Blogger: Wendy Lawton
Location: Books & Such Central Valley Office, CA
The first portion of the proposal we’ll examine is what I call Book-at-a-Glance. Many people teach proposal writing and you will come across at least as many different suggested styles. That’s okay. This is how I suggest doing it and I’ll give you my reasons. I think it’s important to present the book in a number of different ways, ranging from bite-sized tantalizing bits to a full course. Each of these components will be used in a different way. Not all are necessary for each book.
Let me break some of these down:
Title (fiction) and Title:Subtitle (nonfiction). Yes it’s true that the working title may not stick but you still need to come up with a superb title. After all, you may not get to use the title to hook your eventual reader but it does have to catch the eye and catch the imagination of professionals.
Promo Pitch (or Hook): This is the book in one or two compelling sentences. This may be the hardest writing you ever do and is important for both fiction and nonfiction. You’ll often see these hooks on the back cover up near the top or sometimes on the front cover. Pick up a few books off your shelves and see if you can pick out the hooks. Does it make you want to read the book? This will be the luscious appetizer– the tiniest bite of all.
The Scriptural Foundation or the Theme: This will not be applicable to all books, of course, but if you are writing Christian fiction, for instance, this is a nice addition.
Back Cover-like Copy: This is the next biggest bite and is an easy one to figure out. Just get a stack of books and study what back cover copy looks like. What does it accomplish? Remember, each little piece, each component, may be used for different things. Take time with these. You’ll see those words over and over again. This might be the teaser that goes to the sales team along with the manuscript. It might be used to develop ad copy. A version of it might even end up as your back cover copy.
Genre: Make sure you figure out the best genre description of your book. Don’t do too many combinations or fusions. Remember this is for simplicity, so the store will know where to shelve your book. Study the stacks in the bookstore if you are unsure. Turn books over and you will see how they are categorized. If you’d like to dig deeper into this, check out the BISAC codes.
Audience: You need to know who is most likely to read your book and communicate this in your proposal. (Don’t say everybody.)
Manuscript: Here’s where you give the details– word count, when it will be done, etc.
Synopsis (For Fiction Only): This is the digest version of your story. I once heard someone suggest that you buy the soap opera digest in the grocery store and use it as a guide to write your synopsis. Remember, write with in general tone of the book. As for how long to make it, you’ll have to research your target proposal recipient. Some publishers want a two-page synopsis others want a very detailed synopsis. For a great tip sheet on synopses, see Fiction Writer’s Connection. The synopsis is your biggest bite next to sample chapters or a full manuscript.
Chapter-by-Chapter Summary (Nonfiction only): When writing a nonfiction book it is paramount to let the agent or editor see how you plan to develop the book. You do this by creating a chapter-by-chapter summary. You list each chapter by chapter title (or number if you are not titling the chapters). Next to each chapter you tell what that chapter will cover. An editor should be able to see how you are developing the book and building the content.
Let me show you a dummy page so that you can see at-a-glance how each bite satisfies a different appetite. Some are quick and quirky, others are detailed.
I know you must have questions. What did I leave out? What still confuses you? (Remember, tomorrow we’ll address the personal info, Thursday, the market analysis and Friday, the sample chapters.) So ask away.