Monday, May 9, 2011

How to Write a Book Proposal, Part Two by Rachelle Gardner

Last week, agent Rachelle Gardner visited to explain non-fiction book proposals. This Manuscript Monday, she's here to help us with our fiction proposals. Even when we've been writing proposals for a while, it never hurts to brush up on the basics. Having the right tools makes the task less daunting. Read on!

 How to Write a Book Proposal: Part Two*
by Rachelle Gardner

Last week, we discussed non-fiction, but 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's 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 have already 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.

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


* This article (and Part Two) originally appeared on CBA-Ramblings, Rachelle Gardner’s blog. Click here for more info.

**For information specifically concerning submitting a proposal to Rachelle at WordServe Literary, see her blog for instructions.

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