The Dreaded Book Proposal

The time has come.

A little over a year ago, after hearing about the book I was writing, an author friend suggested I find an agent. I didn’t feel ready. In fact, I felt completely inadequate as a writer with so much more to learn, that while I felt encouraged by her advice, I simply couldn’t follow it at the time. Six months ago, a well known author critiqued a portion of my first novel at the Mt Hermon Christian Writers Conference and indicated that I should consider looking for an agent and thinking about which publishing house I’d like for my contemporary fiction manuscript. Her advice forced me to embrace the idea that perhaps the time was nearing for me to look for an agent.

I can’t put it off any longer.

I’ve finished the first book and with eighty pages written on the novel, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m at the point of needing to write a proposal to find an agent. Can I just say that writing two books has been easier?

I described the situation to my seventh grade daughter like this…

Imagine you are given an assignment (let’s say a paper to write for your language class…). You’ve spent many hours constructing this piece of writing. You’ve written, re-written, had it critiqued, edited, re-written (the fifteenth time now) and finally you like it enough to turn it in. BUT before your teacher will accept your paper, you must write a compelling letter (query) with only enough information and intrigue to make her want to see a summary of your assignment (proposal).

If your teacher decides your letter is persuasive enough, she may ask you to submit the summary of your paper. You hope this is the case.

Now the situation gets even more difficult.

This summary must capture her attention. Each sentence must lead her to the next, and the next creating a longing in her to see your full assignment. (No pressure here!) What if it’s too short? Or too long? How many pages exactly is a “summary”? Do you have enough information to leave her feeling confident with your ability to write, or is it too much and boring her? What details are imperative to create a good feel for the storyline and which are superfluous? What other papers have been written about your topic? Are they same, or different and in what ways? Finally, do you write the author bio in first or third person??

Wow, Mom! That’s intense! I’m glad I don’t have to do my schoolwork that way.

To which I answered, “So am I sweetheart. So am I. Now you know why I put up my little sign that announces, “I’m in my zone. Please do not disturb.”

She got it.

For all of you out there who have written, are writing or still dread the day when you will finally have to write…a book proposal, I salute you. I admire you. Nice job. Keep it up. Don’t delay (it may take longer than it did to write your book). May you find an agent who feels compelled at the “Dear Sir.”

What is your book proposal writing experience? Have you found ways to make it easier?

A great resource:

15 thoughts on “The Dreaded Book Proposal

  1. Here’s my strategy: procrastinate by taking a bunch of classes and reading articles about how to do a book proposal. Then start a blog and decide that probably God will direct the proper agent to the blog, and said agent will fall in love w/ my prose and ask me please, just please, to submit anything at all asap. What do you think?


    1. Lol! I’m taking your plan as facetious fun, but there’s some truth in it too, huh? My fear of failure as well as fear of success has kept me in dawdling mode for quite some time. Some of your plan, doing the work, is inevitable and necessary, but I totally get how it can become an excuse! I do believe that God will direct you to the right agent; I think the right one will probably not look for you…still, you never know when you’ll be in the right place at the right time! I wish you all the best with finding that elusive agent. What do you write?


  2. Hi Laura,
    Just catching up on responding to blogs. I kept this post because it’s an excellent reminder that fear has two sides. Like you said in the above comment, we (I) fear success and failure. I find all kinds of excuses not to find an agent. Gulp. I haven’t written a proposal, but just writing a query letter is almost as painful. I’m sure you’ll keep me in the loop as to when you send out the “dreaded” proposal. Loved the conversation you had with your daughter. 🙂


    1. Thanks Tracy! Yeah, sometimes I’m equally afraid of what would happen if someone really does want to be my agent and my books actually do get published! The transition from writer to author/speaker will be a jump. I will certainly let you know…my goal is to send it within the next 2 weeks…;-)


  3. Alcohol …just kidding, truth is there doesn’t seem any way to avoid the gruel of chapter summaries. You just gotta sit down and do it.


  4. Hi Laura, for me I was really stressing about writing my query. I had researched and researched so many different ways to do it and I tell you, by the end my head was spinning! But then I came across this blog by Elana Johnson and let me just say, this women knows what she is talking about!

    I found her when I was looking through Veronica Roth’s (author of Divergent) blog. When she was writing her query letter she took Elana’s advice. Her website link is here

    Also, you might want to read Veronica Roth’s advice on how to write a query letter. Her link is here

    Well, I hope this helps. Good luck to you!


    1. Thank you so much, Jaime! I will definitely check those out. I understand the head spinning–wow, sometimes I don’t know which way to turn. But, this one agency I’m interested in has really great, simple guidelines too so that has been a huge help. Thanks again. Good luck to you too. How old are your kids?


        1. Wow! You are a busy mom. I’ll bet it’s hard to find time to write. I’m impressed. Keep it up. I quit writing when I was raising my oldest 4, but have come back to it. My youngest just turned 10. Only 3 of 7 home now. Happy writing! I’ll pray for windows of time to open for you 🙂


        2. Thank you very much for the prayers! Yes, I am very busy! I work a job and try to write whenever I can. I began writing my current MS four years ago when my boys were younger. I would write in-between, cooking, cleaning, diaper changing but that didn’t stop me. I knew I had to write this! I’m so thankful that I did. I know that this is what I need to do, I have to write, it’s my passion and my calling.

          I’m working right now on a “sneak peek” into my book and will be posting to my blog in the next day or so. If you like YA fiction or if you have kids who like that type of genre please check it out!

          I will say a prayer for you as well! 🙂


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