I hate it, I hate it, I hate it. That was my mantra this afternoon as I worked on a cover letter for the proposal for my latest novel.
I love writing fiction. L. O. V. E. it. (That’s Loads Of Vigorous Enthusiasm) But a synopsis, a biography, and a sell sheet are right up there with pulling teeth. Why do I have to write a proposal in the first place? Can’t an editor just pick it up and start in chapter one like the (eventual) reader will?
Ah, but the reader doesn’t do that, do they? Not really. Think about the last time you were in a book store or online shopping for a book. Before you started chapter one, what did you do? Browse your favorite genre. Pay extra attention to the books that a sign said are similar to books by your favorite author. Read the blurb on the back to see if it catches your attention.
That’s what the proposal is: it tells an editor or agent how to sell your book. What is it about? To which books is it similar? Who is the intended audience? How is it unique?
These are not always easy questions; sometimes the answer is hard to put into words and other times the answer is boringly obvious and you feel stupid saying it. (Um, my romance novel’s intended audience is women who like romance novels.)
But the truth is that there are thousands upon thousands of people writing books and editors and agents receive hundreds of book offers per day, so if you aren’t willing to do the work of the proposal, someone else will, and since they made it easier on the editor/agent, they win. It’s not fun and it doesn’t feel fair, but it’s how the system works.
If you believe in your work, suck it up and write the best proposal you can. Even if you have to chant a mantra while you work. “Evil synopsis, evil synopsis, evil synopsis”.
Question for discussion: What are the benefits of a book proposal for the author?