Writers' Resources 

The Book Proposal Package

Do you have a book ready to send out to agents and publishers? Your chances will be improved if you invest some time in preparing a good strong book proposal. Here are some guidelines.

Your book proposal package should contain a winning cover letter, a title page, an overview/synopsis, a market analysis and assessment of the competition, an author biography, and a SASE. The following materials should also accompany your proposal or be available to be sent if requested by an agent or editor/publisher: the Introduction or Preface, the Table of Contents, and the first couple of chapters or first fifty pages.

Of course your proposal will be stronger if you can state that the book has been written and edited and is ready to submit.

Before preparing your proposal package, read and respond to the following questions. Answer them as thoroughly as you can. Many of them won’t apply directly to the book you’re trying to place, but they will keep you mindful of your long-term goals as a writer, and having thought about these questions will help you when you get into discussions with prospective publishers and/or agents.


The questionnaire

About the author

1. Author's full name.

2. Author's name as it is to appear on the book.

3. Author's address, work; Author's address, home. Author’s email.

4. Phone number, work, phone number home, Fax number.

5. Occupation (give job title and brief description).

6. Significant past employment (of relevant interest to readers of your book).

7. Education. Please give names and addresses of schools and colleges you have attended, and, if possible, the names and editor's names of alumni magazines or newsletters. Also indicate the years you attended and any degrees earned.

8. Awards, and honors earned.

9. Previously published books and their publishers.

10. Other publications (e.g. poems, stories, articles etc. published in periodicals).

11. Significant organizations or associations of which you are a member. Include titles of any offices you've held.

12. Please send us a few photographs of you.

13. Write a 100-200 word autiobiography.

14. Do you have another writing project in the works? Is it related in some way to the manuscript that’s the subject of this proposal? Please describe the new project briefly (30± words).

About the book

15. Book title and subtitle

16. Characterize your work's content in one sentence.

17. Write a 200-400 word synopsis of the book.

18. Names and addresses of magazines whose readers would be interested in your book.

19. Names and address of organizations that might be interested in buying quantities of the book for their membership or catalog, or whose mailing lists could be used for direct-mail promotion.

20. Why did you create your work?

21. Who are the people or forces that influenced you the most in the creation of this work?

22. If you have shown your work to others, what kind of reponse did you get from them?

23. What special services is performed by the existence of this work?

24. What human interest stories (current news events, trends, etc.) are related to the production or content of this work?

25. Is there some section of this work that is your favorite?

26. How long did it take you to complete this work?

27. Where did you do most of this work?

28. What do you feel is the special significance of your work?

29. For what audience was this book written? How extensive is your target audience?

30. List other similar, or competing, books on the market, and indicate how you feel your book differs from them.

31. If parts of this work have already appeared in print, give the date, name, and address of the publications where they appeared.

32. Additional comments?


Remember that persistence is the name of the game. Chances are you won’t land a contract or sign up with an agent on the first shot. Have the skin of a rhinoceros, listen to feedback, and always be ready with the next envelope.

A couple of other words of advice. First, neatness counts. Make your proposal package clean, well written, and reader-friendly. Follow the manuscript guidelines if you have them; it will show that you’re easy to work with. Friendliness counts, too. Resentment and hurt feelings will get you nowhere. If a rejection letter offers feedback, consider it carefully, because it offered as a favor. Write back and thank whoever took the time to read and respond to your package, even if you don’t like what was said in the response.

Second, do your homework. Send your book manuscript or proposal package to agents, publishers, and editors most likely to want to see it. Use the Literary Market Place and the Writer’s Market to make a good target list. They’re both available in most libraries. The Internet is another fine place to research publishers and agents. Your local independent bookseller is an excellent resource too: get to know the bookstore clerks, buyers, and owners and hit them up for advice. Browse the shelves, find out who’s publishing what, and buy a few books.

Good luck!

If you need professional help preparing your book proposal package, take a look at Manuscript Submission Assistance.


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