Friday, April 18, 2008

Floating a Book Proposal

Here is a step-by-step approach to floating your first novel.

Before you begin writing the novel, develop your ideas on paper. How will the story open? Can you picture the scene in your mind? What is the main character’s problem and how is that problem going to get worse? How is this story going to end? What has to happen to get to that ending? What surprises await the reader?

Sketch the principal characters. Develop their inner lives and their motivations for doing what they do. Describe their appearance and show their attitudes by things they do and say. How are the characters related? Are they friends or enemies? Family members or strangers?

Decide how the story will be told. From whose perspective? Or will each chapter be told from the perspective of a different character? If so, which character gets to go first?

State the theme of the story as concisely as possible. For example: "This novel is about how a woman in a man’s world comes to embrace her femininity." If you are having trouble stating the theme, it is probably because you don't know yet what it is. Keep thinking about it.

Tell about what inspires you to write the book. What experiences in your life qualify you to write about this? In what ways might this story be autobiographical?

Now write the first 2 chapters. Have another writer read what you have written and make observations and suggestions. Join a writers group, if possible. You will learn so much from other writers, and it is a great way to receive constructive criticism of your work.

Now do your market research using the most current edition of Novel and Short Story Writer’ Market. (You may read about this and purchase a copy here.) Make a list of book publishers who buy your kind of fiction: fantasy, romance, suspense, mystery, western, etc. Now eliminate any publishers who require submissions through agents. Now highlight the publishers who accept simultaneous submissions. Contact these publishers for Guidelines.

Read the Guidelines. You may have to eliminate a few more publishers from your list. The publishers remaining on the list are the ones you will mail your book proposal to first. Some publishers accept online submissions.

Send your proposal with the first 2 chapters and a synopsis of the story. Include a cover letter introducing yourself and state briefly what your book is about. (Go back to what you have written about theme.) Mention any published fiction in the cover letter.

Now wait patiently. It takes weeks for publishers to look at book proposals. Sometimes they don't bother. If you have sent a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE), someone will probably mail back your propsoal with a form rejection letter. The letter is likely to say something like: Thank you for allowing us to see your writing. We regret that your book doesn't meet our publishing needs at this time.

While you are waiting for a reply, keep writing. If you are a writer at heart, you'll write no matter what!

If none of these publishers responds after 10 weeks, submit your proposal to the most promising publisher who doesn’t accept simultaneous submissions. Again wait patiently for 10 weeks. If you haven’t heard anything from that publisher, send your materials to the next possible publisher, and so on until you have exhausted all the potential publishers on your list.

If you run out of potential book publishers, look for online publications. Some sites will publish chapters from novels. This may be a way for you to build your publications record.

Publishers don’t appreciate phone calls, but they do appreciate good writing. 80% of your efforts should be spent improving your writing and 20% should be spent doing market research.

Yeah, I know… writing for publication is hard work.

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