Author Tamela Hancock Murray

Book Proposal Basics – First Things First

Each author is unique, so are proposals. This series doesn’t cover all possible categories but highlights many challenging components of book-proposal writing. My goal is to help authors know what editors and agents want to see and to offer tips on how to get out of the slush pile and into the “must publish” queue! Another benefit I hope this series will provide is the encouragement to move forward and not get frozen, unable to move forward out of anxiety that your proposal isn’t good enough. Don’t be fearful. Do your best and keep writing. Editors and agents will ask for more information as needed.

Title Page

If you like, you can make the title page stand on its own. Alternatively, you can begin your proposal on that page as well. It’s up to you. For this post, we’ll say you’re making the title page stand alone. It should include the following:

Book Title

Try to make this creative and unique but not too far out. Ultimately, the publisher will select the title, which may well be yours! That’s because the publisher must use every means possible to get the reader’s attention. Of course, that includes a snappy title. If you have a fantastic title that you can write in the subject line of your email submission, then the agent or editor may want to open yours first. Even better, a great title will make the reader jump right on your book!

  1. Fresh and new: When thinking about your title, search it on Amazon and other places on the internet to be sure it doesn’t conflict with a recent book.
  2. Special tip for romance writers: Please search for your proposed title, because even the most innocuous title may have decorated a beefcake cover. Also consider that since the romance genre is narrow, excellent titles tend to be recycled too often if one isn’t careful.


Define where your book fits into the market to help the agent or editor acclimate to your work and determine right away if this is a genre they are actively seeking.

Is your novel contemporary or historical? As a reader, I am annoyed if I think I’m in the present, only to find on page ten, the heroine boarding a carriage while ever-so-gently lifting her hoop skirt, making sure she doesn’t accidentally bare her slim and well-curved ankle for all to see.


Tell us if you’re writing under a pen name.

Contact Information

On the front page, I find it helpful to have the author’s name (“real” name if using a pen name) physical address, email address, and telephone number. Yes, I do need to know in what time zone you reside. Since I’m on the East Coast, I’d hate to make a 6 AM telephone call to you in California, even with the best of news!


Your Turn:

What is the best book title you can remember?

What is the title of the book you are currently writing?

What other tips can you offer to get attention on your title page?


Steve Laube has a course on book proposals at The Christian Writers Institute, which includes a one-hour lecture, a short ebook on the topic, and sample proposal templates. Click here for more information.



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