Writing a book proposal is the first step to selling your book and this includes fiction. Many novice writers miss this vital step. Furthermore, there are ground rules to adhere to and a systematic approach you must take when reaching out to an agent. So, which should you pitch to an agent first, a query letter or a proposal?
As a general rule, you submit a query letter first. This requirement is not set in stone; you can choose to present your proposal to an agent without first querying. However, it’s best to query first, as you can establish a relationship with the agent, especially if it’s your first book.
What should your query letter to an agent include? Your query letter should make a convincing and, or, compelling case of your book’s concept. And you must do your utmost to summarise your concept in one paragraph. Brevity is key.
This may seem a daunting, maybe even an impossible undertaking, but it’s so important to refine the concept. With the hundreds of queries agents receive on a daily basis, yours, like the many others, will get a blink of an eye and must, therefore, be irresistible to hook him. Furthermore, if you get beyond the flicker of his eyelid, this is what he will use to champion your book to the editor, who will in turn use it to convince the deciding parties—usually the publication board—that your book has worth.
In addition, it could be used by the publisher’s sales rep to get your book on to book store shelves and on the back cover (jacket) of your book to encourage readers to buy it.
Next, note the market potential for your book, including who the readers are and what competition you will face. This gives a point of reference for current consumer buying habits in the genre for which you write. And you must demonstrate why you are the person to write the book.
Create a detailed proposal that includes your vision for your book, estimated word count, the books time line i.e. when you plan on finishing it, an outline and a sample chapter. If your sample chapter will be ten or less pages, two or three sample chapters may be required, as well as chapter summaries.
Include what your book is about, what is the message or solution it will provide to readers, who your audience is, what makes your book different from others, how you will market it, will you sell to a special market? Will you include endorsements? Will you have someone write the foreword? Don’t forget to include your bio.
Another question to consider is should you write the proposal or the query letter first? I would suggest you write the proposal. The reason is, once your proposal is in place, you will lift details from it to craft your query. Besides, if you nab the agent’s interest, he will request the proposal and you would be wise to forward it to him immediately, while your query is fresh in his memory.
Write It, Work It, Publish it!
© 2011 Cherry-Ann Carew
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Cherry-Ann Carew, aka The Power Writing Coach, Editor, Best-selling author and Founder of Writetastic Solutions is passionate about helping aspiring fiction and non-fiction writers bring out their creative expression to write their books. Learn how her coaching and editing services can help you at www.writetasticsolutions.com.