Book Proposal Basics – All About You

The next section of a proposal is titled “Author”; and, as you can guess, it is about you.

Third Person

Though writing in the third person may feel pretentious and strange, compose this section this way. While sharing something like, “I love drinking raspberry herbal tea; and my cat, Sparkles, helps me write my books,” may sound friendly, save that style of writing for another time. If you do want to share these fun facts, say, “Winnie Writer loves drinking raspberry herbal tea. Her cat, Sparkles, helps her write her books.”

What to Include

Like everything else about proposals, yours is unique to you. I like to see a snapshot of the author’s life in a quick paragraph or two. Include a little background that might be applicable to your book, awards you’ve won that are germane to your proposal, or publishing credits. Think of it as the bio you would provide if asked to be on the faculty of a conference. Not too long, not too short.

Photo or Not?

We would like to see a professional headshot here, please. That doesn’t mean we ask that you spend hundreds of dollars. We don’t care if it’s taken by your best friend or by a low-end department store studio, as long as it portrays you in presentable attire against an appropriate backdrop. Please read Steve Laube’s post “Your Author Photo” for more information.

Tip: Many conferences, such as the one hosted by American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), offer conference photographers who will take professional headshots at a reasonable cost. In fact, the owner of EA Creative Photography, the ACFW conference photographer, is one of my clients. Hooray, Emilie!

However, if you lack a photo, don’t let this keep you from submitting. I’d rather see a fabulous book and no headshot than not have the opportunity to review the book at all.

Your turn:

What do you want readers to know about you?

What tips can you offer?


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


29 Responses to Book Proposal Basics – All About You

  1. Avatar
    Tery Whalin April 25, 2019 at 5:17 am #


    Great work on this important series of articles. I have a free teleseminar about proposals which answers a lot of typical questions and gives a lot of detailed information at:


    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray April 25, 2019 at 6:51 am #

      Thanks for the info, Terry! So glad there’s lots of great information for authors to access!

  2. Avatar
    Loretta Eidson April 25, 2019 at 5:51 am #

    Thank you for continuing to give us the information we need. I love examples you give. I’m a visual person. If I can see how it’s to be done I can normally do it, but telling me how raises all kinds of questions. Hmmm, showing verses telling…sounds familiar!

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray April 25, 2019 at 6:52 am #

      I like visuals, too. That’s one reason why I enjoy author photos in proposals.

  3. Avatar
    Bryan Mitchell April 25, 2019 at 6:17 am #

    Thanks for that advice! I would also add that you may want the photo to be fairly recent as well.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray April 25, 2019 at 6:56 am #

      Good point, Bryan! You do want people to recognize you in person based on your photo. This not only applies to all of us getting older, but changes in hairstyle, too. If I’m looking for someone with waist-length brown hair, that same person with a blonde pixie cut may wonder why I didn’t speak to her!

  4. Avatar
    Damon J. Gray April 25, 2019 at 6:19 am #

    Often, we see a request for “qualification to address the subject.” Historically, I have included that as part of the author bio. Do you suggest moving that to its own section?

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray April 25, 2019 at 7:04 am #

      Great question, Damon! Yes, if it is significant enough to include, it deserves its own section, in my view. If you’re writing a book on Darwin and Religion and you have credentials in both biology and theology, I don’t want to miss that. This is because many wise people send us nonfiction that is sound but based primarily on their opinions. As for fiction, if you’re tackling issues through story, credentials can be important as well. The credentials can cause an editor to take your nonfiction book more seriously.

      Likewise, for fiction, if the book is quite personal to yourself — for example, you are writing a character with PTSD and you suffer from PTSD, that’s important for me not to miss.

      This is the type of information that may even be included in a foreword and/or the book cover copy, so make it stand out.

      The qualifications section may not make me jump off the fence, but it can cause me to lean to your side.

  5. Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser April 25, 2019 at 6:48 am #

    Two things you should know ’bout me
    are “whiskey and cigars”
    and that my chosen road to glory
    is drivin’ real fast cars.
    The upper-crust haughty mien
    is mine, it’s not a loaner,
    and I can make the hipster scene;
    I’m so swave and deboner!
    I am quite the tres gourmand,
    good food keeps me groovin’
    with tabasco bottle in my hand
    just in case the meal’s still movin’.
    For a headshot I’ve no time to sit,
    but here’s the answer – use Brad Pitt.

    • Avatar
      claire o'sullivan April 25, 2019 at 2:06 pm #

      laugh out loud funny, Andrew. Glad I wasn’t drinking coffee while reading.

      God bless, and for your road to glory, have at it, I say.

  6. Avatar
    Tamela Hancock Murray April 25, 2019 at 7:05 am #

    Too funny! This author bio would actually be perfect for certain books. LOL

    • Avatar
      Andrew Budek-Schmeisser April 25, 2019 at 7:09 am #

      Tamela, there is a kind of wayward grace in embracing one’s Inner Redneck.

      Especially after he’s used deodorant.

      • Avatar
        claire o'sullivan April 25, 2019 at 2:08 pm #


        hey, I am a redneck. yer hittin’ home, Andrew, hittin’ home. Sniffing with defiance doesn’t mean the pits. But gimme a minute and I’ll check.

        • Avatar
          Andrew Budek-Schmeisser April 25, 2019 at 2:27 pm #

          Claire, Barb once went through a list of Jeff Foxworthy’s “You Might Be A Redneck If…”, with me in comparison…and she checked off almost every one she read.

          Especially “you night be a redneck if all you can see out the rearview mirror of your truck are dogs”.

          • Avatar
            claire o'sullivan April 25, 2019 at 2:35 pm #

            haha, Andrew,

            I used to listen to him, also. I moved to ‘Southern’ Oregon (I mention that since we are rednecks compared to the rest of the state) and after several years, I purchased a shotgun (varmints getting into the compost and into my very large garden), a dog, and bought a truck (Ford F150, should you want to know). Another friend told me, these are not called trucks. They are called ‘rigs.’ And the very next day, someone looked at the rather beat up Ford and said, ‘Nice rig.’

            Foxworthy said a week later, ‘You may be a redneck if you have a rig, a dog under the bed and a shotgun.

            Thus, my transformation from a Southern California girl to redneck. That’s been 30 years, now.

            • Avatar
              Andrew Budek-Schmeisser April 25, 2019 at 2:46 pm #

              Claire, I used to own a 1958 F-250, with a very big engine and huge tires and lifts. Barb could barely climb into it without a ladder

              It got 6 mpg. Four on the highway, and two in town.

              I used to go everwhere with my Pit, Annie, and when people asked why there was no gun rack, I just pointed to the dog. “Don’t need one. Got her.”

  7. Avatar
    Lillian April 25, 2019 at 7:27 am #

    Handy information once again, Tamela. Although I must admit that a measure of anxiety emerges every time an article about the proposal comes up. I feel so inadequate to meet all the requirements. I’ve spent so much time trying to produce a stellar submission package. Now, I must check for “third person.”Interest in the topic for my book has already received very positive responses from those to whom I’ve given a preview, but so many prerequisites will determine whether or not this translates into attracting a publisher. I’m sure many good books go unpublished because of all that’s required to grab a publisher’s attention.

    I suppose I could self-publish, but for me, traditional publishing validates the quality of my writing and gives a professional endorsement of the book”s value.

    Despite my anxieties, please keep the articles coming.
    I am learning so much from them.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray April 25, 2019 at 8:07 am #

      I appreciate your transparency, Lillian, and my guess is that you have written the feelings of many.

      One purpose of this series is to help authors feel less anxious. I’m so sorry this has failed in that regard for you.

      Please don’t worry. It’s truly okay!

      I can tell you that I have NEVER turned down a project because the author didn’t write a bio in third person, didn’t include a photo, or even for a variety of other reasons that the proposal itself didn’t fit to format. And again, this is YOUR proposal so do what works for you!

      When I see good “bones” in a project and am excited about the author’s career, I can always, always, always work with an author to be sure a proposal is ready for publishers to see.

      Based on your anxiety level, I recommend that you approach agents rather than editors. Editors are awesome, but I think part of an agent’s job is helping authors put together proposals editors want to see. You would enjoy working with an agent on the business side and an editor on the creative side, I think.

      That said, agents and editors who are enthused about your work WILL ask for more information.

      Just be sure the information you are able to provide works for your proposal, and is the best information you have.

      Even more importantly, show us your best manuscript! That’s what the reader will see. Consider that even the most gold-plated proposal won’t sell a dud of a project. I’m sure your project is wonderful.

      Send out your work! Your teachable spirit means so much.

  8. Avatar
    Richard Mabry April 25, 2019 at 8:40 am #

    Thanks for sharing, Tamela. Readers might be interested (or perhaps frightened) that even after one or more successful (i.e., contracted) books, a proposal is sometimes still called for. I wonder if J. K. Rowling still has to write them. Oh, well. Again, glad you shared.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray April 25, 2019 at 9:36 am #

      Richard, you’re right. Sometimes an established author has to write a proposal when venturing into a different genre, and/or seeking publication with a different house. As you know, the level of proposal needed at that point is determined on a case-by-case basis.

      As for Rowling? I find it intriguing that her detective series was rejected by some but became a bestseller after her identity was revealed.

      I do read her detective series and find it enjoyable.

      Thanks for stopping by with a great pointer for authors, and an excellent rhetorical question!

  9. Avatar
    Lillian April 25, 2019 at 10:05 am #

    Tamela, your reassuring response was received and so appreciated. I think I’ll carry on, but most likely not in the order of Rowling. 🙂

  10. Avatar
    claire o'sullivan April 25, 2019 at 2:26 pm #

    Hi Tamela,

    This could not be more timely! I’m about to locate another agency/ies and write proposals/cover letters/synopses again.

    I have written proposals in the first person. Not that the proposal was turned away, but perhaps a different agency would certainly do so… perhaps that’s why so many have been rejected in the distant past.

    Always learning from the blogs from the SLA. You folks have wisdom beyond wisdom and I am thankful that you share with those of who have published and those who have not.

    I have friends who have self-published incredibly well-written novels, well-edited, and one of my favorites has written 15 books and remain in the top 10 of intrigue, but he cannot break into the traditional market as most agents/publishing houses because they don’t recognize self-publishing as a real thing. He writes about 3 books a year (3 are coming out just this year) and is always a 5 star. I find this rather sad.

    The reason I mention that is, I have a self-published (but non-fiction) cookbook written without the regulations/rules (much) and have written my real-life somewhat embarrassing anecdotes there. As expected, CS and KDP have removed all but 5 stars (last check) while a free giveaway ‘sold’ 300 copies.

    Sigh. Anywho this is quite timely for the fiction I have just self-edited to death and am sending to a pro-editor. In the meantime, I’ll be working on that proposal now in the third person!

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray April 25, 2019 at 3:00 pm #

      So glad I can help!

      Hard to say about your friend’s experience. There are so many factors all the publishers have to consider. He’s doing well, though!

      As for yourself, you’re doing everything right!

  11. Avatar
    claire o'sullivan April 25, 2019 at 2:28 pm #

    *are always five stars.*

    Too many !

    What was I thinking?

  12. Avatar
    Roberta Sarver April 25, 2019 at 2:47 pm #

    Thanks so much, Tamela, for your always-helpful advice. You really do show us that agents are interested in seeing writers succeed.


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