OLD POST ALERT! This is an older post and although you might find some useful tips, any technical or publishing information is likely to be out of date. Please click on Start Here on the menu bar above to find links to my most useful articles, videos and podcast. Thanks and happy writing! – Joanna Penn
Although I am currently happy self-publishing my books, I would definitely consider a print book deal once I have evidence of excellent sales. I also like to keep you in touch with all the options for your book and I know many consider traditional publishing the holy grail.
The book proposal is the scary monster that must be faced if you are pitching agents and publishers. It is in some ways harder than your book to write. How on earth can you distil your months/years of hard work down into a catchy proposal that hooks you the deal you want?
I recently bought ‘Writing a winning fiction book proposal: An insider’s secrets to landing an agent and a book contract” by Michael Hyatt and wanted to share some key points from the ebook. There is a non-fiction equivalent as well if you’d rather check that out. (Yes, I am an affiliate because I think it’s a useful product.)
4 key points on writing your book proposal
- Agents and publishers do not want to see your manuscript (unless they ask for it). They need to be hooked on your project within seconds or you will go into the trash pile. The proposal is your chance to impress and it must include certain elements. In a way, it’s not that hard because the questions are often the same. So there is a kind of formula, you just need to know what it is. The proposal will also give you a chance to think critically about your own book. If you can’t distill your book down into these important elements, then maybe there is something you need to fix?
- You need to know the genre your book fits into. Your book won’t be interesting or relevant to everyone in the world. You need to understand the niche you fit into and where your book would go in a bookshop. This is also critical before you even pitch because agents specialize in certain genres. You can’t pitch a sci-fi book to a romance agent, or horror to someone specializing in literary fiction. That’s wasting everyone’s time. You should be researching agents first. Many of them have blogs now so you can find out more on what they like and represent. Also, don’t make a genre up. Do your research on where your book fits. You can also mention what other books your book is like. I always say Pentecost is like Dan Brown meets Lara Croft. It gives you an instant idea of what the book is like.
- Write your hook in 9 sentences or less. There is a full breakdown in the ebook as to how you can do that but understanding that you need to get it down to basically a paragraph is key. It means writing and rewriting, breaking it down to the most important elements until you have a coherent, irresistible hook. Writing your own back blurb is a similar process.
- The synopsis is a breakdown of the plot from beginning to end. Don’t say “read the book to find out the story”. They don’t have time! It has to be short and to the point, but also complete with all the plot points. It demonstrates your book is a complete story and has enough in it to justify looking further. It will also demonstrate your own writing ability.
Why should you buy these ebooks instead of any other books on book proposals?
I have been reading Michael’s blog for several years now and still consider it a must-read site. I frequently tweet his posts and bookmark them myself for re-reading. He’s an author himself, but has also been a literary agent as well as working in publishing for many years ending up as the Chairman of Thomas Nelson, the largest Christian publishers in the world. He has been around the publishing block a few times!
I also recommend subscribing to Michael’s blog as he posts a lot on publishing as well as leadership and other topics. He has a useful interview with Rachelle Gardner here on publishing tips and if you want to go the traditional publishing route, I definitely recommend her blog as well.
Have you tried the dreaded query letter? Do you have any tips?
Top image: iStockphoto.
Bottom image: Michael Hyatt