Every writer needs to know how to write a good book proposal that will stand out and capture the attention of potential agents and publishers.
Consequently, when I appear at writers conferences and seminars, book proposals are often on the agenda. I frequently offer my critiques of selected book proposals submitted in advance — in remarks I make to the whole group as a way to provide information that’s relevant to all writers.
This has proved to be a popular and helpful exercise, so we thought we’d try something similar here on The Book Deal.
We’re calling this new feature My Proposal Critiques, and it will appear periodically, depending on demand.
You’re invited to submit a proposal
You’re all invited to send in an abbreviated 15-page proposal, fiction or non-fiction, which should include the following elements:
1. “Hook” or overview (one page)
2. Chapter outline (three pages)
3. Platform (one page)
4. Writing sample consisting of the first ten pages of the book
Please take a look at an earlier post, The book proposal: Here’s what publishers want for more detail on each of these elements. Again, please keep in mind that for the purpose of this evaluation, you’ll be submitting an abbreviated version — no more than 15 pages total.
When you’re ready, send the 15 pages as a single Word document email attachment to me at: In the email’s subject line please write: My Proposal Critique.
Grab me by the throat
For each segment of My Proposal Critiques, I’ll select a couple of representative proposals that I think will be most instructive to discuss, in terms of their strengths and weaknesses. I’ll draw certain generalities about what gets an agent’s or publisher’s attention when they receive a proposal, and will include my own recommendations for improvement.
For example, when I read the overview, do the first sentences grab me by the throat? Does it strike me as compelling, and original? Is there passion and confidence? Am I persuaded that the author is the best person to write this book? Why? Or, why not?
Then I’ll take a look at the chapter outline and how it describes each scene in each chapter. Whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, I’ll be looking for the narrative arc, with a beginning, middle and end.
I’ll offer my take on how I think agents or editors might respond to the author’s platform and ability to market the book online, direct to readers.
And what about the writing sample itself? Does it live up to the expectations and promises of the proposal? If not, what’s wrong with it and how can it be improved?
On some occasions I may include a critique of a proposal for a book I’ve actually signed up. We’ll take a look at what worked so well and what we can learn from it.
My Proposal Critiques will appear here in the form of an audiocast, a new format for us. We hope it all works smoothly.
I’ll be basing my remarks on whatever you send, so if you feel the need to be anonymous about any details, for example the title or other identifying features, please make any changes before you submit. Once it reaches me, I’ll assume that you’ve given me permission to comment freely in my critique. I’ll be presenting each proposal without the author’s name, in any case, though I anticipate including details from the platform section.
The proposals will not be reprinted here, and I’ll be recording only my comments and evaluation of each selected proposal under review.
Will yours be selected?
I’ll be looking at everything that comes in, though I regret that time limitations will prevent me from responding to all submissions. So, not every proposal can be critiqued. But all selected for evaluation here on the blog will have relevance for how to improve your own proposal.
We’ll be looking for your feedback in comments to shape this feature according to what you’d find most useful. So let us know if you want to see more of this or that.
OK, send in that proposal, and stay tuned.
To listen to round one, go to Proposal critiques: A novel and a children’s book series
For round two, go to Proposal critiques: An adventure novel, a biography and a self-help book
For the third and final installment, go to Proposal critiques: 3 novels, a biography, a children’s book and an academic treatise
Update: Proposal Critiques over for now
I want to thank everyone who participated, and hope these critiques continue to be useful to readers.