July 7, 2014
The Elements of an Eye-Catching Fiction Proposal
In your writing and publishing venture, you might be asked to submit a proposal to an editor or agent once you’ve caught his/her attention. So what is a proposal?
Other than asking someone to marry you, a proposal in the publishing world is quite the complex project. Of course, the first thing you want to do is check the publishing houses’ guidelines. They might have them outlined for you on the website or if an editor asks for a proposal, then you ask him/her for their guidelines. If there are no guidelines, then follow a standard format that all editors will accept to get to know you and your project better.
Let’s look at the basic elements of a good proposal for a fiction manuscript. In later blog posts, we’ll look at samples of each of these (if applicable). One word of caution is merited here. Be careful to spend quality time on your proposal. Depending on how many sample chapters you send, your proposal could easily be 40 to 60 pages long. It’s not something that should be taken lightly because your proposal will either earn you a contract or send your manuscript back to you to try again some other place.
Basic Elements of a Good Fiction Proposal
1. Cover page – includes title of your work, your name, address, phone number, email, website, and to whom you’re sending the proposal
2. Table of Contents – list all the sections included in your proposal and their page numbers
3. Synopsis – a one-to-two-page synopsis of your entire manuscript, including the climax and resolution. Don’t keep the editor/agent guessing how it’s going to end.
4. About the Author – a one-to-two-page bio of you, including a photo, a little background, and your writing credits and awards won; include your involvement with social media, i.e. Facebook, Pinterest, Goodreads, Twitter, blogsite, etc. with all URLs.
5. Character Sketches – a one-page description of your main characters (one or two main characters, no more); include time period, personal appearance, quips, goals in life.
6. Market Potential (this one takes the most time) – spend quality time in bookstores and/or online, researching the other books already published in the same genre and age group. Include these elements: Layout and Audience, Competitive Works, Marketing Ideas, and Date of Completion.
7. Chapter Outline – this is not a I, II, III, A, B, C “outline.” It’s a one-to-two-paragraph summary of each chapter in your book. If your work is not finished, just write the outline up to the last chapter you’ve written.
8. Sample Chapters – the publisher’s guidelines might indicate chapter one, two, and the last one, maybe chapters one, the chapter in the middle of the book, and the last one. If not designated, send the first three chapters.
Well, there you have the basic elements of a proposal that will catch that editor’s or agent’s eye.
Why is the proposal so important?
If an editor or agent reviews a well-done proposal, he/she will recognize that the author already has good writing and organizing skills, has a goal set to finish a project, and can meet deadlines. All these qualities are essential in maintaining a good relationship between the author and editor.
Write an eye-catching proposal, and you’re one step closer to reaching that unreachable star: publication!