Genre Chat – Cherrilynn Bisbano – Book Proposals for Different Genres

Cherrilynn Bisbano is an award-winning writer. She founded The Write Proposal after reading hundreds of book proposals with avoidable errors. These errors cost the author a contract or representation. As a submission reader and junior literary agent, Cherrilynn wants you to succeed. Her desire is to help you present a professional and memorable proposal. She has written proposals for Paws for Effect, a Hollywood movie company, and helped edit many proposals. As the managing editor of Almost an Author, she helped the website earn the #6 spot on the Top 100 best writing websites for 2018 by The Write Life and Top 101 Websites for writers with Writers Digest.

Cherrilynn can be reached at editor@thewriteproposal.com
For more information about the Write Proposal visit www.thewriteproposal.com

Show Notes:

     Cherrilynn Bisbano is the founder of The Write Proposal, a company that specializes in coaching writers from around the world to creating professional book proposals for every genre of writing. Cherrilynn’s team includes freelance copyrighter and marketing strategist Holland Webb, and award winning editor Crystal Phelps. She was generous enough to share the basic structure of a book proposal and how the different elements change across genres.
The book proposal is the first impression that publishers get about you, your writing, and your professionalism. Publishers don’t have the time or resources to get to know every submitting author individually, so the proposal works as a type of resume that gives insight into your book and skills as a writer.

When to start the process:

In nonfiction writing, some people recommend writing the book proposal ahead of time, because it can be an outline for the writing process. In fiction writing, parts of the proposal can be compiled as the book is being written, such as the biography and marketing research. However, the synopsis should be written after the first draft is finished, because the story often changes as the writing process progresses. The proposal for a children’s book should also be written after the book is completed, but the proposal for children’s books are much different than those for different genres.
The first step is to go to the website of the agent or publisher to which the proposal is being submitted. If submitting directly to a publisher, make sure that they are accepting books proposals, and that they are interested in proposals for your particular genre. Always check the submission guidelines for that particular agent or publisher.

The following is a generalized format based on what the majority of agents and publishers expect in a book proposal.

     The Title Page includes the author’s name, address, email, and the title and subtitle of the book. If working with an agent, their name should also be listed. Be sure to include the genre and word count of the book.

     The Table of Contents is for the proposal itself, not for the book that is being submitted.

     The One Page Sell Sheet should include the title, genre and word count. It should include a tagline to hook the agent or publisher’s attention. (This section is different from a One Sheet that is often presented at writer’s conferences.) This section should also include the back cover copy for the book. This is the opening summary of the story that is often found on the back cover or inside flap of published books, but should not give away the story’s ending. Include an abbreviated bio, which can detail facts about your writing experience and achievements. Lastly, the One Page Sell Sheet should explain why you are the person to write this book. The only graphic on this page should be a current headshot of the author.

The Biographical Sketch (a.k.a. the Author Page) functions as a resume for the author. This includes your writing experience, education and prior publishing history. You can also list the number of people you reach through social media platforms. Provide a current headshot. This is different from the One Page Sell Sheet, which provides one or two lines about the author. The Biographical Sketch gives much more detail.

     The Story Synopsis or Chapter Review is different with fiction and non-fiction. For a fiction book, the synopsis is typically one to three pages summarizing the story from beginning to end. For non-fiction book proposals, this section should include a summary of each chapter in the book. For children’s books, each page of the book should be shown in spreads that include both the writing and illustrations.

     The Market Analysis identifies the audience for the proposed book. It should include the identity of the audience, the age, gender, location and income level of the average reader in that audience. This is where a lot of research must be done in the genre. Statistics on sales of similar books should be included, as well as statistics on blogs and magazines with similar content. You must demonstrate that there is an audience for your book, and who that audience will be. Consider special interest groups that would be interested in reading the book. It’s also important to explain how your book meets a need for readers.

     The Competitive Analysis deals heavily with current trends in the industry. This section compares your book with other successful books in the same genre. Make a list of seven to ten books that tell the same type of story or give the same type of information as your book. They should each have been written within the last five years. Make sure to compare your book to best sellers. Do not list any self-published books, unless that book has been wildly successful, selling eight thousand or more copies in its first year of publication.

The following information should be included about each book:
– Title/subtitle
– Author
– Publisher
– Copyright year
– Number of pages
– Format (paperback, hardback or ebook)
– Retail price
– ISBN

When comparing and contrasting each of these books to your own, ask the following questions:
– How is my book similar?
– How is my book different?
– What promise does the author make to the reader?
– What promise do I make to the reader that is different or similar?
– How are my credentials similar to the author’s?

Make sure to never criticize the authors of these books, but simply compare and contrast their work to yours. It is not necessary to read each of the seven to ten books listed. Read as many as possible and make sure you are very familiar with each of them.

The Marketing Plan is the first place to which some agents and publishers look. This is where an in depth analysis of the author’s platform is given. First, give a general statement about the number of people in the author’s platform. Then, break down each element of the author platform to show how the large number was calculated. This section must prove that the author has a large enough following to sell eight to ten thousand books within the first year of publication.
When calculating the platform reach, the author should include every avenue he or she has to publicize the book. This includes religious affiliation, Facebook groups, and social media followers. Ask Facebook and Twitter connections to help spread the word about your book when it is released. If these social media friends have large numbers of followers, that number can be included when calculating the platform reach. Local newspapers, alumni magazines and business newsletters can also provide additional marketing avenues.

Next, list any Endorsements for the book, and the History of the Manuscript.

Finally, provide three sample chapters of the book.

Sometimes, the proposal seems to require more work than the book itself, but a well crafted proposal is vital to the publication process. Without it, there is no way for the agent or publisher to learn about you or your book.

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Written by Caleb Walton

November 28, 2018

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