Publishing Tips

Proposals: Pitch with Purpose

Roy Miller

In the February 2018 Publishing Tip, Roy Miller summarizes six essential elements to help you build a successful book proposal.

 

Roy Miller is the award-winning author of A Life With You, Sunburnt Farmlands of the Midwest, Halcyon, and Exalted. He is a regular contributor to his local newspaper and has several publications in various literary magazines and anthologies. He was the winner of the 2013 Topaz Award for Author of the Year. When not writing, Roy gets a steady supply of inspiration from volunteering as a crisis counselor through 7 Cups of Tea. Other avenues of creativity include working on film, writing and editing screenplays and adaptations, and attempting to paint (sometimes). To read more about the author and his work, go to his website.

The proposal is arguably the most important part of the getting published process. Sure, a good manuscript helps, but if you have a weak (or worse off, no) proposal, that manuscript might end up untouched by the people you need to see it most. When the writing process is done and your piece is all polished and ready to go with an eye-catching front cover and gripping blurb on the back, it’s time to buckle down and start your proposal.

For the rest of this article we’ll be using the ever-popular Snowflake Method proposal template to give you a general outline. A strong proposal consists of several things: Executive Summary, Market Analysis, Author Bio, Character Synopsis, Novel Synopsis, and Promotion. Let’s break each of these down a little further.

  • Executive Summary
    • This section is for your basic book information. Working title, genre, high concept, target readers, length, completion date, storyline, and an author summary.
  • Market Analysis
    • Describe the category and subcategory your manuscript falls under. An example would be Romance > Paranormal. Name your target audience, and give some numbers on how popular this category is in that area. Name a few popular books in your category that are similar to yours, with a two- to three-sentence summary of each and why your book is different.
  • Author Bio
    • Your full bio from your website. If you don’t have one, write one now. Take a look at a popular author’s website, such as John Green or Stephen King, to get a good idea on what to do here.
  • Character Synopsis
    • This section includes multi-paragraph sketches for each of the characters in your story, from beginning to end. General information on who they are, what they want, and what happens to them as the story progresses.
  • Novel Synopsis
    • The most important part and where your writing skills should really shine. This can be either a long or short synopsis, being anywhere from a couple of paragraphs up to two pages, double-spaced. Reveal everything major that happens in the book, even the ending. Agents are very picky when it comes to genre fiction, so if you’re writing romance, mystery, thriller, fantasy, etc., don’t slack on the synopsis; it’s important.
  • Promotion
    • Consists of three parts: endorsements, platform, and personal promotion. If you have, say, a friend that is a popular author and they’ve agreed to read your book, let that be known here. If you’re writing a book about a court case, a lawyer would be a good endorsement, etc. If you don’t have any, just skip this section. Describe your social media platform and how many followers you have to promote your book to. Give specific numbers. Include any other information on how you’ll get the word out yourself.

It’s crucial that you give the agent or press you’re pitching to all of your best information upfront. It’s universally agreed that authors have the most trouble with sticking their chests out and saying look at me! look at me! but it’s vital to the publishing process. The people who are taking a risk for you need to know that you’re capable of putting yourself out there without having your hand held. Write a bang-up biography, polish your character synopses and think long and hard about where exactly you want your book to land. If you give them the right information alongside a professional manuscript and a proactive attitude, you’ll be light years ahead of the curve.

More information about the Snowflake Method can be found at the creator’s website.

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The Malahat Review posts "Publishing Tips" as a bimonthly guest column on its Publishing Tipswebsite and in Malahat lite. Follow it in order to learn how to improve your professional skills, from the writing of cover letters, to what house style means, to choosing a rhyming dictionary, to having an author photo (as opposed to a selfie) shot. If you have a Publishing Tip you'd like to share, email The Malahat Review at malahat@uvic.ca, with "Publishing Tip Idea" in the subject line. Tips should be 750 words or less. If yours is accepted, you will be paid an honorarium of $50.

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