Publishing a book is like marketing a product. You have to package the idea in an attractive, irresistible way that will hook your audience. Take time to think about and develop a marketing perspective of your novel to convince readers of its worthwhile value.
The first reader, of course, is the publishing house editor who will review your proposal. Unlike a non-fiction book, a fictional work should be completely written before writing the proposal. Editors want to know that having started a 70,000-word story, an author will be able to finish it. Here are the sections to be included in your proposal that can make or break your book’s chances of getting published:
Title and summary. In a page or two, describe the book’s plot and main events. Use action verbs and concrete nouns to enliven your prose style:
Jack and Jill went up the hill.
Jack tore up the steep mountain cliff as Jill panted behind him.
Turn up the creative flame under your simmering pot of ideas and watch a good book proposal start cooking!
- Author’s bio. List your credentials for authoring this type of story. Include credits like being a library volunteer, a teacher’s reading aide, or a book club member. Emphasize published stories if you have any. Add memberships to genre organizations, like the Romance Writers of America writers’ club.
- Character list. Detail each of your characters in the order in which they appear in the story. You may want to print their names in bold type. A sentence or two giving their age, occupation, or role in the story should be adequate.
- Genre fit. Explain which book shelf will likely hold your book after publication. Is it an historical romance? A Gothic mystery? A contemporary love story? As you complete this section, check to be sure you’ve selected an appropriate publisher. Many fiction publishing houses offer several lines of romantic fiction. Familiarize yourself with these so you can contact the one most suited to your book.
- Competing books. List four to six popular titles of books that headline your genre. Then explain how your book is similar to, yet different from, each of these. This will show that your book belongs to this genre, but offers unique qualities not found among the best sellers.
- Marketing plan. Discuss the ways in which you are willing to help market your book. Depending on your “day job” and availability, you may be able to offer just a few hours a month, or perhaps you can put in a day each week. Categorize the activities you can conduct, such as a book signing at a store or mall, interviews, obtain reviews, and send out press releases. Publishers appreciate it when authors try to help sell their own books.
Don’t forget to attach three sample chapters, and presto, you’re done! Now sit back and wait for the soon-to-come phone call and an attractive advance for your first work of fiction.