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The Most Challenging Part of Writing a Book Proposal

Crafting a stand-out proposal takes a fresh idea, a demonstrated audience, and, what book editors like to call, great “scaffolding.” In addition to what we hear from aspiring writers, we’ve pooled insights from a few of our authors on the toughest parts of the book proposal process. What we’re told? It’s detailing the table of contentssummarizing the whole book into one page, and knowing when your proposal is ready.

Here are some helpful strategies for tackling those challenges:

  • When summarizing your entire proposal into a few pages of an overview, use the outline for your book to summarize the arc of the story you’re telling in the most vivid, immediately accessible, concise way. The overview is not where you want to get wordy; it’s where you want to be succinct and clear. Many authors find that reframing an overview as a direct and conversational “letter to the editor,” in which you describe your vision for the book, is the easiest way to go.
  • When tackling your table of contents, try distilling the content of each chapter into just one line. This will give you the 10,000 foot view of what each chapter is covering, allowing you to make sure each chapter is distinct and builds on the core idea. Tools like Scrivener may help you.
  • When gauging if your proposal is ready, please be reassured that “ready” is different from “perfect.” A proposal is just that, a proposal, and a good agent will help you develop your proposal even more. So at the preliminary stage, just make sure readers come away with a clear sense of what the book is about, what’s novel about it, and what audience you can count on to buy it.

We are currently putting together a brand new workshop that focuses exclusively on proposal development. During the workshop, Lucinda will walk through each section of your proposal, sharing tips on what publishers are looking for. Those who attend will gain exclusive access to our Lucinda Literary Proposal Template. At the end of this workshop, you’ll have the opportunity to share your proposal for Lucinda’s personal review and critique.

Developing proposals from the ground up is one of the most challenging, and fun, parts of our business. Reach out if you want to participate!