Monday, December 14, 2009

Creating Good Fiction Proposals by Jeff Gerke, Part 4

This Manuscript Monday Jeff Gerke will wrap up his series on proposals. We've appreciated all his tips (and his fun sense of humor).

Creating Good Fiction Proposals, Part 4*
by Jeff Gerke

Let's focus on a few last items you'll want to include in your proposal.

The Synopsis

Since I've done such a brilliant job of explaining this elsewhere [pauses for applause], I'll just refer you to that article.

One note: I can't stress enough the importance of a good, 1-page synopsis. A synopsis that is too long (more than 2 pages) or poorly done or that does not give away the ending may sink you.
Some agents and acquisitions editors will skip over all your front matter and go straight to the sample chapters. Artistic purists! But if they like what they see there they will inevitably come back and read your synopsis. So it had better be good.

Note that you can begin the synopsis on the bottom of the one pager mentioned last week if you have half a page or so available. Otherwise begin it on its own page.

The Other One Pager

Very often there is about one more page's worth of pertinent information that needs to be conveyed in the proposal.

It could be any one or more of a variety of things: a brief (1/4-page) bio of you (recommended), a one-paragraph summary of each of the other books in the proposed series, or some other historical note or personal experience piece that will cause a "buyer" to be more inclined to invest in your "product."

Take a page or two to include that information.

Keeping in mind, of course, the section on What Not To Include.

Last thought: if you're especially good-looking, a photo of yourself on this page would not hurt you. It's hard to find photogenic novelists, let me tell you, and the publicity department will be interested in finding a new one.

The Sample Chapters

Here, more than in any other portion of your proposal, your chances rise or fall.

As I've mentioned, many agents and almost all fiction acquisitions editors are fiction purists. We love to discover great fiction. That's why we'll often skip over everything else and turn to the first pages of your actual writing. If we love it, you're golden. If we don't, you're sunk (er, dross?).

Note that I said you want to include the first 30-40 pages of your novel. Agents and editors need to see that you know how to start a novel well. That tells so much. This is not the time to include chapter 12 because it's really cool and chapter 21 to show that you can write snappy dialogue.

Give us your first 30-40 pages and make sure they're your best writing because they will determine your publishing future.

Notice also that I've said to include the first 30-40 pages. I didn't say include the first three chapters. Why? Because some people write chapters that are 2 stinkin' pages long and others write 65-page chapters. We don't want that little or that much. We want 30-40 (double-spaced) pages.

Go Now, My Child, and Find Your Destiny

Wow, that's a little melodramatic, wouldn't you say?

Anyway, that's all I have to say about how to create fiction proposals that will give your novel its best chance.

Oh, a word about writer's guidelines. If the publisher you're targeting has published writer's guidelines that determine what they want to have included in any proposal sent to them, then by all means do it the way they say even if it violates what I've said here.

But by and large if you include these elements, abide by the formatting rules, and write incredible fiction, you'll have a fighting chance, young padowan. Go now and find your destiny.

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 more. 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 Jeff Gerke’s Where The Map Ends Web site. Used by permission.


  1. Hi Annette and Dawn...Good info! And thank's Jeff for providing the usual laughs :-)

  2. Thanks for reading, Bonnie. I've been using Jeff's characterization tools and they're fantastic!! They've helped me more than any other tool because they've made me dig deeper. Have a great writing day.


  3. Jeff,
    We've enjoyed having you as a guest on Seriously Write. Love all the practical info - not to mention your fun delivery. :-D
    Thank you!

    So glad you said "hi."
    Nice to have you visit.


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