How to Write a Book Proposal for a Publisher

So you have finished your book? That’s great! Your literary baby has been carefully crafted and completed.  All that perspiration and imagination has finally paid off.  It was well worth it all, wasn’t it? Even though you had many sleepless nights and you had to cancel so many social engagements. But now that your work is all done and dusted, you would like to share it with the world, right? Absolutely! I hear you say.  Aside from writing a book, whether it be a collection of short stories, a non-fiction travel guide, or a fantasy novel, writing a book proposal is the next big challenge to be faced in your creative writing journey. So how do you write a winning book proposal?

Before I get into the specifics of writing a book proposal, there are a few things you need to know about the publishing industry. I am talking about the traditional publishing market, not the self-publishing DIY option.

The publishing industry is one of the biggest mass media juggernauts in the world, and traditional publishers have very specific guidelines for book submissions. Publishers can afford to be choosy as there are so many authors around the globe who are writing novels and vying for the public’s reading attention.

As well as being a commercial enterprise that looks out for the next best seller that will generate high revenue, traditional publishers are also culturally minded and have the book-reading public’s interest to consider.

The humble book is still regarded as the perfect vehicle for the transmission of complex ideas, information and characters, so publishers are always looking for a book that is well-written, engaging and even ground-breaking. But the challenge is to get your book in front of the publisher’s commissioning editor.

Preparing a Book Proposal: Author Checklist

A book proposal is a formal way of introducing your book to a potential publisher. It includes details like the title of the book, tagline, synopsis, marketability, etc.

  •  Research the publisher

Before you start writing your proposal, research the many different publishers from small independent publishers to large multinational houses. Look at their existing book titles. What kind of readers do they target? Penguin Random House has an extensive list of genres: romance, science fiction, fantasy, non-fiction, health, and fitness. They cater for an extensive readership: Children and Teens, Young Adults, and General Readership.

  • Read the publisher’s manuscript submission guidelines

Publishers have very strict guidelines on manuscript submissions. Some publishers accept submissions on particular days, like ‘Manuscript Monday’ or during the first week of every month. They may require you to submit your manuscript as a hardcopy or as a digital copy. They may only be accepting particular genres. Whatever you do, do not just send the manuscript and hope they will read it. Start your publishing relationship the right way, which is the publisher’s way.

Two very important things to remember when submitting your manuscript

 1. Never send your first draft

This probably seems obvious, but I have heard a few stories about dodgy narratives being submitted. No pun intended. Write a few drafts of your manuscript, check your writing for spelling, punctuation and grammar mistakes. Have someone else have a look at the manuscript. It is so easy to miss glitches in your own work, which may put your manuscript in the publisher’s shredder – a bit harsh I know.  But this point needs to be emphasised: you want to leave a good impression with your potential publisher. If they read your manuscript, they want to see that you take your craft seriously and you are dedicated to good writing.

Have a look at your plot, characters, etc. Are your characters compelling?  Is your plot fully fleshed out? Even though your book does not have to absolutely perfect, as the publisher will probably make some editing suggestions, it is still important that your story looks polished.

2. Never send the entire manuscript unless the publisher is asking for the entire manuscript

Publishers have a lot of manuscripts to read, so they may only require a sample of your work, and then if they think it has promise, they will ask to see the entire manuscript.  Once again, check their website to see what their requirements are.

Now that you have done your research and read the manuscript guidelines, it is time to start writing a book proposal. Here are some things to include.

1. Title of your Book

The title of your book is one of the most important aspects of your book. A good title can make or break a book. Choose a title that will catch the publisher/reader’s attention and imagination. Something short and catchy that sums up the theme of your book.

2. Tagline or Log Line 

A tagline is a one-line description that sums up the content of your book. It should mention the main character,  the character’s action or the main plot. The key to writing a good tagline is specific word choice and strong verbs and images that catch the reader’s interest.

3. Story Synopsis

The story synopsis is a concise description of the book that should be up to 300 words. The synopsis should include an overview of the main topic/themes/subjects, main characters, and narrative scope.

A good tip is to include the conclusion of the book as well so that the publisher can see the overall continuity of the plot, and that the book is actually finished.

You might find that some publishers may accept a book if it is not fully completed, but they will still need to see that you have written a substantial amount of the narrative. But it is very rare for a publisher to accept a book that has not been completed.

4. Length and Format of the Book

What is the word count of your book?  Novels usually contain 70,000 words.

Children’s Picture Books or Graphic Novels

If your manuscript is a picture book for children or a graphic novel, you can include the details of the illustrations or images that you want to include in the narrative. Some publishers ask for the images to be included as an attachment, or if they want hard copies, they will ask for a DVD. Are the illustrations or images your own work or do they belong to someone else like a paid illustrator? Be aware that some publisher’s like to use their own illustrators.

5. Author Details

Include your title: the name that you want to appear on the cover of the book. Also, provide a short biographical note (up to 50 words) that includes your occupation, special interests, any university degrees or achievements, writing awards, and social media platforms that you are actively involved with. Even though the publisher will promote your work, you are now an authorpreneur and you should also be dedicated to promoting your own work. If there are any other contributors/co-writers or illustrators, include their details as well. If you have sent your manuscript to other publishing houses, you should include those details too.

6. Manuscript Marketability

This section is very important as it shows the publisher that you are interested in them as a high ranking socio-cultural entity in the marketplace, not just because you want to them to publish your book and give you a substantial advance.  Here are some details that you can include.

A. Book Comparison.

Once you have chosen your publisher, have a look on their website. Find two titles that are similar to your book. Include the title of the book, the author and the book’s theme, and how these two books compare to your book.

A book is a marketable product just like a box of corn flakes. And just like any business, the publishing industry looks for a book’s marketability. There may be certain genres that are ‘trending’ at the moment like historical romance, crime thrillers, or speculative fiction. So have a think about what age demographic would be a good target for your book. Would it appeal to young adult readers of fantasy or paranormal fiction? If so, why would it appeal to this particular age group, which is usually from 15 up to 25? Does it include supernatural themes, dark fantasy settings and characters like vampires, etc?

B. Book Competitiveness

How will your book compete with other titles, what advantages or features does it have over existing titles? What is unique about your book, what is its strengths? What can your book bring to the global reading table that readers have not read before?

Maybe your book is a crime thriller and the plot centres on a brilliant, yet socially awkward female detective who hunts serial killers, but hides her own shady past. Maybe you use genre fusion, and combine horror with romance, or maybe your book is a modern fairy tale.

7. Domestic or International Marketability

As you consider the global marketability for your book, ask yourself these three questions.

1. Does your book have the potential to attract a global market with a wide readership?

2. Is your narrative set in a particular country, or does it focus on a particular people group like indigenous people?

3. Will it appeal to some niche groups like university/intellectual readers or for those readers who are interested in social justice issues?

Even though the overall marketability of your book will be determined by the publisher, your own research shows that you have done your homework and that you are passionate about your craft and your book.

8. Contact Details

Include your contact details: email address, telephone number, and your postal address (for formal correspondence).

9. Manuscript

Some publishers will ask for the entire manuscript, while others may ask you to send in a certain amount of pages.

Finally, although there is no secret formula for getting a publisher to accept and publish your book, learning the tricks of the publishing trade, and writing a book proposal that adheres to a publisher’s guidelines, will give you a better chance at having your book shared with the world.

I hope you have found these tips on how to write a book proposal for a publisher helpful, and I wish you all the best for your writing career.

Happy Writing.

 

Image

Steel Lock/magazines

Agnail. Pixabay.com

 

 

Exploring Story Characters: Examples of Four Dimensional Characters

In previous blogs I have talked about creating dynamic story characters and how the best characters are those who are four dimensional. Characters are the most important narrative elements in the story-world, and the quality or appeal of a story depends on whether a character is flat or fully developed – in other words, four dimensional. We all have our favourite story character/s from a book or a film. Characters determine how we experience the story-world and they leave the greatest impression on our mind and heart after we have read a book or watched a film.

Creating characters can be compared to an artist when he starts to create a masterpiece. He starts off with an idea, then he begins to sketch a rough outline of a landscape or a portrait, and then he applies the paint layer by layer. The layering process is when the artwork really begins to come to life.

Creating four dimensional characters is very similar. As we sit at our computer or when we put pen to paper we dream up a character, and then we begin to jot down details about that character.

The Layering Process of Characterization

The layering process of characterization is as follows:

The first layer is the character’s physical description. The second layer is his personality and idiosyncrasies.  Once we have started to weave the story-world around that character, we can then add the final two layers: the third and fourth layer: observations from other characters, and the character’s interior world – his intimate thought-life. This final fourth layer reveals his worldview, his psychology. After this is complete, our character is now fully developed. He or she has been borne from the chrysalis of our imagination and they are now ready to have their journey shared on the screen or the page.

Sometimes creating dynamic and four dimensional characters can be challenging, so a great way to get started is to think about existing, well-known characters from books or films. Some of the characters below also cross over from a book to film.

Five of the best characters from books 

Anne from Anne of Green Gables
Alex Cross from the James Patterson book series
Sherlock Holmes
Jane Eyre
Tris Prior from the Divergent trilogy

 

Five of the best characters from films  

Frodo from The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games.
Superman from the Man of Steel film
Spiderman (the films with Tobey McGuire)
Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader

 

Image:

Books/Fantasy

Sciencefreak

Pixabay.com

 

The Power of Books and the Influence of Literature

 

For this week’s post I thought I would share my thoughts on the power of books and the influence of literature.  I would also like to compare the level of reading that takes place on the Internet as opposed to the reading of a book.  I have read a few articles on the hotly debated idea that high levels of interaction with the Internet could be ruining our concentration and changing the way we think as opposed to the reading of a book. So in order to brainstorm some ideas about the power of books and the influence of literature,  I will be using the format of a personal essay which is in response to the following essay question:

“Look at my bookshelf! These are the books I read. To what extent can literature have an influence on or affect people’s lives? Discuss and explore.”

“I recollect nothing of learning to read; I only remember what effect the first considerable exercise of it produced on my mind; from that moment I date an uninterrupted knowledge of myself’” (Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 1923, p. 7).

I cannot envision my life without books, and by books, I mean the good old fashioned paperback, not the static digital downloads that are on offer today. The humble book, whether it be a collection of short stories or a complex novel, have been to me, as Amos Bronson Alcott so aptly described, “books are…the best of companions, accessible at any moment…[and they] reward me with their company” (1872, p. 133).

Books provide me with an opportunity to open my imagination. They invite and entice me to embark on cost-free journeys to undiscovered realms and have enlarged my vocabulary.

I have been reading since I was very young and back then I would have read almost anything, even fashionista magazines, like Cleo and Women’s Weekly. Books of all genres have had a profound influence on me and have instilled a great love of the written word and a passion for writing. I had no need for pictures or illustrations, for the words and my imagination conjured up the necessary images, to visualize the scenarios contained.

 I would spend hours going through my nana’s bookshelf and explore the Reader Digest, starting with the humorous section“Mere Male” and then onto the “Real Life” story for that edition. I then started working my way through autobiographies, such as Corrie Ten Boom’s The Hiding Place.  Above all, my favorite books were: The Anne of Green Gables series, The Narnia Chronicles, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Lord of the Rings, and John’s Bunyan’s A Pilgrims Progress. My bookshelf still includes some of these books and I find myself going back and reading them again and again and still they enthrall me.

In high school, I was introduced to the unique realm of poetry and enjoyed reading and experiencing poems by literary wordsmiths, such as the Australian poet, Kenneth Slessor, in particular, ‘Beach Burial’, a mournful but beautifully crafted elegy for unnamed soldiers that were washed ashore at El Alamein. As Anthony Lawrence says about his introduction to poetry “… these poems gave me something I’d never encountered: a need to live for my imagination” (The Paper Trail 2010, p. 40).

My latest literary rambles have taken me into the world of the likes of Josephine Cox, whose novels are predominately set in Blackburn, England, in the 1800’s. I have spend many hours with the well rounded and engaging characters of Joy Fielding, the very down to earth and hilariously eventful novels of Sophie Kinsella, and have been riveted by the thrilling, nail biting suspense of James Patterson – just to name a few.

This is not to say that I have not read other works of literature, in order to understand the world of the past and present. During my course of study, books of academia have been added to my repertoire and have served to enrich my life in ways that a humble story cannot. I have enjoyed reading books on art, music and history, but my book of choice has always been a work of fiction.

A story is a work of art in itself and the interest in storytelling is universal, whether it be a child reading a book for the first time or an adult watching a movie.  The practice of storytelling is intrinsic to how we communicate and are entertained. Above all other mediums, through which storytelling is conveyed, none has the potential to draw us in, to hold us spellbound, but the unassuming book. But even more than storytelling, books have ignited revolutions, provided people with the opportunity to read in their own language, and to have access to information that was previously withheld from them.

In a world that is addicted to the power of technology, and a digital cyberworld that demands our attention, where we are compelled to work and play almost at the speed of light, the book invites us to draw aside, to curl up in our favourite chair, turn off the incessant mobile phone and enjoy a good yarn.

My bookshelf predominately contains books that are devoted to stories, from the impressive novel, that can suck you in and destroy a holiday as it has done many times for me, to the short story that can “… lay claim to a kind of completeness that eludes the novel” (Millhauser 2008).

During my short stint in youth work, I came across young people who had never read a book of any kind. Literature was a word from a foreign language and if they were ever tempted to try to read a book, it would have to contain pictures. Their attention span did not reach beyond the email, the phone text, or the next tweet.

As this world seems to get smaller due to the advances in technology and conversation is fast becoming limited to Facebook and Twitter – how does the book compete? Every now and then I visit my local library and am amazed to see people still reading and borrowing real books.

I believe that literature is so essential to our development and for our understanding of the world around us and our place in it. Exposure to reading literature should start from a young age as it enlarges the imagination and introduces a child to the greater world. Literature has the power to influence and affect people’s lives in many ways and one of the most defining influences is the level of interaction a book invites as opposed to the type of reading that takes places on the Internet

In his book, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, Nicholas Carr argues that “the Internet could be altering the very structure of our brains” (Carr in Harris 2010).  He also raises an interesting comparison between the type of reading on the Internet and the reading of a book.  The Internet’s “cacophony of stimuli” and “crazy quilt” of information have given rise to “cursory reading, hurried and distracted thinking, and superficial learning” – in contrast to the age of the book, when intelligent humans were encouraged to be contemplative and imaginative” (Carr in Harris 2010).

But despite these Internet-based concerns by Carr and others, as long as people continue to read books and to write the stories that are contained within their pages, the power of the book and the influence of literature will continue to remain as a central part of our personal lives and our society.

 

Reference List.

Alcott Bronson Amos 1872, Concord Days, June, Books p. 133, Published by
Roberts Brothers. Boston. U.S.A.

Harris J 2010, ‘How the internet is altering your mind‘, The Guardian, viewed 14 March, 2016.

Lawrence A 2010, ‘Paper trail’, in Krauth, N & Brady, T, The Clunes little book of the book: five leading authors reflect on their relationship with the book, Creative Clunes, Clunes, Victoria, pp. 39-46.

Milhauser S 2008,  The Ambition of the Short Story‘ The New York Times, p. 31.

Rousseau Jean-Jacques 1923, ‘The Confessions of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Part One, Book 1, P. 7. Published by Alfred. A. Knopf, New York

Additional reading.

Lehrer J 2010, Our Cluttered Minds‘ , from Hasselberger, William. “The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains.” Sunday Book Review, The New York Times, Web. 15 March, 2016. 

 

Image.

Old Books. Josealbafotos

Pixabay.com.