In preparation for my meeting with the publishing companies, I was instructed to prepare what is called a “One Sheet”. Essentially, it is like a combination of your resume and synopsis of the book project, all on one single sided sheet of paper. It is important to strike a balance between too much or too little information. When we met with publishers, right out the gate, we handed over our One Sheet for their review. I will say that in my appointments, they very briefly glanced over the information on the One Sheet. Most of the time was spent in conversation. Yes, you need to have a One Sheet, but also don’t stress out over putting it together.
At the end of the meeting, the publisher would then ask for the actual book proposal. In this particular instance, none wanted them at that exact moment. Instead, it was requested that the proposal was emailed to them once we returned home. If you do not have an opportunity to have a meeting with a publisher, and you are choosing to contact publishers directly, a good cover letter with a One Sheet is sufficient. Then allow the publisher to request your proposal before sending it. A cover letter and One Sheet are also a great way to reach out to literary agents before the expense of mailing a full proposal.
It is incredibly important that your proposal is complete and ready to send before you even pitch your book. The sooner you can email them the documents, the better. Not to mention that writing a book proposal is a lengthy process. Some publishers have specific requests in the format or content of the proposal. By having a completed proposal to work from, you can edit the proposal to meet those requests faster than having to write it from scratch.
For publishers who will accept cold (unsolicited) proposals, their guidelines for proposals is normally found on their website. For those who only accept solicited proposals, you may need to ask if there are any specific details they wish to have included in the proposal.
In a nutshell, a good proposal will have:
- a picture of you
- your contact information
- a paragraph or two about you, personally
- a paragraph or two about you, professionally (education, ministry work, etc.)
- details about your current platform (social media numbers, blog followers, etc.)
- details about your speaking platform (past dates, upcoming dates, locations, etc.)
- details about any previously published works (solo, contributions, etc.)
- a paragraph or two about the book content
- a paragraph or two about why this book is needed, beneficial
- details about any books that might be considered “competition” and how your book differs or adds to the conversation on the topic.
- proposed outline of your book
- 2-3 sample chapters of your book*
- a list of alternative titles (if you have thought of any)
- a list of other titles you are working on
* keep in mind that for most works (non-fiction, Bible study, etc.) you do not need to have a complete manuscript in order to pitch. In fact, some publishers prefer that you don’t. However, fiction and memoirs are manuscripts that publishers prefer to have completed before the pitch. In either case, if you do not have a completed manuscript, indicate in your proposal how much time you would need to complete the manuscript from the time the contract is signed. I would also include this info with proposed future titles you are working on.
Should you need to mail a proposal, it should be single sided only, not stapled. A binder clip works beautifully to keep it together during shipment. In my experience, thus far, and speaking with other authors… no publisher has ever requested a full manuscript on the spot.
One the publisher has your full proposal, they will review it and present it to the publishing board (aka pub board) for consideration for print.