How to Find a Literary Agent 102: The Proposal

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Once a query has sparked interest and a proposal has been requested, it’s time to get to work polishing your proposal or if you haven’t written it yet, to get writing!

If you are starting with a blank page, be prepared for there are quite a few elements that are needed for a proposal. In this post, I will cover the basics of what should be in your proposal, but be sure to check out each individual agent’s requested information for proposals before emailing off your normal proposal. Get ready. Proposals are very difficult, but if done correctly, they will catch the eye of an agent and possibly an editor.

Elements of a proposal:

Promo Sentence. This is the hook. In one amazing sentence, you have to capture the essence of your story. This is challenging, but a lot of fun. Make a list of possible promo sentences and then call up your critique partners and see which one is their favorite!

Sales Handle. This is usually the loaded question on the front cover of the book that causes the reader to go from, “Huh, interesting cover” to “Wow, I wonder what happens based on that amazing question?”

Back cover copy. Capture your story in 75 to 100 words. Haha again, this one is challenging. To learn how to write the back cover copy, click here.

The bio. This is where you will say why you are qualified to write this book. List your writing related accomplishments or interesting facts about yourself. If you have a website, list it.

Synopsis. Cover the major points of your story in 2 to 3 pages. Don’t keep the ending the secret as only the readers get to enjoy the surprise. Agents and editors want to know the ending. To learn how to write the synopsis, click here.

Unique Selling Points. Here, in 1-3 points, explain what makes your book unique and why it will stand on its own in a hard market.

Manuscript Status. Here, you will say if it is complete and if so, list the word count. If it isn’t complete, give the projected date of completion along with projected word count. Important note: If you are a debut author, the manuscript must be complete before you send out your proposal.

Market Analysis. Here you will discuss the demographics, psychographics, affinity groups and the competition. The temptation here will to be skip over the competition, but this is important because it shows that you have done your research by finding comparative titles you will be competing against, so you are aware of how to make your story unique.

Social Media. Here is where you will say how you will market your book, what connections you have to sell it and where you can promote it. Again, if you have a website, mention it again here.

Sample Chapters. Check each agent’s request page to see how many chapters they want. Usually, it can be anywhere from the first 10 pages to the first 3 chapters.

I know that’s a lot, but you’ve worked so hard on your novel. Don’t breeze through the proposal. This is what will sell your amazing book to the agent of your dreams and get your book on its way to the publishing house!

Happy Writing!

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About Grace Hitchcock

Grace Hitchcock's first novella, The Widow of St. Charles Avenue, released in Barbour Publishing’s The Second Chance Brides Collection August 2017. Her second novella will release in Barbour Publishing’s The Southern Belle Brides Collection in 2018. She has a Masters in Creative Writing and a Bachelor of Arts in English with a minor in History. Grace is a Louisiana Southerner living in Colorado with her husband, Dakota, and newborn son.

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