by Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent
If you’re hoping to get published, you’ll want to prepare a book proposal before you send out your query letters. That way, it will be ready to send immediately when an agent or editor asks for it. There are several great books available on writing book proposals, and I recommend you get one. My favorite is Write the Perfect Book Proposal by Jeff Herman.
To get you started, here’s a rundown of the basics of a proposal:
Title page: Title, authors’ names, phone numbers, email addresses.
One sentence summary: Hook the editor with a catchy summary of the book.
Brief overview: This should read similar to back-cover copy. It should be exciting, informative, and make someone want to read your book. It succinctly tells the publisher what the book is about and who the market is. Three to four paragraphs.
Felt need: What needs are your audience already aware of? What questions are they asking? What do they want that you can give them?
About the authors: Half page to a full page on each author. Why are you qualified to write this book? List any previously published books or articles along with sales figures. Make a good case for YOU as the best possible author for a book on this topic. Include a small photo of yourself. It doesn’t have to be professional, but it should be friendly and you should be smiling (unless, perhaps, you’re a horror writer, in which case you can have a spooky look like Stephen King often does).
The market: Whom do you see as the audience for the book? Why would somebody buy this book? How is this audience reached? Do you have any special relationships to the market? What books and magazines does this audience already read? What radio and TV programs do they tune into? Demonstrate an understanding of exactly who will buy your book and why.
Author marketing: This is where you’ll talk about your platform. How are YOU able to reach your target audience to market your book? This is not the place for expressing your “willingness” to participate in marketing, or your “great ideas” for marketing. This is the place to tell what you’ve already done, what contacts you already have, and what plans you’ve already made to help market your book. Include a list of speaking engagements already booked, radio or television programs you’re scheduled to appear on or have in the past, a newsletter you’re already sending out regularly, or a blog that gets an impressive number of daily hits. Include stats on the number of blog, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram followers.
The competition: What other books are in print on the same subject? How is your book different and better? (There is always competition.) First, give a general discussion of the state of the marketplace regarding books of this topic. Then write a list of 4 to 8 books that could be considered most comparable to yours. List the title, author, year of publication. (Only books in the last five years are relevant, unless they’re still bestsellers.) Then write a couple of sentences explaining what each book is about, and how yours is different, better, and/or a good complement to it.
Details: How many words will your book be? (Words, not pages.) How long after signing a contract will it take you to complete the book? (This is usually 2 to 6 months.)
Chapter outline: This is where it becomes crucial that your book is well organized and completely thought through. You will need chapter titles, and a couple of sentences capturing each chapter’s theme.
Sample chapters: This is usually the Introduction, plus one or two chapters. Make sure they’re polished and perfect.
Writing a book proposal is a great way to get a handle on your book—what’s compelling about it, who it’s for, and how to get people interested in it. Have fun with it!
Rachelle Gardner is an agent with Books & Such Literary, looking for authors with long-term publishing potential. She represents Christian fiction and non-fiction, with a particular fondness for strong spiritual memoirs and books that address contemporary issues in Christianity. www.rachellegardner.com