You’ve written a manuscript you want to see become a published book. But how do you do that?
You already know you need to now query agents and editors. I walk you through how to write a query letter here (don’t forget to download the free cheatsheet), but sometimes agents and editors specifically ask for you to attach a book proposal to your query email.
So now you want to know how to write a book proposal?
Here are the different sections you need in a basic book proposal. Always read submission guidelines carefully, as agents and editors sometimes want more or fewer sections than the ones I outline below. But these are the mainstay ingredients I’ve used every time I sit down to write a book proposal. Don’t forget to use the form below to download the template, which you can easily edit and use for your own book proposal!
1. Start with a Cover Page
On the Cover Page, put all the pertinent information about your manuscript. Formatting Note: center your text on different lines on this page, as I’ve done below:
Author Contact Info (Phone + Email)
Back Cover Copy
2. Chart your Overview Page
Some information is repeated from the Cover Page, but you also share more on this page. Formatting Note: I style my Overview page in a chart.
Title/Alternate Titles: The Sound of Diamonds
Genre: Historical Romance
Length and Status of Manuscript: 97,000 words, complete
Audience: women looking for a romance set in a little-known chapter of history
Series Potential: Third and final book is in rewrites. Full series proposal available upon request.
Delivery Date: Two weeks after signed contract.
Comparative Titles: 2-3 titles in a similar genre
Book titles rarely stay the same post-contract, so including a few alternate titles tells the editor/agent that you know this, you’re cool with it, and you even have other ideas if your original title ends up being swapped later.
It’s a good idea to be querying only completed manuscripts, and your editor/agent will expect that “complete” after Status of Manuscript.
3. Include your Author Bio
On the About the Author page, you want to shine! The agent or editor knows you know how to query and how to write a book proposal, but what they really want to know if they read all the way to this page is if you know how to write a book. So prove it to them. Pile on all of your publishing credits, if you have any, including reputable places you write online.
Never written anywhere online except your own blog? Check out my tutorial on how to write a guest post.
Don’t worry about sounding boastful. Write your bio in third-person, keep it short (2-3 paragraphs is perfect), and make it close to what you envision seeing on the back cover of your book one day.
4. Spend Time on your Marketing Plan
Again, this page is incredibly important, so put a lot of thought into it. Publishing has changed significantly over the last several decades with the advent of the internet, e-books, and independent (or self-)publishing. Authors, especially new authors, are now expected to shoulder marketing, especially if you go with a smaller press or publishing house.
This is exciting! You’ll have more opportunities to connect with readers than writers of yesteryear.
This is also intimidating, as the editor or agent you’re querying will expect you to already be working on building your platform, before you’ve even signed the book contract.
So show them on this page how you plan to capitalize on your connections and publishing credits. List out fellow authors from whom you plan to request endorsements. Mention you know how to write press releases and list local newspapers and writerly publications to whom you plan to send your releases.
My local paper has published nearly every press release I’ve sent them over the years, announcing my contract and each book’s release. If you’re interested in me writing my next “how to write…” post on press releases, let me know in a comment below and I’ll be happy to oblige.
(Hint: they’re not that hard once you have a template!)
It’s especially important you talk about your web presence on the Marketing Plan page. Include a link to your blog and any other blogs/websites that will help you market your book (for instance, these can be places where you’ve guest posted and can include a link to your new book in your author byline).
Also include an Other category, where you can stuff miscellaneous information about setting up a launch team to help you get the word out about your book prior to launch day or a list of local bookstores where you can set up book signings.
5. Write a Stellar Synopsis
Now you finally get to talk about your book!
In 1-2 pages, how would you summarize your book’s plot? It’s a good idea to have a one-page and a two-page version available because different editors/agents prefer one over the other.
- Write in third person, present tense. (Weird, I know. But imagine you’re talking your reader through the story.)
- Formatting Note: single-space your synopsis.
- Tell, don’t show. Just tell it like it is.
- Don’t include every character’s name. And the first time you name someone, put their name in all caps LIKE THIS.
- Read this article on how to edit your synopsis. (Trust me, it’s gold.)
For more information on how to write a synopsis, my friend Stephanie explains how she writes her synopsis before she even writes her book!
6. Slide in your Sample Chapters
Most agents/editors ask for the first three chapters of your novel to be included in your book proposal. If you’re writing nonfiction, you can choose chapters that are out of order (that is, they aren’t necessarily the first, second, and third chapters in the book).
And that’s it! With these six steps, you’re armed with all the ingredients you need to write a book proposal.
If you’d like to see the book proposal for my first novel, email me at [email protected]cobb.com. And don’t forget to use the form below to download the template, which you can easily edit and use for your own book proposal!