Posted by: nancyisanders | March 12, 2009

Book In A Month Club: Prepare a Proposal

Let’s all give a cheer for one of our Book In A Month Club members for this year–Doraine!!! Doraine is our very first success story. She heard back from a publisher she submitted a query to this month–Libraries Unlimited, one of the publishers I posted as a sample here on this site–and the editor requested a proposal. Way to go, Doraine! Isn’t this exciting? Hip hip hooray for you!

If anyone else hears back from an editor, please let us know. We’ll give a cheer for you, too.

If you’ve been following along on my blog, you already know that this month we’re TRYING to land a book contract–all in one month for the Book In A Month Club! Instead of subbing manuscripts we’ve already written, however, the strategy I recommend is to find a publisher to target in a genre that interests you. Choose one that accepts queries. Then study their product line, brainstorm 3-5 new ideas that would fit into their list, and send off a query asking if they’d like to see a proposal for those ideas.

What should you do when a publisher responds to your query and asks for a proposal?

First of all, do a happy dance around the house. Play a game of fetch with your favorite pooch and tell him how wonderful a writer you are. Call your writer friends and yell, “Yippee!”

Then, get back in touch with the editor. Respond to him the same way he responded to you. If he e-mailed you, e-mail him right back. If he sent you a letter in the mail, send him a letter back. On the front of the envelope write REQUESTED so it’s sure to catch his attention and not get lost back in the slush pile.

Thank the editor for his interest in your idea. Try not to ask too many questions at this point, but if you have several, ask them now. Tell him you will send him your proposal in a month (or three months if you think it will take that long).

Then prepare your proposal.

Preparing a proposal is like preparing for a job interview. You practice for the interview, prepare your resume, and get your clothes ready. You take your time to shine. It’s the same for a proposal.

You can stop sending in more queries for now because you accomplished your goal for the Book In A Month Club! You TRIED to land a book contract and you actually caught an editor’s eye with your query. Now focus all your energies on preparing this proposal.

Preparing a proposal takes a lot of work. You have to become a temporary expert of a topic you might know nothing about. You have to write a pitch that is engaging enough to hook the interest of the editor. But you already caught his eye with your query, so you’re halfway there!

Proposals are different for different markets. A proposal for a picture book usually includes a cover letter, a synopsis of the book, and a sample of your writing. A proposal for a novel usually includes a cover letter, a comprehensive synopsis of the projected novel, and the first three sample chapters of the book. A proposal for a nonfiction books usually includes a cover letter, an outline of the entire book, and up to 10 pages of sample text.

Write your proposal, polish it with feedback from your critique group, and then submit it to the editor. If submitting by mail, once again mark REQUESTED on the front of the envelope.

As soon as that proposal is in the mail, however, you can start the cycle of sending queries out to publishers again. Don’t worry if two or three publishers respond to your queries. If you start landing contracts, just line them up like ducks in a row. Schedule the deadline for the first book first, the second book after that, and the third book after that.

Just keep sending out queries until you actually land a contract. Then sit down and write that book!

For now, though, we’ll continue exploring various publishers who accept queries. Check back in tomorrow for another interesting lead!


  1. Congratulations, Doraine! That’s so wonderful.

    Tina Cho

  2. That is so exciting, Doraine! Keep us posted on your journey with this so we can celebrate your accomplishment.

    Shirley Shibley

  3. Thanks so much! I’m working on the proposal now. I’m so grateful for all the encouragement. You all are wonderful!

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