Pyramid Proposals: Part III

The Pyramid Proposal method outlined so far helps you prioritize and understand the necessary components of good book proposals. It’s all a sales tool–and you must present the “hook, line and sinker” in a certain order if you want to reel in the reader.

Writing Tip for Today: The last part of the Pyramid is of course the most important of all. This “base” is where the meat is–your synopsis and three sample chapters.

That One-two Page Synopsis.

My system for writing synopses runs counter to a lot of writing advice. I think it’s so important that you can state the book’s description in one or two SENTENCES. This and the short 150 word paragraph should be your starting point for a longer synopsis. Many writers draft a long, unwieldy synopsis and then try to edit it down. If you start with that central core sentence or two, my feeling is that it’s easier to add than to subtract. So, since you’ve already written your “log line,” (See Part I) you will now be able to add to this until you have described the main action for the ENTIRE STORY. Including the ending (how everything turns out) is what makes a synopsis different from a book jacket blurb or a query letter. The reader (usually an agent) must be confident that you know your story’s resolution and that it is satisfactory. This means no deus ex machina cavalry saves the day or other contrived plot devices. Adding in the resolution demonstrates not only your mastery of your story but also gives the agent a feel for the story as a whole. This synopsis should be about 500 words or so. Use your story’s FIVE MAIN PLOT POINTS to tell the story. Don’t mention too many characters and ALWAYS use present tense in a synopsis. A good way to practice is to analyze the plot points in a well-known story such as a fairy tale or fable. Write your own synopsis by imagining each plot point as movement toward the stated goal. Include the story’s Genre, Word Count and Title at the top.

The Three Sample Chapters.

A good novel proposal includes your first three chapters. If you feel strongly about including any other chapters besides the first consecutive three, ask yourself why. Could it be that your novel “gets going” later than Chapter 3? Consider lopping off the first chapter or two–in many first novels, the original drafts of these chapters are chock full of back story and “telling.” Writers naturally start out by telling themselves the story, so this isn’t unusual. But readers want to be shown the story not told. In order to make your sample chapters the most complete experience possible for any reader, it needs to be cinematic, like a good movie that unfolds before a reader’s eyes. If your opening chapters don’t offer this experience, chances are the chapters will fail to ignite the LOVE an agent needs to take on your project.


The Pyramid Proposal Method consists of three parts: PART I: The Tip (a great title, a log line or theme and 150 word synopsis, PART II, The Middle ( Author Platform or Bio, Author Marketing Plan and Complementary Books) and PART III The Base: A 500 word synopsis and three sample chapters. There are some variations but these are the important and vital components of a good book proposal. Good Luck!

About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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