The Keys to a Great Book Proposal

“I think book proposals are one of the most difficult things to write, second only to obituaries.”

When I received this email I could relate. I’ve never written obituaries, even though writing one’s own is a popular goal-setting exercise. But I have written and read many book proposals so I know they aren’t easy to write. Sometimes they aren’t easy to read. So how can you make your book proposals easy to read? When my assistant and I are scanning proposals, here are the key points we first notice:

1) Format: Is the overall look of the proposal easy on the eye? A poorly-formatted proposal won’t be rejected if we are wowed by the content, but proposals with a pleasing appearance make a great impression.

2) Title: Tell us immediately what we are viewing: Fiction/nonfiction? Series/standalone? Genre? Historical/contemporary?

3) Hook: What is the spirit of your book?  Fried Green Tomatoes meets Star Trek? Or A Systematic Approach to Spiritual Spring Cleaning?

4) Back Cover Blurb: In two or three short paragraphs, make me want to buy your book. Take the time to make this sparkle, because great back cover copy will help sell me on your book, then the editor, then the pub board, then marketing, then your readers.

5) Info: Can critical facts be found with little effort, including:

a.) published/unpublished status
b.) sales figures for published authors
c.) manuscript status, including when it can be completed
d.) manuscript history

6) Summary: I find that one-page summaries usually work best. If you have already invested in a lengthy summary, you can include a short summary and a long summary.

7) Market Comparisons: Showing us books that are similar to yours will help us know where your book will fit in today’s market. Be respectful rather than critical of other authors’ work when comparing. Show how your book fits into the market, but is still unique enough to attract readers.

8 ) Endorsers: This area causes many authors anxiety because they may not be acquainted with big name authors, or they are afraid that listing a friend may be promising too much. Rest assured that no agent or editor thinks a big name author is a guaranteed endorser. We all know that popular authors’ schedules are packed and that the timing to read your book may or may not work. I recommending listing three names of authors you know well enough that you can approach them for an endorsement. If you honestly have no idea, it’s better not to list anyone than to list impossible names. Don’t distress — your agent can work with you here.

These key points are by no means inclusive. I have only hit the high points on some of the areas that tend to make authors jittery. Don’t worry. Do your best with the proposal, and write the best book you can. That’s all we ask!

For complete guidelines, visit our site here. These may be our guidelines, but they are universally accepted as an excellent and proper way to write a proposal.

We look forward to seeing your work!

Your turn:

What do you think is the hardest part of a proposal to write?

What is the easiest part of a proposal to write?

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7 Ways Agents Measure Social Media

Guest Blog by Thomas Umstattd

In the old days all you had to do was tell an agent or publisher “I’m on Facebook, Twitter and I have a blog” and they would be impressed with your online presence. Now publishers are getting more sophisticated in measuring your online presence. They are realizing that not all blogs are the same and that the size of your Twitter following does not directly correlate to influence.

This post goes over 7 ways agents and publishers will measure your social platform in 2012. You may also want to check out 7 Things Agents & Publishers Look for in Author Websites (2012 Edition).

1. Number of Facebook Likes

What is it?

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Fresh Formulas

Some have a hard time appreciating the talent involved in writing genre fiction. By genre fiction, I mean novels that fall into a defined category such as contemporary romance, historical romance, romantic suspense, or cozy mystery. Many of these novels are published by mass market publishers (like Harlequin) and fit in lines they have formed for the sole purpose of selling the genre.

These are distinguished from Trade fiction where there isn’t necessarily a specific line that has been formed to sell a genre, although there are exceptions to that “rule” like the “Love Finds You” series from Summerside Press. In publisher’s lingo “trade” means a 5 1/2″ by 8 1/2″ trim size and is probably between 80,000 and 100,000 words in length. “Genre” or “category” fiction can mean the 4″ by 6″ trim size (also known as mass market) and between 50,000 words and 70,000 words.

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Your Brand is Not a Limitation

It is All About Expectations

What if you bought a recording from a music group expecting their usual collection of ballads, only to hear guitar anthems? Or what if you picked up a book with a pink cover that promised a love story but ended up reading a novel where hapless and nameless victims suffered gunshot wounds on every page? You’d be disappointed, right? I would be. You don’t want to disappoint readers, so branding has become a consistent topic.

Your Best Friend

Some writers find the concept of branding to be limiting. When they think of branding the TV show “Rawhide”  and Cattle comes to mind.  And despite the awesomeness of such a theme song, they want to keep their options open.

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Book Trailers: Vital or Wasteful?

Book trailers, if done well, can be a cool component to the marketing of your project. If done poorly or if done cheaply they do very little to impress a potential reader.

Most authors love to see their work done this way. In some ways if feels like the story has made it to the “big screen.”

But does it sell books? When was the last time you clicked and then bought because of the trailer?

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