Once you’ve written your novel, had it critiqued by a serious writer’s group, and rewritten it until you feel it is perfect, you’re ready to prepare a proposal so you can submit it for publication.
I. What is a fiction book proposal?
A proposal for a fiction novel is really a combination of several things: a query letter or cover letter, a synopsis, a marketing plan, an author biography, a list of published works, a chapter summary, character charts, sample chapters, and endorsements.
What you include in your proposal depends on who you are submitting to and what they want. Most houses have submission guidelines on their website or listed in a writer’s market book. Follow their guidelines exactly. Don’t add extra things or exclude anything. Doing this may jeopardize your chances of getting your proposal looked at. Always give them exactly what they ask for. If they don’t ask, here is a list of things you might include.
A. A Query Letter is a one-page document introducing you and the book you’ve written. For more information on the query letter read my three-part post starting here. Don’t send a query letter and a cover letter. Send one or the other based on your submission.
B. A Cover Letter reminds the agent or editor who you are and why you’re sending your proposal. For more information on the cover letter read this post. Don’t send a query letter and a cover letter. Send one or the other based on your submission.
C. A Synopsis is a one–two page version of your manuscript. For more information on the synopsis read this post.
D. The Marketing Plan shows agents or editors that you’ve done your homework and know how your book will fit the market. Several things are included in the marketing plan.
1. Audience: Who is your book targeting? Teenage girls, single women, men, etc. You can’t write a book for everyone. Once you know your audience, explain why your target readers will connect with your book’s main character. For example:
Harry Potter hates his life and doesn’t feel loved. When he is thrown into a magical adventure, he goes from a nobody to a famous somebody. He makes friends, enemies, and grows stronger as a wizard. He finds confidence in his new identity, loyalty in his new friends, and becomes a hero.
Most preteens relate to feeling left out, unloved, and bored with life. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone focuses on friendships, yet it is still an exciting, mysterious tale that will grip the hearts of young readers.
2. Market Analysis: Describe how the market is ready for your book. This includes what books are similar to yours, what similar movies have been popular, what world event may coincide with the release of you novel, and things like that.
If you are writing a story about a boy competing in the 2008 Summer Olympics, you are too late to use the 2008 Olympics as a marketing idea. You should work two–three years ahead in your market predictions, because that is how long it will take for your book to be produced and available in stores. Shoot for the next upcoming Summer Olympics instead.
3. Additional Research: If you are writing a book on an Olympic athlete, this is where you would state that you’re cousin Joey is an Olympic diver and that you’ve traveled with him to many competitions including the 2008 summer games. If you are writing a crime novel, you could state that you interviewed a mortician or a forensics expert. If you are writing a story about horses, you would mention that you interviewed someone who works with horses. The information here shows the editor or agent that you took your novel seriously enough to go the extra mile to make it as authentic as possible.
4. Endorsements: Have you ever purchased a book because an author you love said it was great? Endorsements are people who’ve agreed to read your novel (if and when it is published) and give it a review. These reviews are sometimes printed on the front or back cover of the book. These people could be some of the experts you interviewed but may also be published authors. You can’t just claim any published author will endorse your book. You need to ask them for permission first. Endorsements are hard to get, but can really help your book sell. You don’t need them to get published, though.
E. Author Biography: This is a one-page description of you. Try to think of things that relate to writing or are interesting about your life. Mine was only one paragraph long, so I combined it with my list of published works, which was also small.
F. List of Published Works: This is a list of where your writing has been published. Here are a few of my entries:
“The Perfect Gift.” Shine Brightly, December, 2007, pp. 16-17. ($35)
“Grieved.” Devo’Zine, July/August, 2007, pp. 9. ($15)
G. Chapter Summary: This is a one-paragraph summary of each chapter in your book.
H. Character Charts: This is a list of information about the main characters in your book.
Stay tuned for part two on The Proposal…
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