Thursday, February 5, 2009

Writing Book Proposals

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I’ve been working A LOT on book proposals lately. And it occurred to me that not everyone might know what these consists of so I thought I’d share. At least what I’m doing.

When you first start querying for an agent or editor you should have your entire book complete. More than complete—you should have it as perfect as possible. It would be awesome if you could get an agent or sell a book on proposal but this doesn’t happen too often when you’re first starting out (not saying it CAN’T. Just that most of the time you need a completed book). Once you’ve had a book published and editors can see that hey, yeah, you can write and complete an entire book then you can start submitting proposals. For example, I believe our own Lisa, Miss Crafting a Career, recently sold her Chasing Brooklyn, on proposal (right Lisa?).

Well, my first book isn’t out there just yet but I am working with my editor right now to figure out what my book two should be (my contract is for two books). Instead of writing full books I’m writing proposals for my various ideas and submitting those. So what is going into my proposals?

1) One-Page Synopsis

This reads almost like a blurb on the back of the book but a little more in depth. It gives a good idea of what the book will be about.

2) Outline

This is a toughie. Here I outline the ENTIRE book chapter by chapter. I try to completely describe what will happen in that chapter in just a paragraph or so. Sometimes it’s hard. Like, I may have just a brief paragraph describing chapter 5 but then need half a page to describe chapter 6. I do need to give away all the vital bits of the book in the outline—all the way through to the end. My outlines end up being anywhere from 5 to 10 pages usually. In our A2A interviews we’ve asked authors before if they are “plotters” or “plungers”. I’ve always been a plunger but with writing proposals I’m sort of forced to be a plotter instead.

3) Sample

The last element of my proposal is the sample. Here you show the editor a piece of what the book will be like. How much is up to you and your editor or agent. Some people like to do the first three chapters. Some people like to do the first fifty pages. For me I’ve been doing roughly the first thirty pages (sometimes I go over depending on where my chapter is ending).

So this is how I put together a book proposal. For those of you that have worked on book proposals, do you do anything different? Or do you have any tips you’d like to share?

Kristina, Miss Delighted to Debut


Eliza Osborn said...

Working on this right now. Thank you for the tips!

Kate Fall said...

Wow, Tina, how many proposals are you working on? Writing outlines for multiple books must be difficult but it does sound like great discipline in getting your ideas completely rounded out.

DeenaML said...

Happy Birthday, Lisa!

Tina, that is a lot of work -- but it seems like once you get the go ahead on which proposal to develop into a complete book, the writing of the actual book can go faster because of all the pre-writing you've done. Good luck!!!

Kristina Springer said...

I'm on third right now Kate! :-) My editor liked three of my ideas so I wanted to give her as much as I could to make the decision.

You're welcome Eliza!

And I hope so Deena! Thanks!

Lisa Schroeder said...

Yeah, I didn't do a chapter-by-chapter outline. Perhaps because my books don't have chapters? :) I did 50 pages plus a one-page synopsis, that showed I knew where the book was going.

I was afraid of selling a book this way - like what happens if I can't finish the book? But you know what I found? I referred back to that synopsis again and again and it actually helped me get the book written.

Just think Tina, you'll be all set to write a whole bunch of books! Can't wait to hear which one ends up being Book 2!

Emily Marshall said...

Good luck on selling them Tina!!! I think the outline will come in really handy when finishing up the book. I kind-of outline my books, but end up changing them alot. I think if I did a better outline, though, and then sold it, I think it would be so much help.