Every sentence of your book proposal should have one person in mind: the reader. Whether you’re submitting it to an agent or an editor, that “first reader” will be holding the “ultimate reader” in her heart and mind as she reads. Your job is to meet the reader’s needs—both that first reader and the eventual one—by communicating efficiently and effectively.
1. Don’t get visually fancy.
Elaborate fonts, colors and graphics distract. Use Times New Roman 12 pt font in a Microsoft Word doc or PDF. Rule of thumb? Keep it simple.
2. Employ plain language.
High-fallutin’ intellectual language is only appropriate for academic books. More often, communicate using a conversational voice.
3. Write in the third person.
Compose your proposal in the third person, as if your agent or a professional collaborator has prepared it—allowing you to brag a bit.
4. Be clear and concise.
When a reader sets down your proposal, he or she can easily identify the premise of your book. Make the reader’s job easy; don’t use more words than are necessary to communicate effectively.
5. Avoid extremes.
Claiming every person always feels a certain way distracts reader by challenging her to search for an exception. “Most” and “often” are more effective.
6. Communicate value for the reader.
Throughout your proposal, make explicit the takeaway value for the reader who purchases and reads your book.
7. Title effectively.
Your working title suggests the book’s premise and the subtitle its promise. Avoid titles that are either too generic or too clever—both making the premise difficult to identify.
8. Prove you will market your book.
Don’t just say you’ll help with promotion. Offer concrete plans you will put into effect.
9. Practice Humility
Don’t oversell, insisting Oprah will return to daytime TV just to promote this book. And be cautious, even with faith-based publishers, about claiming that God told you to write it. #redflag
10. Offer an error-free proposal.
If you’re not paying for a professional critique, have a word-loving friend scour your final draft for grammatical or typographical errors.
Cheering you on,