Making Eye Contact

I survived the hottest recorded day in Phoenix—122 degrees, June of 1990.

Slogan tee-shirts celebrated our feat of endurance and brought camaraderie to Phoenicians. Strangers on the street—If we were crazy enough to be outside that particular June—shook heads and bonded without muttering a word. Normally in metropolitan Phoenix, people don’t make eye contact with strangers. But survivors bond.

 On writing island, the heat’s rising and the competition’s growing.

Passivity kills. We must seize all survival tools to inhabit, flourish, and keep our cool. There’s a handy item in the writer’s backpack that can catch the eye of tribal leaders.

A Killer Book Proposal!

I hear your groans. I groaned when the mercury hit 122.

But book proposals create eye contact with your agent or editor.

If you need a format, here’s a simplified version of the one from my backpack.

Title Page  – Title, author’s name, and literary agent’s contact information.

Proposal Overview  – This vital area creates initial eye contact. It’s the premise for a book or series. Be precise. 1-2 sentences for each book.

Synopsis – Deepen interest. About three pages of story summary (My most recent included a twist and a takeaway) After that, do a ¾ page synopsis for each sequel. Note how the books tie together. (For nonfiction proposals, this area contains chapter outline and short summaries)

Manuscript Details – Word count and date when the finished manuscripts can be available (First time authors need to have the manuscript completed)

Author’s Uniqueness – One page. Includes education, credentials, awards, and personal experiences which relate to your book, your writing style as compared to others, and genre. If you’re published, bring in quotes and snippets of reviews to describe your writing.

Marketing – Bullet style, brainstorm what will sell the book. If you write romance, are there some romantic elements that will appeal to readers? Mention them. Tell what you’re already doing to promote your platform or books. Explain what you’re willing to do. List your website and blog links. Talk about your social media outreach. List memberships and organizations.

Affinity Groups – Research what specific groups of people will read your book. If you have previous works, this is easier. You can even use Facebook or website tracking to pinpoint the age of followers. Being specific helps editors promote your idea to an acquisitions committee.

Books Under Contract (or) Previous Works– Before I had books published, I listed magazine articles and plays. In my last proposal, I only listed a series under contract because it gave a fresh representation of my readership. Include sales in units and earnings. You can get this from your agent or royalty statements.

Author Bio – Mine is about 1/2 page, with professional credentials and some personal information.

First Three ChaptersThese significant chapters allow your person of interest to look deep into your writing soul. Shine and represent your style.

On each page, a header contains the book’s title and author’s name. Single space the proposal and use 1½ spacing for sample chapters and between headings. My numbered pages usually run about 35 pages total, including sample chapters. Also, write a short summary, about 1-3 paragraphs, to accompany the cover letter or your agent’s email to publishers.

To survive writers’ island, proposals can’t be rushed. Make the most of the opportunity to create eye-contact. My format contains years of personal tweaking, but you’ll want to embellish whatever format you use with your own creativity and style.

Unlike television’s Survivor cast, the Watercooler’s a safe place for interaction.

What’s your spin on book proposals?

And just for fun . . . what’s the temp at your place?

9 Replies to “Making Eye Contact”

  1. This post has been so helpful to narrow down the elements of a proposal. I am noticing more and more the request for picture book proposals. I assume they require the entire ms attached…
    Thanks for the information. I am bookmarking it…


  2. Thanks of the template, Dianne- that is such a big help! I need to work on mine, but I always feel weird – like I’m doing something wrong. I don’t know if that feeling ever goes away, but maybe one day… 🙂

    Temps here (middle TN) today are very mild. I’m guessing around 70 this morning. Kind of odd, though. Especially as August is usually our hottest month.

  3. Amanda, I think the key is that your proposal reflects you. I actually get a little excited when I’m doing one but later . . . if I look it over a few months later, I see things that make me cringe.

    But hitting the SEND button takes iron courage.

    Last week we had 114, but the forecast for today is 90. In Phoenix, that’s about Paradise.

    1. Oh my goodness, that’s so hot! Praise the good Lord we’re cooling down over this way!

      Thank you, Dianne, for the encouraging words. I actually have my stuff done and ready, I just haven’t had the iron will yet. 😉 I think it reflects me, and I’ve queried, but still, hitting that submit button sends chills down my spine.

      I appreciate your kindness! Have a great (and cooler) week!

  4. This post is on target, Dianne. My book proposal sold my agent first, and then my publisher. It took me a good two years of tweaking before I felt comfortable with its quality.

    Like everything else, it’s harder at first, but with time and practice we get better and the work gets easier. Now, I can knock out a proposal in no time. (As long as my chapters are finished.)

    Temps in Missouri? We just came off several weeks of record breaking heat. Thankfully, we too are down to low 90’s for the highs again.

  5. Great point, Anita. It not only gets easier with practice, but it gets easy. That’s what I heard you saying. Hallelujah . . . thanks for the encouraging words!

    Speaking of weather, friends, you all really made me sweat today. I usually get out running before the heat, but since I’m several hours behind most of you, I checked in the blog first and then went running. Doing things the hard way today.

  6. Gillian, as I’m sure you found out, only daunting until we dig in and just do it. I was on your website and feel fortunate to connect with you today. Your writing testimony is amazing. You know how to handle daunting.

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