Monday, September 2, 2013

Tackling Your Book Proposal

Lindsey Rietzsch
BreyAnna writes: 

I am getting ready to write a proposal letter for the book that I am currently writing. I was curious if you had any advice for me (since I am new to this). Thanks for your time!

Proposal letters are not as difficult as they may seem. I mean you only have to fit everything you want someone to know about you and your book onto one page - what's so scary about that, right?

Alright, all sarcasm aside here are a few tips that you need to know to make your proposal letter work for you.

Opening: Address your letter to an actual person rather than Dear ABC Publishing. Rarely you won't be able to find a person to address it to, or the submission guidelines ask you to generally address it to their submissions dept. without giving you any names to work with. In that case listing the company's name is just fine. Avoid a general address such as Dear Agent or Dear Publisher.

One Sentence Book Description: Yes, it should not exceed one sentence. It is simply to state how long your book is and what category it falls in. This is the first thing an agent needs to see in order to direct it to the right person or decide if they want t read any further into your letter. 

One Paragraph Book Description: Remember, you have limited space so choose your words wisely. Introduce your main character and be sure to describe your character as someone worth wanting to know more about. What makes them so intriguing or relateable? Set up the story line and then throw in the curve ball - you know the unforeseen challenges facing your character. Then drop the hook - questions that will leave the reader wanting to  more. Will Amy survive camp Wobblecreek? Will John accept his new life or will he go back to Sherry? Be descriptive in your words. Really, this will be the same paragraph you use on the back of your book as well as on your Amazon description. So, use key words that will help people in searching for a book like yours. 

If your book is non-fiction this is where you will state why your book is needed in the market. What makes it different from the rest that are similar and why it will sell well. You want them to know you have done your research.

One Paragraph Bio: Get to the point! Tell the agent why you are credible as an author, expert in your field, or why you will be a great asset when it comes to marketing your book. Mention degrees, professional experience, and any past works you have already published. Because your space is limited, set up a website or blog where you can have a more detailed bio and portfolio. Provide a link here, encouraging the agent to visit it for more information. Also, paste a small photo of yourself in your bio. I've always believed that putting a face with your bio helps personalize the letter. Plus, if it's a professional photo, it can really help your credibility.

Closing: If the publisher or agent has specified in their guidelines what you should send them (the first 10 pages of your manuscript etc.) here is where you will mention that. State what you have attached for their review and then thank them for their time and consideration. Let them know that you are willing to send them anything more upon their request. 

IMPORTANT!! If you have not completed your manuscript you should not be sending this letter out. Should an agent be interested in what you sent, it is very likely that he/she will request your entire manuscript. If you don't have one to send or it's not finished - you will have irritated your agent and ruined your chance. Even if your agent is kind and encourages you to finish it and send it in. By the time you finish it, the agents excitement about your book will have worn down, possibly even replaced more a more exciting proposal and you may have lost your chance for good. Do it right the first time!

Attachment: Be sure to follow the guidelines. Most agents now days do not want to open attachments and will request that you paste everything into an email. Others will want it in a word document or PDF. Be sure you do what they say and if you state that you have attached something, be sure to attach it. 

Once you have completed your proposal you are ready to send it! Be sure to state in your email title Book Proposal: Your Book Title. Know that it can take 4-10 weeks before you hear back from someone. Some, you will not hear back from at all. When an agent declines your book, don't take it personal. Simply reply with a 'thank you' and do not ask why you were declined. Agents don't have time to critique. One in a blue moon a newer agent will freely provide this information. Use it to your benefit. 

Here are two very different examples I have  used for a couple of my books. The first is a fiction proposal and the second is a non-fiction proposal.

Example #1

June 12, 2013

Dear Jamie,

The Realm is the first of a 101,700 word contemporary young adult trilogy series based on true events.

Meet Celeste Day, a beautiful college hopeful who may look like your average girl next door - but in her cozy New England town she’s been harboring a lifelong gift and deep secret that is about to be exposed. Being raised in a family where image is everything, her whole world is about to be turned upside down overnight as Celeste decides to take the summer off to "fix herself". When the good looking and mysterious “Ezra” moves to town things only get more complicated as Celeste is confronted by secrets from her past, unexplained phenomenon and dark paranormal forces beyond her control. Saving her reputation and proving her sanity is the least of her worries when she quickly learns she is a part of something much bigger than she could have ever imagined - something that will forever alter her future and change the world…and there is no turning back!

About the Author

Lindsey K. Rietzsch is the author of the highly acclaimed book How to Date Your Spouse (2008) and Successful Failures (2012). She is also the inventor of Hydroheel (a DRTV skin care product) and a motivational speaker on the topics of relationships and self improvement. Lindsey holds a Bachelor of Integrated studies in Communication, Social Work and Family Studies from Weber State University, is a full time mom and a part time blogger/writer. Visit for a portfolio and complete bio.

 I have included the first ten pages for your review. The prologue is in first person (it's a pivotal event that ties into the book later), however all 24 chapters are written in third person. If you are interested, I would be happy to send you further chapters or the completed manuscript upon your request.

 I look forward to your reply.


Lindsey K. Rietzsch

Example #2 (Non-Fiction)

Back in 2007 this is what I was sending to publishers. Here was my opening email statement and then my attached proposal. It was much longer than what I recommend sending today but it landed me a publishing contract. I think this could easily be shortened and if the agent is interested he/she will request your marketing plan. 

Attn: Rodale Inc.                                                                       Date: April 10, 2007
Title: How to Date Your Spouse: A Couple’s Guide to Falling and Staying in Love 
Genre: Relationship-Marriage/ Self Help/ How To
Word Count: 34,139
Dear Rodale Inc, 

I am seeking representation for my relationship book titled How to Date Your Spouse: A Couple’s Guide to Falling and Staying in Love. I was referred to Rodale Inc. by Health Communications Inc. however I have contacted Rodale Books as I was impressed by your mission to inspire and enable people to improve their lives and the world around them. I have written How to Date Your Spouse as a means to inspire and strengthen marriages throughout the world.  I believe that my manuscript would nicely compliment your line of how-to, self-help, and non-fictional inspiration books. Thank you for this opportunity.

Brief Synopsis
In a society where it’s much easier to fall in love than to stay in love, marriages around the world are aching for solutions to this common dilemma. It’s no wonder that couples everywhere claim to have more fun during their dating years than they do their married years! If dating helped convince the two of you to be together, why can’t it help convince you to stay together?
How to Date Your Spouse offers a clever and humorous approach to the subject of falling and staying in love through the fun and creative art of dating!  To help keep that spark alive a marriage should be like a good book; full of fun, adventure, romance, a little mystery and much humor! How to Date Your Spouse will help you incorporate these elements back into your marriage. Prepare to be enlightened on the why’s and how-to’s of integrating “dating” into your marriage. Not only does this book provide motivation and encouragement, it promotes a new lifestyle that can forever change the course of any marriage. You will be surprised to discover what your marriage has been missing!
The purpose of this book is not to focus on the grim statistics of marriages and relationships, but instead to offer hope and excitement as a way to recharge what couples have already created.  This book contains cites from various credible sources as stated in bibliography.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I have attached a proposal which includes an author bio, summary of market competition, marketing approaches, book overview, outline summary, table of contents, sample chapters, and book references for your review. A completed manuscript is available upon your request.
Lindsey K. Rietzsch

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