f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: Establishing Your Career as a Writer: Part IV

f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Establishing Your Career as a Writer: Part IV

You have a novel. You have a sense of where you’d like to go following your novel. You have a sense of where your novel fits into the marketplace.

Write your proposal.

Whether you’re seeking an agent or a publisher, you’re going to need your proposal so it’s something you’re going to need to develop regardless of what path you take. Plus it’s a phenomenal skill because it’s the first real opportunity to stop looking at your novel as art and start looking at from the other side, as a product to sell. (If that’s too capitalistic for you, then view it as an idea you need to convince others to accept.)

There’s lots of resources out there (be it at websites, in books, or at conferences) about what to put in a great proposal. I don’t really want to get into the specifics…it’ll just be repetition. Plus, despite what anyone says, there’s no single magic bullet.

A few general thoughts:

1. Make it look professional. Make it clean, organized, and coherent.
2. Don’t oversell.
3. Keep it a reasonable length. Your plot synopsis, in my opinion, should be a page, two at most.
4. Focus the proposal on what works with the book. If it’s a first-person novel with a really strong voice, give us a snippet. If it’s humor, make us get what will make the book funny. (A boring proposal for a funny book doesn’t make sense to me. It makes me skeptical.) If it’s a “can’t miss” idea (Dracula meets DaVinci Code—for The Historian. Jurassic Park meets Jaws for Meg.) lead with the idea and then back it up with your short plot synopsis.
5. With mysteries…don’t give away the ending. Even in your longer plot synopsis. If I’m reading a manuscript, I want to read it unspoiled. To see if it holds together.

Finally, my only specific, I think you should spend the majority of your time in breaking your novel down into three different sized summaries. One is a one/two sentence description. One is closer to back cover copy. The final summary is a page or two. Those are three important lengths to publishers and if we understand the story at all three levels where a long way down the path.

If you have cold-hearted marketing/sales friends let them critique your pitches. Basically, the idea is to entice someone to want to read the book. And if it doesn’t come naturally you’ll need to work on it.

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Continue to Part V of Establishing Your Career as a Writer