I want you guys to imagine the day you get proposed to with me. You've been dating this guy for a while and you're pretty sure he's The One.
So, one day, he takes you out on a date. You're all dressed up, but when he rings the doorbell, he's wearing shredded jeans, a grass-stained sweatshirt and his hair looks like it hasn't been shampooed in a little while. "Ready, baby?" he asks you.
You're a little wary, but you climb in his car and he drives straight to an alley between two buildings, right behind a dumpster. You look at this guy and say, "What are you doing?"
"Well, I'm getting ready to propose," he says. "I love you and I want you to be my wife. I just want you to know that I am probably not the most romantic man. I require dinner on the table at five-thirty on the dot. I am not planning on working hard ever, so you're going to have to bring home most of the money before you make dinner. And I really would like kids, but I don't want to help raise them, so if you wouldn't mind doing that. And taking care of the laundry, because obviously, I can't even dress myself. Oh, and I'm out of shampoo and I hate going to the grocery store, so I was hoping you would go get it afterward tonight. Pretty much, I'm going to just squash on the sofa and watch ESPN all the days of our lives."
Then he takes your hand and says sweetly, "What do you say, honey? Oh, I think I just saw a rat next to that dumpster."
If you have any sense at all, you'll be screaming, "NO, NO, NO!", jumping out of the car and running for your life, carefully avoiding the rats.
But...what if your proposal went something like this instead?
You open the door and your boyfriend is standing there, dressed in an amazing suit and holding a bouquet of gorgeous flowers. He takes you to the most beautiful outlook in town, leads you out of the car and to a picnic table he had set up there. There's a whole steak dinner made just the way you like it and flowers on the table.
"Baby," he says. "I love you so much. I will always love you. I'll always take care of you. Whatever you need, I'll make sure you get it as soon as I can. I've been preparing for this for the last several months, so I already have money saved up so we can buy a house or whatever it is you want. You never need to worry about the future. Will you marry me?"
Odds are, you would probably be more inclined to say yes to the second guy. He took the time to plan it, prepare for it, and he's promising to take care of you.
Now compare this to writing. Why would a publisher take a chance on someone who is like the first guy? Who doesn't know what they are doing, who doesn't care what they are doing and who hasn't prepared for it?
Proposing your story to a publisher is actually very similar to a guy proposing to a girl. You are trying to look your best, sound your best and you'll be promising some type of security in the future - a completed book.
So, how do you propose?
First, finish your book. We've already mentioned this, but the unspoken rule in publishing is that publishers prefer first-time authors to have a complete manuscript. It's security for them and less stress for you.
Second, you'll write the proposal. A proposal is a document about three to five pages long that contains everything anyone needs (and didn't need) to know about your book. It's a frustrating thing to write. Ask any writer and they'll probably say they hate writing proposals more than cleaning moldy food out of a sink disposal.
Now that you're all excited to write this proposal... :) Here's the elements that every proposal needs:
1) Your name, address, phone number and email address * This goes in the top left corner of the page. DOUBLE CHECK THIS!! You don't want an acquisitions editor to love your work and not be able to get a hold of you.
2) The approximate word count * Write this in the top right corner of the page. Don't worry about putting something like this: 70,231 words. Just stick with 70,000.
3) The title * Put this about a fourth of the way down the page, centered. You can write "Book Proposal" underneath it, if you like. Word of the wise: Don't get too attached to the title. It's very likely it will change.
4) The teaser * Ever heard the term "elevator speech"? It's a three-sentence synopsis of your book that you could theoretically propose in an elevator ride. This goes underneath the title. Draw the editor in. Don't reveal the ending and it works perfect to end it with a question. "Will Gertrude ever find love?"
5) The synopsis * You do get to reveal the ending here. Make this about two pages of your proposal. Don't get too wordy, you're focusing on showing the editor that you know how to create characters and craft a plot. Play with this! If you are going to break rules, here is the place to do it. Explain exactly what happens in your story.
6) Your qualifications * Why are you the one who should write this book? What makes you more qualified than anyone else? Put down anything and everything that could possibly relate to your book that you have done or accomplished. If you are writing a book about a girl who is a marine biologist, and you are a marine biologist, definitely put that in there! If you've published magazine articles, newspaper articles, or whatever, write it down. If you have a blog that reaches 3,000 people a day, definitely write it down.
7) Marketing * What genre is this book? Where would it be placed on the shelves? What is the targeted audience? And what are you going to do to get it in the hands of the targeted audience? Be as specific as possible here. Don't say this: "My book will pretty much be loved by every person who reads it." Say this instead: "This book is aimed for Christian women ages 16-24." Are you a speaker? No? You're going to have to change that fast - editors want writers who will market themselves. Be sure to say something to this effect and mean it: "Erynn will do whatever she can to help market this book!" (Just don't use my name - I can't promise I'll do whatever I can to market your book) :)
8) Uniqueness * How is your book different than everything else out there? What are books it is similar to? How does it stand out from the ninety other proposals on this editor's desk? Again, be very specific. "This book is different from the competition, because all of the characters have a third eye."
9) Sample chapters * These aren't taken into account in the three to five page count I gave you earlier. Insert the first three chapters (and polish those within an inch of their life!) into the end of your proposal.
And there you have it! Get it all typed up and looking sharp (remember the guy with the grass stains versus the guy with the spiffy suit). Knock the editor off their chairs with your charm and charisma. Editors want to be wowed!
If you have more questions or want to see a sample proposal, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll be sure to send you one. :) To quote High School Musical, "We're all in this together!"
Tomorrow, we have a huge treat! My editor from NavPress, Rebekah Guzman, has answered even more questions from me (seriously. I'm sure I bug the daylights out of her with my endless questions), but these answers I'm sharing with you! She's gone into detail about what an editor looks for, some the biggest mistakes writers make, current trends in publishing... Come back by here tomorrow! If you are wanting to get published, you can't miss this interview. :)
Hope you are having a fantastic Wednesday!
Love, Erynn :)
Photo credits go to AlanBabb and Vocaris from stock.xchng (sxc.hu) :)