2010 GLA Excerpt: How to Write a Book Proposal

Publish date:

The 2010 Guide to Literary Agents
has arrived in bookstores and is available now. Needless to say, I am excited to
see it in print. I mean—just look at the book. It looks like a
delicious s'more. That is—a delicious s'more filled with tons of
agent info and conference info and articles. I suppose that's just the
marshmallow filling.

Besides finding the book in stores, you can also order it cheaper from F+W online. To help show you some of the great content inside its pages, I'm going to excerpt some articles to give writers a
little taste of what articles are included to help scribes on their
journey. The following excerpt below is from literary agent Cricket Freeman of The August Agency. Her article is all about How to Write a Successful Book Proposal.

Image placeholder title


Today’s publishing marketplace is a far cry from that romanticized in movies. Agents simply cannot sell an unknown writer’s idea for a nonfiction book. For an agent to sell a book to a major publisher, it requires the following:

1. A fresh idea to spark interest
2. A catchy title and concept to grab attention
3. A distinctive author’s voice to hold that attention
4. The expertise to back up the concept
5. The skill to execute it
6. The capacity to promote it
7. The ability to present it with enough passion so editors can see the first six elements and grasp the vision.

Many people have the first element. Some have the second, third, fourth, fifth, and maybe the sixth. But a very rare few have the last. Bring all seven to the table and you’ll jump to the top 10 percent of submissions.


Imagine an editor is considering two submissions by first-time writers. Both books are equally well written, suited for his house, and he’d be proud publishing either. But he only has budget for one. Reviewing one he sees a tight synopsis, a descriptive table of contents, and a short author bio. Promising. Reviewing the other he sees those things, but also a colorful author with blurbs from known writers, who knows her competition, is connected to her target market, provides several versatile outlines, plus plans for self-promotion. Valuable. A professional writer on a firm career path.

Which author would you rather be?

Or, look at it this way: Suppose you wanted to open a bakery, would you waltz into a bank, plop a box of your wonderful donuts on the banker’s desk, assuming he’ll hand over a hundred grand? Nah, you know Mr. Banker wants more than a yummy crueller; he wants facts and figures to reassure his board. Well, publishers are no different. Editors look at the big picture—past a good read. They look at things like audience, relevance, sales climate, marketing possibilities, sales history of similar books, current trends, the author’s professionalism, and, of course, potential profits.

Give more info than expected and you deliver a welcomed baker’s dozen. If you’ve fleshed out an idea and written a great book, now is the time to take command. Steer the next stage of its production, shape each section, and create a terrific submission package.

Want more on this subject?

25 Ways Reflective Writing Can Help You Grow as a Writer (and as a Person)

25 Ways Reflective Writing Can Help You Grow as a Writer (And as a Person)

Reflective writing—or journaling—is a helpful practice in helping understand ourselves, and by extensions, the stories we intend to write. Author Jeanne Baker Guy offers 25 ways reflective writing can help you grow as a writer (and as a person).

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Being Followed

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Being Followed

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, let your character know they're being followed.

Amanda Jayatissa: On Spiraling Out in Suspense

Amanda Jayatissa: On Spiraling Out in Suspense

Author Amanda Jayatissa discusses the fun of writing "deliciously mean" characters in her psychological thriller, My Sweet Girl.

3 Tips for Writing a Memoir Everyone Wants to Read

3 Tips for Writing a Memoir Everyone Wants to Read

A memoir is an open window into another's life—and although the truth is of paramount importance, so too is grabbing hold of its reader. Writer Tasha Keeble offers 3 tips for writing a memoir everyone will want to read.

Zoe Whittall: On Personal Change in Literary Fiction

Zoe Whittall: On Personal Change in Literary Fiction

Bestselling and Giller Prize-shortlisted author Zoe Whittal discusses the complexity of big life decisions in her new novel, The Spectacular.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 582

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a transition poem.

4 Myths About Writing Animal Characters

4 Myths About Writing Animal Characters

Author Codi Schneider debunks four myths about writing animal characters, including that audiences won't connect with animal characters and that they're only for children's books.



Every writer needs a little inspiration once in a while. For today's prompt, your character is a modern day voyager.

Stephanie Marie Thornton: One How an Entire Rewrite Added Suspense

Stephanie Marie Thornton: On How an Entire Rewrite Added Suspense

USA Today bestselling author discusses how rewriting a portion of her new historical fiction novel, A Most Clever Girl, added suspense.