You invest time, energy, sweat, and tears into your proposal. You are ready to hit the send button.
Stop and count to thirty… it was longer than you expected, right?
Thirty seconds can determine destination. An athlete will not qualify for the Olympics if he’s thirty seconds behind. He must practice day and night, eat healthy, and forego a personal life to increase his chances of obtaining a spot on the team.
Large corporations pay millions to purchase a thirty second commercial for the Super Bowl. Hours are spent writing, filming, editing, and more editing—just for a thirty second spot. When the commercial is aired, the advertisement must capture the viewer’s attention and inspire them to purchase the product or service, or that company is not hired again.
A book proposal is similar. It takes only a short time to determine the fate of your manuscript.
An agent or a publisher can review your proposal and decide quickly if they want to reject your baby, especially if one of the top three requirements doesn’t meet their expectations. It seems unfair, since you spent countless hours on research, edits, and rewrites, but publishers and agents get hundreds of proposals and don’t have time to read each in its entirety, so they look at what’s important to them.
As a submission reader for a literary agent, I interviewed agents and publishes and found the top three items they look for in a proposal. A notable biography, marketing plan, and an eye catching first three chapters are required in the decision-making process. Will your proposal pass the test?
Biography– The agent or publisher desire to learn about the writer. This section answers these vital questions. Are you the best person to write the book? Are you a person the publisher or agent wants to work with?
The biography should include writing experience, education, achievements, publishing history, and a current headshot. Write the bio in the third person. If you have a decent platform, mention it here. Mention an endorsement from a well-known writer. Publishers and agents don’t care if you love cats or chocolate, unless it is the topic of your book. I made that mistake.
Marketing Plan– Let’s face it, writing is a business. The agents and publishers want to see numbers, no matter how small. The two words that publishers do not want to see in this section are, “I will.” I will build a website, I will create a Facebook page, or I will get endorsements and speaking engagements. Complete the tasks then submit the proposal. You will not be able to resubmit the proposal for another six months in most cases, so do it now.
Brainstorm all the following. You may be surprised at how many people you know. I coached one client who didn’t realize that the college he attended would post a book release to their blog and newsletter. This added over 100,000 people to his list.
Include the following in your plan:
- Organization membership-list numbers
- Book signings
- Speaking Engagements
- Press Kit
- Book Tours
- Book Groups
- Blog tours
Three Sample Chapters- Do you write well? Can you hook the agent or publisher? One of the agents I interviewed stated, “If the writer can’t hook me with the story or the writing is bad, why look at the rest of the proposal.” These chapters must be professionally edited. I’ve seen many proposals where the author did not even run a basic grammar and spelling check. To an agent, this means the writer does not pay attention to detail and might be difficult to work with.
For fiction submissions, submit the first three chapters of the book.
For non-fiction submissions, pick the best three chapters that capture the essence of the book.
The most important part of submitting a proposal is following the agent or publisher guidelines. You will find them at their website. If you can’t find them at the site, email them.
I was told as a submissions reader and junior literary agent to delete any proposals that did not follow our guidelines. I’m sorry to say, I deleted many good candidates for not following guidelines. Invest the time now.
Thirty seconds of a proposal review may turn into thirty minutes and then a contract, if you follow submission guidelines and capture the attention of the agent or publisher.
Major corporations, Olympians, publishers, and agents know—thirty seconds can determine destination. Please take the time to create a winning proposal.
If you are stuck at the starting line and need help, just email us. We can get you to the finish line.