Friday, May 24, 2013

An Alternative Approach to the Query Letter & Book Proposal

The query letter and book proposal have long been fundamental to the process of submitting your book manuscript to literary agents and traditional publishers. But in today's changing book trade, there are reasons to rethink how we, as authors, create and use the query and proposal.

A query letter on its own is often not enough. Most emerging authors know about the need to be able to produce a compelling query letter, and many agents and publishers say, "Query first." The experience of authors who contact me, however, suggests that a query on its own rarely attracts serious interest. The query letter has become so widespread and generic that even an exceptionally well-written example often fails to elicit a request for the manuscript.

A full book proposal has inherent drawbacks. A convincing book proposal has always carried weight in the book trade, and at some point in the traditional prepublication process many agents and publishers will require the author to produce a full proposal. For an introduction to best practice when approaching literary agents and publishers, see How to Get a Book Published. To learn how to produce a professional proposal, watch the Helping You Get Published video Book Proposal Basics . . .

But while the full-length book proposal has its place and value, the trouble is that producing it is typically time consuming and sometimes more difficult than writing the book itself. More disheartening still, a full proposal is often not what agents and publishers want to see on the first approach. And even when the full proposal is an initial option, its length can nonetheless be off-putting to busy literary agents, acquiring editors, and publishers, all of whom are overwhelmed with submissions to read.

It makes sense to try an alternative approach. My experience with Helping You Get Published client authors indicates that the most effective first approach lies between query only and the full proposal. An initial submission that is both concise and comprehensive is widely appreciated and more likely than most to prompt requests to see more—usually sample chapters or sometimes even the whole manuscript. Find out about the Helping You Get Published alternative approach: the express query letter and book proposal . . .

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