First an apology. There has been no Blog for a few weeks as I broke my right hand, but now the cast is off, and I can write again.
So, in the interim, you’ve finished writing your book. And now you want to send it out into the world – either to an agent, or direct to a publisher. The first requirement is that you have a book proposal and for this, you want a succinct yet comprehensive summary. A book proposal should never be more than 10 double-spaced quarto pages, and even that is a lot. Most of my book proposals were only 1 page, but nevertheless I put an enormous amount of effort into them. The primary function is as a selling tool. It uses as few words as possible to generate the maximum enthusiasm for your proposed book. It must answer every question an editor may have , so that he has no reason to say “no”.
A proposal is a map. A solid outline will enable you and the publisher to see where you are going. Writing 2 sample chapters will show whether you can and really want to write the book. If you prove that you can research, organize and write non-fiction, you can sell a book with a proposal consisting of an introduction, a chapter-by-chapter outline, and 2 sample chapters.
With fiction it is more difficult. You need an exciting synopsis of not more than one page.Another page should be your bio … what work you have had published up to now, and your accreditations if any.
A paragraph should cite what genre it will belong to – e.g. romantic fiction, historical, sci-fi, thriller etc.; who your target audience is and why you think you are the person to write it. You must also state the length (50 – 60,000 words is an acceptable ms.) You must also state how you will help promote it – e.g. lectures, book signings, TV or radio appearances etc.
The cover page must give all your contact details. Finally, you can send 1 or 2 sample chapters so that the publisher can assess your style. Never send a complete ms. – it will simply go in the slush pile. If it interests them, they will ask to see more. If you want your ms. returned, you must send stamps to cover the postage, or if it is overseas, you send International Reply Coupons that you buy at the Post Office. If they are willing to read it online, they will tell you so.
You can send multiple submissions. Don’t worry – more than one publisher will probably not be interested. You can use an agent, but I have only had an agent find me one publisher – the other 12 books I approached publishers directly, although my New York literary agent often gets me better deals on the contract. Read books like The Artists & Writers’ Year Book (U.K.) or “The Writers’ Market (U.S.A.) to research which publishers are interested in your genre and any specific requirements they have. You can also use Google to find publishers interested in your genre, and their web page will give you guidelines and whether or not they accept unagented queries. Then be patient – you rarely get an answer in less than 3 months.
I’m always happy to hear your comments, and you can also contact me if you’re interested in purchasing any of my book, or need help with a writing problem. Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org