Tuesday, January 06, 2009

What Is a Book Proposal for Fiction Writers

Once you’ve mastered the query letter it’s time to move on to the book proposal. For fiction writers a proposal if fairly easy compared to what nonfiction writers have to do. And keep in mind, if you are writing narrative nonfiction, like a memoir, you should think of your work as fiction. In other words, editors and agents will expect the work to be completed before you even start to query.

Because fiction writers have the book written, polished, and edited before they even start to query, putting the proposal together is really about collecting materials, but since you can never have too much information, I thought you too would like to know what goes into your proposal (sometimes called a partial).

  1. Query Letter. Yes, you’ve already submitted the query, but don’t forget to do it again. Every bit of material you submit to agents and editors should include a reminder of what they are getting. So in the letter you are sending with the proposal mention that you’ve received a request, that this is requested material, include the blurb that first grabbed the agent’s interest and include everything else in the query that grabbed the agent’s interest.
  2. Chapters. Unless you are told otherwise, include the first three chapters (and yes, a prologue is a chapter), but no more than 50 pages of your book. Yes, make sure the chapters are full chapters, make sure they are the first chapters, and yes, if the chapter ends at page 51 send 51 pages. If chapter three ends at page 80 then you only send two chapters. Just use good judgment. Agents really like authors with good judgment.
  3. A Synopsis. I’m not picky. Whatever you have on hand works for me, but do make sure your synopsis is complete and strong. In other words, the synopsis should tell the ending, it should include all key plot points, and it should read in the tone of your book. In other words, if you’re writing suspense, I should get a sense of suspense from your synopsis. If you’re writing erotic romance, I should get a sense of the sex.
Other tidbits to consider:
  • Page numbers. Everything should be numbered.
  • Order. Place the synopsis at the end of the package. Do you really want people to read this first or do you want to wow them with your chapters first.
  • Have others proofread your synopsis to make sure it makes sense.
I will try to post more about the synopsis later, but this is it. When requesting a proposal, this is all we ask for.