Friday, November 5, 2010

Editing Tip #51: Proposal Tips

Kathy Ide’s Editing Tips
© Kathy Ide, 2010

In this column, freelance author, editor, and speaker Kathy Ide shares tips on self-editing your manuscript.


Every book proposal should include the following elements:

Title page: A cover sheet with the book’s working title and your name (as you’d like it to appear on the book) centered in the middle of the page, “Book Proposal” typed in the upper-left corner, and your name (not a pseudonym), address, phone number and e-mail in the bottom-right corner.

Specifications: Estimated word length, number of chapters, types of illustrations or photos, etc.

Author’s Bio: A brief biography of yourself, listing your educational background, writing credentials (books and articles published), qualifications to write credibly about your book’s topic, plus any previous media experience you may have.

Synopsis (for fiction): One or two pages that describe what your story is about, written in present tense. (“She does this and he does that.”) Make the synopsis as exciting as your story.

Chapter-by-Chapter Outline (for nonfiction): List your chapter titles and briefly describe the content of each chapter.

Two or Three Sample Chapters: For fiction, these must be the first chapters. For nonfiction, should be the first chapter plus one or two others from anywhere in the book.

Below are the questions publishers ask about every manuscript they receive to decide whether or not to vote on accepting it. Be sure to address at least most of these questions in your proposal.

  • Who is the main target audience (male or female, age range, life situation)? What is the estimated size of your target audience? (Use statistics if applicable.)
  • How does this book differ from others in the market? List books that would compete, directly or indirectly, with your book. Include the title, author’s name, publisher’s name, year of publication, number of pages, price and format (hardcover, trade paperback, mass-market paperback editions). Describe each book briefly, then tell how your book is different.
  • What is the take-away value? How do you anticipate readers being changed or helped?
  • How can the author help promote it? Can you speak at seminars, professional associations, or civic clubs? Do you have a Web site, blog, or e-newsletter where you can highlight the book?
  • How can it be used? (e.g., Sunday school elective, textbook, organization giveaway)

For more suggestions on writing a proposal, visit these websites:

Steve Laube, agent:

Taming the Book Proposal: The Basics by Jill Nagle,

How to Write a Synopsis by Marg Gilks:

Michael Hyatt, chairman & CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers:

How Do I Write a Book Synopsis? (Scroll down the page for the article.)

Alive Commumications Literary Agency has a sample fiction proposal on their Web site:

Proposal for Oxygen (by John Olson and Randy Ingermanson): html/on_writing.html (Scroll about halfway down this page to find a link to the proposal.)

Preparing a Killer Fiction Proposal, a 29-page article with samples by Karen Wiesner (

Writing a Winning Book Proposal, by Michael Hyatt, chairman & CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers (

Recommended Books:

Book Proposals that Sell by W. Terry Whalin

Your Novel Proposal: From Creation to Contract: The Complete Guide to Writing Query Letters, Synopses and Proposals for Agents and Editors (Hardcover)


NOTE: It is an infringement of copyright law to reproduce this
publication, in part or in whole, without the express permission of the
author. To request permission, please e-mail


Kathy Ide has written books, articles, play and movie scripts, short stories, devotionals, and curriculum. Her books include Polishing the PUGS and Fiction and Truth. Kathy is a full-time freelance editor, offering a wide range of editorial services for authors and publishers. She also speaks at writers’ conferences across the country. She is the founder and coordinator of The Christian PEN: Proofreaders and Editors Network ( and the Christian Editor Network ( To find out more, please visit

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