page on yourself. Why are you qualified to write this book? List any previously published books or articles along with sales figures. Any awards or special degrees or certificates in creative writing? Anything that helps establish you as a novelist goes in this section.

Author marketing: This is where you'll talk about your platform. How are YOU able to reach your target audience to market your book? This is NOT the place for expressing your "willingness" to participate in marketing, or your "great ideas" for marketing. This is the place to tell what you've already done, what contacts you already have, and what plans you've already made to help market your book. A list of speaking engagements already booked is great; radio or television programs you're scheduled to appear on or have in the past; a newsletter you're already sending out regularly; a blog that gets an impressive number of daily hits. This is NOT the place to say that your book would be terrific on Oprah, unless you have documented proof that Oprah's people havealready contacted you.

Comparable books: Instead of a "competition" section, you'll want to include four to five novels that you see as similar to yours in some way. It helps the editor develop a big-picture understanding of your book. It's best not to include blockbuster bestsellers (The DaVinci Code, Left Behind) but do include well-known books with solid sales. Include title, author, release year, and a couple of sentences about the book and how yours is similar and would appeal to the same audience.

Details: How many words will your book be? (Words, not pages.) How many chapters? Have you included book club discussion questions? Is your manuscript complete? (Note: Unless you're a multi-published novelist, you must have a completed novel before approaching agents and editors.)

Longer synopsis: In several pages (2 to 6 is a good guideline) describe the story. In this part, don't worry about preserving the "surprise" factor. This is where you have to explain the story, start to finish.

Sample chapters: Include the first 40 to 50 pages of your manuscript (ending at a natural chapter break). Don't include random chapters - you need the FIRST few chapters. Make sure they’re polished and perfect! THIS is what will determine whether you get a request for a full manuscript or not.

For other posts I've written about book proposals, CLICK HERE.

*Please note that you normally only send a full proposal if requestedby an agent or editor based on your written query or a face-to-face meeting at a conference.


This guest post comes courtesy of Wordserve Literary agent, Rachelle Gardner. If you're not reading her blog daily, you might want to consider adding Rants & Ramblings to your reader. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails