Part of my job requires me to read a lot (seriously, a lot) of book proposals from first time authors. Once in a while I will get a thorough and well formatted book proposal. However, most times these submitted proposals are poorly written and are poorly put together.
There are many things that make a good book proposal and many things that make me want to chuck them half way through.
Here are 10 things to consider when it comes to submitting a book proposal.
- Know the publisher. Before you submit your proposal educate yourself on the publisher to make sure your book is a good fit for their company.
Every company is different and publishes different types of books. Each publishing company has a different market so find out what kind of books and authors they publish before submitting. If you are hoping to submit to a company and find that they have never published devotionals then find another publisher to submit to. It is a waste of your time to submit to a publishing company that does not publish your genre.
While you may be sending your manuscript to multiple publishers or agents, take the time to personalize it and send your proposal/manuscript to each publisher/agent separately. Yes, it is more time consuming, but in the long run it will look more professional and show a publisher/agent that you want them to take your project and not just anyone that will read it and sign you.
- Use proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
There is nothing more irritating to me than when I receive a book proposal that is loaded with wrong uses of “don’t” “your” and “there”. It is also a great idea to have either an editor or a friend who is great with grammar, spelling, and punctuation look over the proposal before you submit it.
*Example from a real proposal: It dont matter to me what the title is as long as there are sales.
- Do not use emoticons or the phrase “LOL”.
I receive proposals where people actually do use smiley faces, winky faces, and “LOL”—just don’t do it. It is unprofessional and will make it hard for a publisher to take you seriously. Save the emoticons and “LOL”-ing for Facebook.
*Example from a real proposal: I am not a pastor lol but serve in the children’s ministry 😉
- Do not ask the publisher/agent to “see manuscript” for more information.
Include things like your bio, table of contents, etc in your proposal. It can come across lazy to a publisher/agent when they see the author “couldn’t be bothered” to type it all out or just copy and paste.
*Note: Your proposal is sometimes all an agent or publisher looks at. If your proposal is poorly put together it is unlikely they will even bother to open the manuscript so put ALL relevant information in the proposal.
- One of the questions in our Destiny Image book proposal is, “Who are your potential endorsers?”— You would be amazed at how many times authors write in, “The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit will endorse my book”. Do not do this.
It is one of my biggest peeves when it comes to proposals. Actually write out the people who will be endorsing your book, people you plan on seeking endorsements from, and even people who have endorsed your previous books.
- Know your audience.
No, it is not “everyone” or “all Christians” (which are the answers I receive the most). Every book, every author is different—know who your book is intended to reach, your audience. Knowing your audience will help the publisher determine if they have a market for your book or if another publisher would be a better fit.
Example: Correct answers would be-Christian leaders, young adults, single young women, parents, men ages 20-40, Bible Study groups, inmates, etc
- Do not embellish.
I have talked with authors who have written on their book proposals that they personally know some famous minister or author but it turns out the author actually just met them once through a mutual pastor friend. Be real, be authentic! A publisher or agent needs a realistic view of you as the author, your platform, and connections. It makes it hard for us when we call to talk further with you and find out a lot was exaggerated or was “hopeful”.
- When you include your proposed titles for your book keep in mind they are likely to be changed.
Many publishers will not work with authors who tell them, “God told me to title my book this” and are unwilling to change it. Why? Title is a huge part of book sales—it is the first thing people see when it is on the bookshelf. If the title is vague, or one word that tells nothing about the book it will be less likely to sell or even get placement in a bookstore. It is in your best interest to be flexible and teachable and let the experts work with you on titling your book so it can get the best exposure and sales. In all honesty, many books do not sell because of a terrible title.
- When you send in your proposal also include only 1-3 chapters of your manuscript.
An evaluator will not read your entire manuscript even if you send it in.
Note: DO NOT send in handwritten manuscripts or scanned in notebook pages. This happens a lot more often that you would believe. Your manuscript and book proposal should be typed out and formatted.
- Do not send anything to a publisher/literary agent you want back.
Most publishers have a policy that they do not send back manuscripts or proposals. If you need it returned for whatever reason include in your packet a self-addressed and stamped envelope with a note requesting it to be mailed back.
A book proposal is your “first impression” when presenting to a publisher or literary agent. How you present yourself in the proposal matters! Include all the information you want them to know about you, your platform, your project, and you’re your marketing plan.
I hope this is helpful and gives you some direction for putting together a great book proposal!