Proposals are the doorway to success or failure and are common to the nonfiction writer. Fiction titles are not presented in proposal format, unless the writer has not completed the book. Fiction proposals generally come from published authors.
Nonfiction titles are presented through proposals to give the agent/editor the opportunity to know what the complete book is about, what qualifies the writer to write the book, and why the book would be a fit for their list.
Proposals are comprised of a number of sections and range from 12-50 pages. Personally, I prefer proposals be no longer than 35 pages, including the synopsis/summary, outline, and sample pages.
Contents of the Book Proposal:
Cover letter: Briefly introduce yourself; tell a little about why you are making contact, summarizing the meat of your book, and excerpt of your experience. Be sure to include information on how you can be contacted.
Title or Tentative Title: Even if you do not have a title, choose the most appropriate and list as the “tentative” title.
Description of the book: Summary/synopsis. Preferred length is 250 words. Imagine you are writing the jacket cover for your book. What would hook the reader, making him/her buy the book?
Table of Contents/Outline: Outline by chapter. Each chapter should have a title and summary on contents. Write each chapter description with the mindset that you have to sell that one chapter. In essence, you want to make the reader continue to the next chapter.
Author Bio/Credentials: If you have been published, list credits. If not, list experience in the field, education, or related areas. Personal bio should be brief. While admirable, agents/editors really do not care if you have 10 dogs, 12 cats, and a gerbil named Herbie. If it does not apply to the book, refrain from including.
Market Considerations/Study: What is your competition? Who will buy the book? Why? What research have you conducted to show the market potential?
Manuscript Information: What is the length of the proposed manuscript? Word count? Font type and size?
Available Formats: Hard copy, email, PDF, on disk?
Date of Completion: When will this book be complete?
Sample Pages: Usually the first fifteen to twenty pages.
Conclusion: Summarize using your best selling statement. Think (again) book jacket.
Generally, fiction manuscripts are not be presented in a proposal. However, it is important to include marketing considerations.
Until next time, keep writing and stay positive!