Monday, November 23, 2009

Creating Good Fiction Proposals by Jeff Gerke

Recently, Dawn featured Jeff Gerke's writing helps on a Writer's Journey Wednesday. (see that post here) This Manuscript Monday, please welcome Jeff as he begins a four-part series on creating great book proposals.

What Goes into a Good Fiction Proposal?*
by Jeff Gerke

So you've written the first draft of your novel (you have, right?) and you're ready to approach agents and acquisitions editors to begin your path to certain fame, eh? Good for you!

Each Monday for the next four weeks, I will tell you how to put together a first-rate proposal for your novel.

I've served on the editorial staff for three Christian publishing companies and have read literally thousands of proposals as an acquisitions editor and imprint manager. Plus I've written proposals that have sold my own novels, so I know what works and what it is that editors and agents are looking for.

An acquisitions editor, by the way, is the person who goes through all the proposals submitted by agents and authors and decides which are good and should possibly be published, which are not and should help start fires, and which to get very, very excited about.

Here are the elements agents and acquisitions editors need and value in the fiction proposals they review.

Note that while I'm speaking largely of my own experience and some of my professional colleagues may disagree with one or two points, if you build a proposal like this you won't go far wrong.

Also note that I'm assuming you'll put all of these elements into a single Word file and attach that file to an e-mail message you'll send to the agent or editor in question.

The Elements of a Good Proposal:

1. A cover letter
2. One page with:
~ A very brief (~10-word) hook
~ A short (~100-word) blurb
~ The title of your novel
~ The genre of your novel
~ The length (in wordcount!) of your novel
~ The audience for your novel (age, gender, etc.)
~ Whether or not the novel fits into a series
~ Your previously published books (if any) and the to-date total sales of each
3. A 1-2-page synopsis that does give away the ending (here's how to write such a synopsis)
4. One page with anything else you think is pertinent: short bio on you, historical note, personal experience that undergirds the story, reason for special timeliness, one-paragraph summaries of other books in the series, etc.
5. The first 30-40 pages of your novel (sample chapters)

That's it. I'll discuss each one in detail in the coming weeks.

Jeff Gerke is a mild-mannered author and book editor living in Colorado Springs. He and his wife have a daughter and a son and in 2009, they adopted a little girl from China. See this site for pictures and more information. Jeff's first novels appeared in the mid-1990s, followed in the early part of the 21st century by his Operation: Firebrand novels. His nonfiction books were published in 2003 and 2005. In 1999 Jeff came on staff with Multnomah Publishers in Sisters, Oregon, as an editor. Over his career he has been on staff with Multnomah, Strang/Realms, and NavPress. In October 2008 Jeff became the founder of Marcher Lord Press, a small indie publishing company dedicated to producing the finest in Christian science fiction, fantasy, and other wonderfully weird genres.

* This series of articles was taken from his Where The Map Ends Web site. Used by permission.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Jeff,

    Thanks for spending time with us on Seriously Write these next weeks.

    I loved your book, "The Art & Craft of Writing Christian Fiction." Annette added the link in the introduction above to the review I posted earlier.

    Readers, check out the book. It's fun, entertaining, and contains great tips on writing good fiction.


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