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How to Format a Book Proposal for a Publisher or Agent

Most elements revolving the sale capacity of a book/author, is quite frankly decided by how you format  a book proposal. Before your book can hit the market with representation behind it, it has to make it past the review crew, so be sure to include the following.

Research your Audience and Peers

One of the most important sections of your proposal will address the audience of your genre and the peers you will be associated with within it. An agent/ publisher will not accept a book just because it is well written, they have to be able to have an idea about how it will sell; they will ask for the following marketing plan:

  • What genre is your book in
  • Who are you targeting as your audience (history buffs, housewives in their 30s, teens 14-17, gamers…) They have to know who they can sell your book to before saying yes.
  • How many similar books in this genre have been sold in the past 5 years, how many best sellers in that genre? (include titles, publishers, publishing date and the year). At least 5-7.
  • Which authors are most like you in terms of your writing style, themes, and background.

Without this analysis, the agent or publisher you are appealing to will not accept your proposal. This section sets up their marketing plan, their advance factors and the expected revenue report of your books, which is pretty much everything. If they see that similar books have sold relatively well, they’ll believe its a good market to dip into.

Part 1

The first section of your proposal should be a cover letter. Address each one to the specific agents or publishers, tailer each proposal. Your cover should be interesting, it should catch their eye and include the genre of your book, your name and the word count of the sample you are sending (usually just the first 3 chapters).

Agents will ask for something called a shell sheet, it should only be 1 page long and include the title of your book, the book’s genre again, word count and a tagline.

As with all freelance story ghostwriting, your proposal should also include a back flap description of your book in a riveting fashion. Include your bio and a photo of yourself.

Ensure that your biography includes any relevant educational background, especially if proposing a non-fiction book; agents want to see what makes you qualified to write such a book, and so will any readers. List your achievements, relevant recognitions and any previous publishing history you may have had (have you been published before, if so by whom?).

Each proposal should be accompanied by a synopsis. Do not make it longer than three pages, and encompass the basics of your story from beginning to end.

Part 2

The second half of your proposal is ALL business. Make sure to include the marketing plan we stated in section 1 (Research your Peers and Audience). Next is your competition plan, this is where you doll up your book and tell the recipient what makes your book different from the similar titles presented in the marketing plan, and provide your angle for why your story is better.

Be prepared to include what you will do on your own to promote your book. Make sure to have a website for yourself already in place, social networking connections and possibly a blog with a following. State any local books stores you may reach out to to promote your book and any ideas you may have for promotional giveaways.

Part 3

You’re almost done! All you have to do now is provide a history of your manuscript (has it been published before, when?), or whether or not it has been submitted to editors. This is different from whether your not YOU have been published before.

Now it all comes back to that very first paragraph we talked about. The last thing to do is attach a copy of the first 3 chapters of your book.

Remember to NEVER send a complete manuscript unless specifically requested by a publisher or agent. Also, any manuscripts requested are usually recycled, should you like for it to be returned, provide adequate postage. That’s it, you’re all done, so remember it all actually starts with just writing. Make sure you have at least the first 3 chapters written before pursuing anything.