A book proposal is a document most commonly associated with pitching a nonfiction book. It includes information on the content, the author, the market, and the salability of the project. But when it comes to fiction, few agents or editors expect or require book proposals. I certainly don’t, though I have to admit that I am always happy to receive one. A book proposal helps me learn more about an author than a two-sentence bio. It gives me insight into marketing opportunities. And it provides a snapshot of the project that saves me hours of work when I’m preparing to evaluate a project.
Whether or not you need a book proposal, I recommend going through the exercise. Putting together a proposal will help you hone your pitch and get a feel for being the “brand manager” of your book. A proposal makes you think like an editor, a marketer, and a salesperson all at once.
Ready to give it a try? Here are some elements I love to see in a fiction book proposal (and if you’re writing nonfiction, most of these still apply!):
- Hook and pitch. Much like a query letter, it’s helpful to include the elevator pitch of your book in a proposal. This is the down-and-dirty, grab-your-attention info that leaves a reader wanting more.
- Author info. While a brief and quirky bio is great for the back cover of a book, I like to know as much about an author as I can (especially because that means I don’t have to do tons of internet stalking!). I look for info like:
- Previously published books
- Social media stats
- Website or blog link
- Connections with other authors or important literary figures
- Target audience. This might be a general category, like “young adult readers” or “readers interested in WWII fiction.” But it’s important to recognize who your audience is, especially as you start thinking about the next two bullets…
- Competitive titles. Comp titles are wonderful to include in a book proposal. These are books that are similar to but different than yours, and act as great reference points for both the editor and the sales or marketing team. *Hint: It’s great to use bestselling books as your comps, but make sure the connection between your book and the bestseller is honest and accurate. Also, avoid comparing yourself to someone hugely famous, like Lee Child or J.K. Rowling, as that can sound like a stretch.
- Marketing and PR opportunities. I never expect an author to have a full-blown marketing plan. That is what a marketing team is for! However, it’s hugely helpful to know if an author has connections within a group of librarians or booksellers, if they can get a spot on a radio program, or if they have a newsletter with a nice subscriber base.
- One-page synopsis. They’re a pain to write and full of spoilers, but synopses are so, so helpful. They help editors see the arc of your manuscript and get an immediate sense of the story before diving into the text. They also help authors practice being concise and plot-oriented when summing up a novel.
- Sample chapters. A proposal generally includes one to three sample chapters from your novel. This gives authors a chance to polish those chapters into their best possible shape and to make sure the early pages draw the reader in.
Want to know more about creating a fiction book proposal? Check out the links below: