Blogger: Rachel Kent
Location: Books & Such main office, Santa Rosa, Calif.
What should go into a proposal? What’s the basic format for a proposal? Fiction and nonfiction proposals are slightly different, but I’d like to give all of you a basic format to follow for proposals. Content and clarity are very important, so take your time as you put your proposal together.
1) Title page (include your book title and your name, address, email address, and phone number.) The agent or editor will most likely contact you via email.
2) On a new page, start with a hook. (One to two sentences that will grip the reader.)
3) Then provide a brief description of the book (approx. 50 words).
4) Don’t forget to put your projected word count and manuscript status (Is the book complete? How long will it take you to complete the project?).
4) Describe your audience. This doesn’t need to be long and should be no longer than a paragraph.
5) Include a long synopsis (fiction) or an annotated chapter outline (nonfiction). The outline or synopsis is usually 3-5 single-spaced pages.
6) Market analysis and book comparisons (see yesterday’s blog).
7) Write a brief author bio. This should be a couple paragraphs, but no longer than a page. Focus the bio on writing and marketing credentials. Be sure to answer the question, What makes this author qualified to write this book?
8 ) Platform and Marketing Section. Platform is very important for a nonfiction proposal and is becoming increasingly important for fiction proposals. How are you going to be able to market your book? Do you speak? Do you have an online presence? Are you willing to do radio interviews and book signings? Be creative and truthful. Include details–for example possible bookstores to do signings in or possible radio stations for interviews.
9) Starting on a new page, include sample chapters, double-spaced. Be sure to send the first 3 chapters of your manuscript (or the first 50 pages if you have short chapters). Don’t send chapters 5, 7, and 16; stick with the first three.
Note: If you are mailing a hard copy of a proposal, don’t print the pages front and back. Please print the pages on one side only. And put the manuscript’s title, your name and page numbers at the top of each page, using the header feature of your word processing program.
Enjoy putting together your proposals! I hope this post is helpful! 🙂
Jessica R. Patch
Thanks,Rachel! These posts are very helpful! I’m right in the middle of working on my proposal to bring to the Writing for the Soul Conference–couldn’t come at a better time!
VERY helpful!!!! Loving your posts! I still feel like a fish out of water but your posts are helping SO much!!! Thank you!
These posts have been very interesting and helpful!
I have a question. Is this the way every proposal should be formatted when submitting to agents? Or is this more for submitting to editors? I ask because many agencies have specific guidelines on their websites about including only a query letter, or only a letter and your first three pages, or whatever when initially submitting your work to them. I guess I’m asking at what point a full-fledged “proposal,” like the one described above, comes into play. After an agent responds favorably to a query? Thanks! 🙂
Rachel, on here you say that the synopsis should be single spaced, what about the cover letter and the second page with the hook and book description? Should I use single or double space for that?
Again, very helpful!
Salena, typically you use single spacing for everything except for the sample chapters. Some agency or publisher websites might ask for something else, but if you need a default single space the proposal part and double space the chapters. Good question!
Lindsay, usually the proposal is the second step with an agency. The query letter comes first and then the agent will request a proposal.
Do follow the web guidelines for each agency, but this is a good default proposal format if guidelines aren’t specified.
Providing these tips and formatting ideas is more useful than you may know! Thank you for taking the time to write these posts this week.
Rachel, Thank you SO much!!!!
Another extremely helpful post. It takes all of the guess work out of the process. Thanks!
Again, thank you. I’m working on a proposal and I see I have a few more revisions to make. With this help, I don’t feel like I’m floundering about in the darkness.