There are a number of ways to do a good book proposal. We’ve met many writers who get bogged down in the details. The bottom line is whether your idea has traction and if your writing delivers. Since your book proposal is like a job application, you want to present yourself in the most professional manner possible. Your proposal will be a simple vehicle to convey your idea to us, and ultimately to a publisher.
Please read this entire page, even the instructions for international writers at the end. Many stop at the email addresses and read no further. Please do not be one of those.
Please do not just send a query letter (or query email). Please send a full proposal with sample chapters (preferably in one document). We need to have something whereby we can evaluate your writing. Our agency receives over 4,000 proposals a year, therefore, following the guideline will help yours be evaluated properly. Those that do not gum up the system.
Please read this entire page since there are specific differences between non-fiction and fiction proposals. Some of the information is repetitive to make sure our guidelines are clear. (Note how we just repeated something already!)
Do not send the same proposal to all of us in the agency at the same time. We tend to talk to each other so a writer who spams all of us will be considered unprofessional.
As stated earlier, do not just send a query letter (or query email). Please send a full proposal with sample chapters (preferably in one document). We need to have something whereby we can evaluate your writing.
If we are interested in your project, we will be in contact within twelve weeks or sooner. If we do not think your project is something we can represent, we may or may not be in contact, depending on our current workload. If you sent an e-mail proposal and don’t hear from us within 90 days, you can assume we are not going to pursue your project. If you send a hard copy proposal and include a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) we guarantee you will receive a response. [This “response” is not necessarily a critique or a detailed review. It may be a simple “no thank you.”]
Hard copy: If you send a hard copy proposal please include a SASE (self-addressed-stamped-envelope) or you will not get a reply. However, if you do send a hard copy proposal and a SASE you will receive a response. [This “response” is not necessarily a critique or a detailed review. It may be a simple “no thank you.”] Save money by only sending a regular #10 envelope with a stamp on it, not an 8 1/2″ by 11″ envelope. Just an envelope with a stamp into which we can place one sheet of paper.
E-mail: If you are sending an e-mail submission please include it as an attachment in a Word document or a PDF (do not paste the proposal into the body of your e-mail). If you send an e-mail proposal and don’t hear from us within 60 days, you can assume we are not going to pursue your project. We recommend you put something descriptive in the body of your email. We receive far too many pitches with only the words “Here it is.” Remember that the subject line is part of your pitch. Also, check your email ID, what your computer says who the email is from (like Caller ID on your phone). It can be embarrassing to the sender when pitching to a professional. (Read this blog post if you are curious).
If you are wondering how to best address the cover letter, read this article. There is no need to call our office to ask that question or to ask if we received your proposal.
We are looking for quality Christian fiction in all genres.
We are looking for quality Christian non-fiction of all types.
Note the following exceptions:
No poetry or short stories.
No books of photography.
No personal family history biographies.
Each agent has a blog linked below where they indicate what they are looking for.
Please honor our requests and refrain from sending material that is not a fit for that particular agent.
Each agent has written a blog about what they are looking for. The links are below:
Steve Laube – “Bring the Books”
Tamela Hancock Murray – “Book Proposals I’d Love to See”
Bob Hostetler – “Who and What I am Looking for as an Agent”
Dan Balow – “What I am Looking For”
Please, do not call the main office to query about a project. We consistently get calls from those who type “agent” in an online search and call any number that pops up.
Note how we are repeating details? Because a lot of those who approach us have not followed our requests.
There are many ways to create a book proposal, but remember, in a sense, this is your job application. Present yourself as a professional and let your idea and your writing speak for themselves. The directions below are to guide you so your submission will be engaging, complete, and follow industry standards. Instead of obsessing over minor details, follow the standard and let the focus be where it belongs: on your sample chapters! Please read everything below and note the difference between non-fiction and fiction proposals.
The cover letter should include your name, address, phone number, and e-mail address. It should sum up the plot or idea in a single paragraph, as well as giving the book’s title and estimated word count of the entire manuscript (not page count). If the book is not completely finished, estimate when you might be finished. The cover letter should not be more than one page.
Cover letter article.
(We HIGHLY recommend that you read this article!)
The sample should be the first three chapters or fifty double-spaced pages, printed single-sided and unbound. Please make sure the pages are numbered. (Please use Times Roman 12pt font or a similar very readable font.) Do not print out the pages so they look like actual book pages. Print double-spaced on one side of the page in black ink on 8″ x 11″ white paper, use 1″ margins all around and don’t justify the right margin.
If you choose to send an e-mail submission it should be sent as an e-mail attachment in a Word document or PDF. Do Not paste the contents of your proposal and sample chapters into the body of an e-mail. Formatting will be lost in most cases and it is the worst way to present yourself to an agent. It makes a terrible first impression.
SELF-ADDRESSED STAMPED ENVELOPE (SASE) If you send a proposal to us via the mail we will not reply to you unless you include an appropriately sized SASE with sufficient postage. A letter-size SASE for a written response is preferred. There is no need to include a large envelope for the return of the entire proposal unless you want the whole thing back. Do not expect us to track down your email address to send a rejection letter. However, if we are interested we may either call or contact you via e-mail for more information.
We recommend that you consider taking Steve Laube’s course on book proposal preparation found on The Christian Writers Institute website. (Here is a link to the course. The cost is only $10.) It is a one-hour lecture talking about the basic elements of a proposal. Included in the course are two sample proposal templates, one for fiction, and one for non-fiction. In addition, he has included the article mentioned above on cover letter preparation and a sample of an effective cover letter. Plus a copy of the ebook below in three different electronic formats.
It would help if you consider reading all our agency blogs on the topic of book proposal preparation. Tamela Hancock Murray wrote a ten-part “Book Proposal Basics” series (find it here). In addition, we have nearly 200 blog posts on this topic…which is a measure of how important it is. [You can find them here.]
The 28-page booklet (ebook only) pictured here is available for free for those who sign up to be a part of The Christian Writers Institute (no cost to join). Or you can click the Amazon button and get it on your Kindle Reader (or app) for 99¢. Or enroll in the above book proposal course which includes a PDF, Kindle, and ePub version of the book as part of the class.
Your non-fiction book proposal could include the following:
- A one-sentence summary of your book.
- Create a 75 word summary of the book. Imagine that this is what will go on the back cover of the book.
- A half page to one page overview of your book including (a) an identification of its uniqueness (the distinguishing “hook” that will draw your reader in: What will motivate a person to pick up your book?) and (b) what you hope to accomplish in the way of transformation in the life of the reader.
- A brief profile of your reader with a clear explanation of the problem he or she faces and how your book provides a solution. Also, list any additional audiences you expect your book will attract.
- A listing of other books available that are similar to yours and a brief explanation of how yours is both different and/or better.
- A description of potential marketing channels to which you have access (e.g., contacts you have in key organizations, groups you speak to regularly, key people you know who might endorse your book, etc.).
- Your qualifications to write on this topic and a list of your writing experience and educational/career background. If you have published previously, what are the titles and approximate sales to date of your books? This is a critical part of the non-fiction proposal as it addresses the issue of “Platform.” (If you are unclear what “platform” is, listen to the one hour interview with Michael Hyatt on the topic over at The Christian Writers Institute.)
- A chapter-by-chapter annotated outline that clearly summarizes the overall content and key ideas of each chapter.
- Projected word length of the manuscript.
- Expected completion date of the manuscript.
- Three sample chapters of your book.
Follow the basic information above in the non-fiction proposal section, but realize that the biggest difference between the fiction and non-fiction proposal is the synopsis. While the non-fiction proposal requires a chapter by chapter analysis, the fiction proposal should be a maximum of three single-spaced pages that present the entire story. Don’t worry, your synopsis will be the worst writing you’ve ever done. That is okay. Just tell the story in quick form so we can know what happens after your sample chapters.
Create a Promo Sentence and a Sales Handle (these are the bits you see on the front cover of a novel or as a headline across the back cover. In addition, create back cover copy that tells the story without giving it away (back cover is usually around 75 words) Examples (from the cover of the novel Oxygen by Randy Ingermanson and John Olson):
A mission gone desperately wrong – and no way out short of blind faith…
Sales handle: A tragic accident or a suicide mission?
Back cover copy:
Dreams turn suddenly to nightmares for NASA and the crew as an explosion cripples the spacecraft on the outward voyage. The crew’s survival depends on complete trust in one another – but is one of the four a saboteur?
In the year 2012 Valkerie Jansen, a young microbial ecologist, is presented with an amazing opportunity to continue her research as a member of the NASA corps of astronauts. When a sudden resignation opens the door for her to be a part of a mission to mars, her life dream becomes a reality.
Since fiction can be entertaining and taps the emotional center of a reader here are some other helpful things to include in your proposal :
In a single sentence, state your purpose for writing this novel. Why did you write (are you writing) this story? What are you trying to prove about life with this story?
Describe your protagonist’s quest. What does he want or need? What is his goal? For what does he yearn?
What is at stake in this story? If your protagonist doesn’t attain his goal, so what? Why does it matter and why should the reader care? What are the consequences?
What is the “takeaway value” of the story. How will the reader be changed for having read it?
International authors frequently ask how best to contact us because of the challenges of sending hard copy through the postal system from overseas. Email is fine. We have a number of Canadian clients, three in Australia and one in England, but all the rest are based in the United States. If you are from another country you can send a proposal via e-mail to any of our agents but let us know that you are living in another country. Do not include the text of the proposal in the body of the e-mail. If we are interested we will contact you within twelve weeks. Otherwise, you can assume that yours was not something we were looking for.