I still consider traditional publishing the bees knees even with the advent of self publishing on Amazon and co., so in today's blog post we'll be covering how to write a book proposal and query letter. I'm going to share with you the way I've been taught to approach this task.
Always start with The Writers & Artists Yearbook. This is a great resource for finding potential Editors and Agents in your genre, but be sure to double check the information listed by them on individual websites. People come and go all the time and you want the most accurate information. If you find the book doesn't match the website and you're still not sure (because the website looks like it hasn't be manned for several months), make a phone call to the company to find out the name of the Editor or Agent. The number one rule is to address your proposal / query to a named person, so it is worth all this extra effort. If you simply write Dear Sir / Madam, expect to find yourself on the slush pile in no time at all.
Before you write your proposal, make sure you have a completed manuscript and it's edited to the best of your ability. In the past, I've let potentially great opportunities slip through my fingers because I'd only written five or six chapters and that's all I had to show.
In the good old days I used to write query letters that were three A4 pages long because it was ok to do so. Nowadays, however, it's preferable to write just one A4 page with approx three to five paragraphs. Remember, you want to hook the Agent or Editor in within the first few seconds, much as you do when writing a book, so keep your proposal succinct and to the point. Even if you're emailing the query, keep to the structure and format of a letter and don't send attachments unless you're allowed to. Only include your website or blog in your signature because they are unlikely to click through to these unless you've impressed them and they are keen to see more of what you can do. Everything you want to pitch about your book should be expressed in the confines of the letter, not tucked away on your website or blog.
So that's the basic principles of the layout covered. Now, what should the proposal contain?
Start with a paragraph about your book. This is a chance to pitch your story in a way that will simply blow the Editor or Agent away. Show them your irresistible hook and they will already be thinking about possible marketing opportunities. Tell them about the authors you admire and who of those you write like. X meets Y with a touch of Z. Don't be too cocky (setting yourself up for a fall), but be confident in your style, flair and content.
Next, write a paragraph about yourself and link it back to your book. Explain why you're qualified to write this story. Also mention you're a first time novelist, active on Facebook and Twitter, running a website, blogging regularly... All of this shows to them evidence you're aware of the importance of author platform and social networking. Most marketing filters through these channels if the budget is limited. If you do have a publishing history, now is the time to sing your praises. This "history" can include published articles, web copywriting, etc etc. It all makes up your published portfolio.
You need to clearly state your chosen genre, where you think your book will sit in a bookshop and which authors it will sit next to. Research thoroughly and don't make up a genre.
Be sure to let the Editor / Agent know what's available if they request to see more ie. a complete manuscript.
Finally, check the submission guidelines and most important of all - follow them. If you are being asked to send the first three chapters with a short synopsis, ONLY send the first three chapters with a short synopsis.
Using this format won't necessarily guarantee success, but what it does do is take you out of that fiction bubble and drop you into the publishing industry world. Putting your marketing head on and getting you thinking like a pro. The easy part is writing the damn book. The hard part is pitching it for sale.
I'll be continuing with this subject tomorrow and sharing tips from real life Editors and Agents.
Blogging is an amazing concept so here I am giving it a whirl. You'll get words. You'll get pics. Sometimes a vid or two. You'll get tongue in cheek, the odd humble opinion and an honest insight into my travels and writing life. Maybe even a few gems along the way. I'll be musing on home turf as I see more and more of the UK and sharing my experiences further afield on holidays and adventurous trips across the globe.