Missy Tippens, here. Back in June, when our theme was on weddings, I posted a blog titled Proposals! Well, one of the readers thought I was going to talk about book proposals. She sounded disappointed, so I thought I'd follow through and do a basic post on book proposals. :) Writing one isn't as scary as you think.
First off, when you sell your first book, it's usually based on a complete manuscript. That's often the case with the first two or three books. After that, most publishers let you submit what's called a proposal. The proposals I do is for Love Inspired are very simple. I basically send three chapters and a synopsis. If I'm submitting ideas for other books as well, I'll also include a blurb, short synopsis or one-liner on the additional stories. I'll also include extra information on the story I'm submitting--like a blurb and marketing hooks (marketing hooks are common story hooks such as brides, cowboys, secret baby, marriage of convenience).
Let's look at each component in order:
1. Cover letter (which is a topic for another post if you're unpublished and submitting requested material). But if I'm mailing something directly to my editor, I just make this a standard business letter. Since my agent submits my proposals now, she does this.
1. Title page with the title, my name, targeted line, projected word count, agent contact information
2. Information sheet with the blurb and marketing hooks of the submitted story. If it's a series, I'll include a series summary (like what connects the stories, ie town, family, etc.). Then I'll add a long blurb for the second book (maybe even a short synopsis) and a one-liner or blurb for the third.
3. Theme Bible verse page for the submitted proposal (our books have a Scripture passage listed at the beginning).
4. Prologue (if there is one) as well as the first three chapters (double spaced--well, actually I use 26 lines per page). Always submit the prologue/beginning chapters! Don't ever skip around or just pick your favorites. :)
5. Synopsis. Yes, I put this at the end, because my chapter writing is much stronger than my synopsis writing. I always did this for contests as well! I wanted to hook the reader before they read my synopsis. For my books (55-60k words), I've gotten better about streamlining the synopsis, and it usually comes out about 7-8 pages (double spaced/26 lines per page).
That's all I send. But other publishers and agents have very specific requirements about additional information they want, like a bio and market study of similar books. Be sure to always check to find out what your target publisher or agent requires!
If you get all this pulled together, then the only other thing you need is the nerve to hit send (for email submissions) or to hand the package over to the postal worker. (No tug of war allowed as you waffle out of fear!) :) You can do it!!
Do you have any questions?