When a pre-published writer shops a novel, the manuscript must already be complete. Many times, agents want to see a “fiction proposal” in the same vein as nonfiction book proposals. Here’s why.
Writing Tip for Today: Long ago, writers were instructed to send in detailed chapter outlines and long synopses. In today’s electronic world, these items have been largely replaced by the following:
- A pitch. About 100-150 words, this pitch can be used to get an agent or editor interested in your story. Pitches can be performed at conference appointments or sent along with the rest of a fiction proposal. Pitches also showcase your ability to talk about your story in a brief yet meaningful way. Formulas abound, but you’ll need to highlight your character and plight, obstacles and goals.
- A 500 word synopsis. Old wisdom had writers single-spacing these beasts, but today we’re told to go ahead and double-space the synopsis. Use that pitch as a jumping-off place. Don’t chronicle the details but do include the ending. Never try to be coy with this synopsis, by slyly suggesting a sequel or daring the agent/editor to read the book to find out the ending. Poor form, that.
- The Dreaded Platform. Used to be that queries and synopses were the bug-a-boos, but nowadays most writers pale at the word “platform.” In fiction, you will probably only have regional or local support when it’s your first novel, but try to be active on the social media sites before you agent-shop. Start a blog, but pick an angle and be consistent about posting. If you’re a Luddite, it won’t help you sell books, so at the very least learn all you can about e-books, social media and blog tours.
- Complementary Books. Some agents require that you let them know you’re up on the current market. Be able to compare and contrast with your work at least three current books.
- Specific Market. An agent or editor wants to know that you have specific plans for marketing. So instead of saying, “My book will sell in bookstores,” add something like, “I’ve reviewed books as part of XYZ Blog Tours, and plan to tour my book.”
- First Three Chapters. Anytime you’re asked for sample chapters, submit the first, followed by the next chapters. Don’t submit Chapter 19. It screams, “My opening is shaky!”