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January, 2008


Free Writing Resources!

Writing A Book Proposal
Keeping it simple
By  Rowdy Rhodes

Book proposal writing can be daunting but in the long run it is well worth the time.
T
he situation is that you've just finished your manuscript or you've come up with a hot story idea to pitch and you're in need of a publisher. You may or may not need an agent depending on many factors. IN's columnist Anne Allen covered this topic in the past with her two part article Real Life Agent Hunt (Part I  Part II).

With or without an agent you need the ability to write a hard hitting, well defined, proposal to catch a publisher's attention. If you're lucky you'll catch the attention of more than one publisher and have a bidding war on your hands - may the biggest cheque win!

The purpose of a proposal is to sell or convince a publisher that what you have will make them money, enhance their product line, and add to their arsenal of authors to further establish their position in the cut-throat world of publishing.

To convince them that you have what they want, you have to provide them with a detailed, not necessarily lengthy, clearly written proposal that gives them the full story without taking up a lot of their time. Every publisher has decision makers who are extremely busy, but very receptive to a well thought out proposal. After all, without the proposals they would have no incoming material to work with.

Keep the content of your proposal on target by doing some research first. Think about the audience to whom the publisher sells and the books they primarily produce, and then ensure that you are approaching the right publisher before sending off your proposal. It's important that you choose the right companies, otherwise sending a romance novel proposal to a sci-fi publishing house is just a waste of everyone's time and money.

In your request always approach from a position of confidence that what you have they need, but don't present it as the next best thing since sliced bread. If the proposal reads like it is coming from an egotistical maniac then odds are in your favour that it won't get read.

You have to be somewhat formal, but not snobbish, firm and positive, but not tell them their business. In other words make your proposal inviting, but confident in the knowledge that what you have will sell, and then let them come to that conclusion on their own. Your proposal should be the hook and impelling force that stimulates them to provide a positive decision and publish your story.

Many writers make some basic mistakes when writing a proposal, such as using excessive rhetorical phrasing, not having the proposal proof-read a zillion times, and using choppy, hard-to-read sentencing.

Another spot that writers get stuck in with proposal writing is structure and form. You must make the effort to ensure that the decision maker can easily and quickly read and reference your proposal. A basic structure is as follows:

  • Specific title
  • Explicit subheadings
  • An introduction, content, and close
  • Bulleted items in paragraphs
  • Easy-to-read layout

A specific title immediately tells the publisher what your idea is about. It's hard to misinterpret a title such as Invasion From Mars - Sci-Fi; The WWII Battle of Sun Ridge - Historical War; Seven Gunmen, Six Bullets - Western; In Love She Falls - Romance.

Sub-headings are important reference elements publishers to skip back and forth inside your proposal, especially if your proposal is lengthy, so use them. They don't need to be catchy they need to be informative and easy to recall.

The introduction, content, and close is the meat of your story. It is in this area that you need to convince the publisher that what you have is unique, sellable, interesting, entertaining and financially viable. You need to convince the publisher that their audience will be interested, but you can't tell them that. Instead, tell them the core of your story: the highs, lows, flow, tension, problems, resolutions, and ultimate outcome.

If need be, use bulleted items within paragraphs to drive home your story points. Make the whole proposal easy to read by providing proper flow and layout in clear, concise sentences.

If you don't have a finished manuscript your proposal serves two purposes, one is that it pitches publishers to purchase the rights before the book is written and two, it provides you with a perfect outline to write your manuscript.

Kimberly Dawn Wells has a short article at Suite101 titled Should you Write a Book Proposal? that furthers the idea of using your proposal as your book's guideline as opposed to writing the book and then the proposal.

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Rowdy Rhodes is the Site Manager of The Freelance Writing Organization International and General Manager of Inkwell Newswatch (IN). He is also known to freelance an article or two when the fancy strikes him. If you are looking for written content for your web site, ezine, or print publication, drop him a line at rowdyrhodes@fwointl.com and he'll get back to you as soon as possible.

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Whose Books Are Turning Into Movies?
Bald Ego
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Writer’s Block
The path to inspiration starts
Upon the trails we’ve known;
Each writer’s block is not a rock,
But just a stepping stone.

Poetry Is Not
Penned to the page
Waiting for us to admire.
It is only a lonely thought
Caught by tears on fire.

Silent Echoes
A quiet rhyme upon a page
Is what a poet gives;
Some gentle words whispered in trust
To see if memory lives.

Bard From Deadlines
What makes a poem finally work
Is not the time it takes;
It’s how the poet used the muse
To prophet from mistakes.

Be Mused
The art and craft of poetry
Are not so far apart;
The craft comes from the cunning,
The rest comes from the heart.

Fine Vintage
Don’t plant your poem on the page
As though you’re hanging drapes;
It’s shape and flow should come and grow
Like wild summer grapes.

Getting It Write
Writers write what they know best,
Their passions, fears, and dreams;
Writers rarely write about
What other call their “themes.”

Double Vision
A writer’s life is paradox,
It’s more than what it seems;
We write of our reality,
The one inside our dreams.

Poetry
The echo of a promise,
The thunder of a sigh,
The music of a memory,
A child asking why.

Letter Perfect
Twenty six symbols arranged on a page
Can send a soul to heaven or torment it with rage,
Can free a fragile world or hold it in its net--
The power and the magic of the mighty alphabet.

The Write of Passage
The jump from writing just for fun
To getting paid for it
Begins when you first realize
You know you’ll never quit.

Pegasus
It is not the magic of his wings
That sets us free from our bond.
It is the muse within ourselves
That lets our words lift us beyond.

Photo Poet
Consider your mind the darkroom,
Consider your life the lens,
Consider your eye the camera
On whose focus the poem depends.

Rising Moon
A poem is a rising moon
Shining on the sea,
An afterglow of all we know,
Of all we hope to be.

Star Light
Writing a poem,
Reaching a star,
In making good art
We find who we are.

Spider Web
A poem is a spider web
Spun with words of wonder,
Woven lace held in place
By whispers made of thunder.

Re-Verse
The final draft upon the screen,
At last my poem’s through;
A verse of only four short lines--
I rewrote twenty-two!

Read All Of Charles Ghigna's Poetry at FatherGoose.com


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