The first time I was asked to write a proposal for a writing project, I had no idea what the person was talking about. A few hours of research later and I still wasn’t sure what exactly I was supposed to produce. Various agency websites had proposal templates, blog posts about proposal formats, blog posts about what not to do, blog posts about what to do. It was all a confusing mess.
Yes, I could follow the template, if – and that’s a huge, ginormous if – I knew what all the category titles in the template meant and how to apply them to me and my novel. I tried to be brave and jump in. Some of it was easy. Well, easier than the rest.
For instance: I knew the title, genre, and word count of my book. Woo Hoo!
Also, I already had a short synopsis and a personal bio. I plugged those in. Then I read that I needed a hook. I thought I had one… until I read the examples. I realized I really didn’t know my story’s hook. That made me stop and analyze my story. What was it really about? At the bare bones, most basic level? It took a lot of trial and error to get the hook figured out, but that time was probably some of the most productive in the entire process.
Writing my hook helped me to better pitch the story. It forced me to think on a deeper level than I had when I originally wrote the words. This may not be a problem for you, but I wrote the first draft in 2011-2012. I had no idea how to write a novel. The novel was partially based in fact, so I didn’t have to invent everything or every character.
You may think that my intimate understanding of the work would make it easier to analyze and understand, but it didn’t. I was too close to it. It made sense on an intuitive level, more of a subconscious level which made the theme and hook harder to articulate.
Finding comparative titles was also difficult. I tackled this next. As an author, it is vital that I am a reader, too. I keep a running list of the books I read each year, so I was able to use my list to find one title. For the others I used ACFW’s Fiction Finder to search for books that had similar themes to mine. Then I read the books. I was able to find three that had aspects that related. I was told that the important thing is to show who might like to read your book. The comp title is as much an exercise in discovering your audience as it is finding similar books. I was told by one agent that she didn’t want a book report in this section, more a “the people who read these books may like mine too because…”
In the end, once the proposal was completed, I found I understood my novel in a much deeper way. It felt fantastic to have the proposal ready to hand to agents and editors at the ACFW Conference in September. I think just having tackled the daunting project elevates a writer’s level of professionalism in the eyes of those able to open the publishing door.
These are the links to sample proposals and advice I used when writing my proposal. http://hartlineagency.com/submissions/a-proper-proposal/ https://stevelaube.com/category/book-proposals/ https://www.booksandsuch.com/?s=proposals https://blog.reedsy.com/how-to-write-a-book-proposal/
I hope this advice will prove helpful and encouraging to those teetering on the edge of writing their proposals. If any readers have further advice or encouragement to offer, please post in the comments. I’d love to read about your experiences with this difficult, but rewarding task.
Hopefully, writing that daunting document will lead to signing the elusive book contract!