Blogger: Rachel Kent
Location: Books & Such main office, Santa Rosa, Calif.
Today is “what” day. These are the “what” questions you should ask before starting in on a new proposal.
The first question is: What do books in this genre generally look like?
Look at other books in your current genre. What is the standard chapter format for the genre? What is the length of a typical book in this genre? If you’re writing fiction, are other books in your genre generally written in first person or third person? Knowing the answers to these questions before you dive in to write the proposal and manuscript can help you position your manuscript to make it as salable as possible.
Word count counts. A 70,000-word nonfiction book has to have compelling–very compelling–reasons to be so large. On the other hand, a historical novel often will be 100,000 words. If you’re word count isn’t near the norm, you’re showing that you don’t understand your genre.
The second “what” question you should ask is: What is my thesis?
Whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction, your book needs a thesis. What is the point of the manuscript? What do you want the reader to learn or to take away from reading the book? Each chapter should work toward developing this thesis. It should be the thread that holds the book together. I always suggest that authors use a Post-it to tack up the thesis on the computer screen while they write. That way it’s always there to remind the author of the book’s direction.
The third “what” question to ask before starting your proposal is: What is my platform?
What have you done to build your name as an author? What can you do to market your book? If you don’t have answers readily available to these questions, take some time to create a document with all of your general marketing and platform information. You need this for every proposal, and if you have a starting point already created, it’s much easier to update it and highlight the unique marketing ideas you have for this specific plot or topic. Then you can plop a version into the proposal when the time comes. But don’t forget to read it over and update it each time you create a proposal.
What is the 1-2 sentence thesis for your work-in-progress?