My first tip for writing a book proposal is to go to Steve Laube’s website and listen to the audio on this subject. You will also find a book proposal template. Download it. Study it. Use it as you see fit. You can also read my previous posts on this subject.
Other than your search for a literary agent, writing a book proposal is the most daunting task you’ll ever encounter. There are not many shortcuts. So, you might as well roll up your sleeves and pour yourself a very strong cup of caffeine, say a prayer, and get started.
I had no idea what I was getting into until I listened to Steve Laube’s audio class about a month ago. Since listening to his lecture, I’ve had time to think on this. My mind is always churning in search of ways to make things run smoother, and sometimes to my detriment, faster.
Here are a few things I came up with to help write that book proposal.
If you are in the beginning stages of writing a new book, I suggest you write a two-line synopsis at the end of each chapter. Highlight that synopsis in yellow, or whatever color you prefer.
Because in most book proposals, one of the things they’ll request is you give them a chapter-by-chapter rundown of the book. Not all publishers will ask for this, but it is better to be prepared than to start from scratch. You can also choose, like I’ve done with my completed manuscript, to write this synopsis during your last read of the book–the last read that comes just before you send it to your editor.
I’ve also found that this is an idea project you can undertake while beta readers are reading your book. This exercise helps calm the nervous energy stirring in you while you wait for feedback on your book.
NOTE: It won’t hurt to write this synopsis in your manuscript, especially if you highlight it. For one, if you do this, the synopsis is always there and a part of the book. Two, if you highlight the synopsis, you can easily delete it before you forward it to a publisher/editor/literary agent. Three, it is easily identified whenever you feel a need to update it. Four, it’s easily accessible because it’s located at the “end” of each chapter.
The other thing that keeps us stuck in the mud about writing book proposals is the tedious task of coming up with a pitch. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve Googled “pitch,” looked up examples, and I still struggle with coming up with one that fits my book. Who goes around summarizing their book in one to two sentences? I’m, as you know, longwinded. You have any idea how hard it is for a longwinded person to summarize anything in one or two sentences? I’m doomed!!
Okay. That was bit of an exaggeration. Still …
One of the things that’s proven helpful is to go to Youtube or search new or old movies and read their tag lines and pitches. See, I don’t even know if they are one and the same (tag lines and pitches). The other thing I’ve done is search through books listed on Amazon.com. Most don’t have them, but ever so often I’ll find one. Sometimes, I’ve been lucky enough to go to a writer’s website and find a pitch of their newest book, along with a “purchase/buy me” button. If they’ve done a good job with their pitch, you’re tempted to make the purchase.
Publishers will also want a synopsis of your book written like a book jacket. I’ve experienced different requests from several publishers. Some want your synopsis to be no more than 200 words. Others want your synopsis to give the full details of your book, including any surprises, and the ending.
When I first ran across a request like this, I didn’t want to comply. Something told me to go over my notes that I’d taken when I listened to Steve Laube’s audio on book proposals. During his lecture, he stresses somewhere along the way that publishers don’t want to bank money on a book that they later find out sags in the middle and doesn’t deliver in the end. Wow!
So, like it or not, we must give away the goods when requested to provide a synopsis in this fashion. Bite your inner lip my dear colleagues and give up the goods of your book.
The other thing that really gets me about book proposals is the Competitive/Market Analysis request. My first reaction to this request was: “How would I know. I’ve been busy writing the book. I have no blasted idea who will read it. And I sure don’t know a thing about the marketing side of the writing business. How’s a newbie to know such things anyway?” Straightforward answer to that snippy attitude: I BETTER FIND OUT!!
We must do our homework. If you hate research, you will utterly despise it before it’s all said and done.
It’s not like in the old days (40 years ago) when editors/literary agents and publishers marketed your book for you. They are no longer in the business of carrying the brunt of that load anymore. It’s up to us to do most of the heavy lifting. Unless, however, you’ve already made a name for yourself (i.e., you’re a Brett Farve, a Tom Brady, a Morgan Freeman, a Beyonce Knowles, a Serena Williams).
Until our names are in lights, we will need to dig in and find creative ways to market our books. To do that, we must have an idea who will read our books and how we plan to attract readers. Like you, I’m stuck in the mud on this one, always trying to determine who I wrote this book for and who might be my unlikely reader. Ask yourself this: How will I attract readers to my book? In a sea of writers, how do I get noticed?
To overcome the first part of this hurdle, I began asking myself, “What book have I read that influenced the writing of my novel?” Rarely is there one influence. List them, and include their authors. Then choose two or three that were the most influential.
Believe it or not, you have just fulfilled the request of the Competitive Analysis of your book proposal.
The Market Analysis side of the question has many components. I tossed and turned for nights over this one. Then one day during my search on the internet I ran across a term I hadn’t heard before: “swag bags.” Huh? When I realized what this was, my mind wouldn’t shut off. You can offer swag bags in so many different ways: as gifts for being one of the first ten purchasers of your book; as a gift for persuading someone else (or persuading two or three people) to buy your book; as a gift with the purchase of your book. Use your imagination. Look up swag bags on the internet. The pictures alone generate ideas.
The other thing I thought of regarding marketing is: purchasing those magnetic signs for my car with the picture of my book on it. I really, really, really like that idea. I don’t care if you borrow these ideas. You don’t write like me, and I don’t write like you. Dismiss the myth. There’s nothing to fear. Some people will like my book; while others might like yours. There’s enough of a share of the profit to go around. Use any idea I’ve posed here, and expound on it if you can. Do whatever works for you. But remember this, if you don’t write well, it won’t matter. Our books still won’t sell if you don’t put out a good product. It’s best to find a good reputable editor. Lose the fear of sharing ideas. We can learn from each other.
There is so much more I could share, but because I really need to edit my upcoming novel, I must stop here. However, if you have questions, ask away. If you have corrections to what is written here, I’m open to receive them. The only important criteria to your suggestions: Lose the meanness. Exert professionalism. I’m no expert. I’m still learning. But if you’ve read my “About the Author” page, you’re well aware that I’m determined to share all that I’ve learned with you. Hope you do the same.
The business side of writing is forever changing, and we must change with it. It can be a pain in the butt. Lawrence Block once responded to someone who wanted to write a book, “If you want to write fiction, the best thing you can do is take two aspirins, lie down in a dark room, and wait for the feeling to pass.”
Why didn’t I take his advice?
Donna B. Comeaux
If you are a lot like me, you struggle with preparing a book proposal.
Writers usually prepare book proposals when soliciting to publishers. And preparing one can be a nightmare, especially if you don’t know where to start. I was in this position a week ago … totally lost and not knowing where to begin.
Now, I can say with confidence that I feel comfortable putting a book proposal together. I’ll be honest, it is a daunting task because it takes quite a while to put one together. When I finished my proposal, I wanted to just send it because I was sick of looking at it. But I let the proposal sit a day or two then I proofed it. Glad I did. So, be prepared. Preparing your proposal will take a while, so don’t be in a hurry. And once you’re done, please do yourself a favor and proof it line-by-line.
If you are thinking about preparing a book proposal, or you don’t have the slightest idea of how to go about putting one together, please, please consider taking this class. The cost is $10.00. That’s right–$10.00. And the class is worth so much more. It is AUDIO and you don’t actually get to interact with the instructor. You can, however, start and stop it as many times as you like until you finish it. It is presented by Steve Laube of The Steve Laube Agency.
Before you take the class, make sure you have pencil and paper handy, because Steve will share a wealth of information with you.
I’ve listed the web page below.
Donna B. Comeaux
NOTE: There is a proposal form on the site. I’VE INCLUDED THE FORM HERE ON MY BLOG for easy reference. JUST SCROLL THROUGH my blog pages UNTIL YOU SEE A PAGE titled “Elements of a Good Book Proposal (Form).”
(a fictional short story based on biblical truths and ancient customs)
“Beulah, I do not understand why Avi does it—sit there day after day weaving away, hardly sleeping.”
“Shh, Ephah, she will hear you. Let her be. Whatever Avi is doing she has her mind fixed on it and there is nothing we can say to change her purpose. Now, come,” Beulah said as she tugged on Ephah’s arm.
Ephah pulled away and reached for the long cloth covering Avi’s open door. “I think we should go in and sit with her and find out what she is doing, Beulah.”
“No! Ephah, do not.”
“Are you not curious?”
“Yes, of course I am, but it is none of our business. We should go. We have work to do. The men will be home from the field soon and I must cook lentils and lamb stew for dinner, at the request of my husband.”
“Humph. Tomorrow then,” Ephah said, sorely disappointed that they did not have time to go inside and probe Avi about her sudden withdrawal from her people. “Tomorrow we will make her tell us.”
“No, Ephah. No. Tomorrow we must busy ourselves with preparations for the Pesach. We have one week left to get ready. Tomorrow, and all the days thereafter, we must leave Avi alone. We have too much to do. Come, go quickly. There is so little time.”
A slight breeze blew the thin covering nailed to Avi’s door and cooled the stillness in her one-room bavith. Plumes of dust entered the room as the two women outside scurried away. Avi stopped weaving and listened. “Adonai, thank you. It is peaceful again.”
Avi stood then stretched her back and wiggled her toes, shook the mat and repositioned the blanket that she had folded underneath it. The earthen floor of her bavith was smooth, hard packed; the walls made of clay. The bavith was old, built by her late husband and two sons—all dead now. Her roof, well-established, had a beam that ran from wall to wall and atop was a healthy crop of grass, barley, and the dying beginnings of a fig tree that wouldn’t survive the summer’s heat.
Simmering in a corner of the bavith was a pot of lentil soup. From the market, she had purchased a leg of lamb and placed half of it in the soup; the other half she shared with a neighbor. A small basket protected a portion of raw grain, enough to last three days. In a tiny bowl covered with a cloth were a handful of dates, olives, and a small serving of buttermilk cheese to nourish Avi if she needed to eat before dinner.
On the opposite side of the bavith where she was hard at work, was a bed mat rolled up neat, pressed against the wall. Next to the mat, all the clothes she owned lay wrapped and tied with a string.
For nearly a year, without fail, she rose early to fetch water from the well, filling two goatskins to capacity, doing so before the other women came to gather and participate in idle talk. Then she’d rush back to her bavith to cook today’s meal before returning to her sewing.
Avi shared Ephah’s need to understand, but even Avi didn’t know why weaving the garment until the wee hours of the morning had become an obsession. Sewing this garment, a man’s ef’-od, was a mystery to her, and she had no idea who would wear it. Without knowledge of his breadth, height, and age, everything about this undertaking seemed pointless. But the moment she made up her mind to stop fighting the message that kept running through her mind as she slept, her energy increased and she soon discovered that four hours of rest each night was sufficient.
With a week left before the Pesach, her people’s commemoration of G-d passing over them when he slew the first born of Egypt, Avi became more determined than ever to finish her work. Everyone in Jerusalem anticipated the holiday—buying and selling goods to ensure they had enough to host kinsmen and friends coming from afar.
Avi worked tirelessly and as she did so she pondered rumors of a man claiming to be the Messiah close to her heart. Ancient stories of the coming King had circulated throughout Israel long before her birth. As a child, she remembered the elders talking around campfires, saying, “He will rule the earth and bring us peace.” They celebrated this promise in full expectation—dancing to lively music, roasting the best lamb, feasting on honey, and drinking the finest wine. Recent rumors of this miracle worker who had come to save Avi’s people spread through Jerusalem like warm honey. She had yet to investigate these stories to determine if they were myths or truths. Perhaps he was another imposter who might leave her people downtrodden once again, casting doubts upon the ancient tales of the patriarchs.
She’d been too preoccupied with the task at hand to walk a mile or two or three to witness the teacher everyone raved about. The vast majority of her people reported he had healed the blind, made the lame walk, turned water into wine. The entire countryside went into an uproar when he supposedly raised Lazarus from the dead. The most absurd story of all, at least for Avi, was his ability to walk on water. Avi couldn’t put that story to rest. It agitated her, woke her in the middle of the night, caused her to call upon Adonai and cry herself to sleep.
Not long after the dreams ceased, for reasons she still couldn’t comprehend, Avi saved every denarius earned from repairing neighbors’ old garments. With the money, she bought fine expensive yarn. Since Avi’s family died many years ago, it didn’t make sense to buy it. What would she do with this elaborate twisted fiber? Avi wondered if she had acted foolishly. So taunted with worry, she wrapped the yarn of fine linen inside her cloak then sat near a lamp and stared at it as if expecting it to move about her bavith and perhaps convey a message that she had somehow missed from the Holy One.
Then one day about ten months ago, she set her loom in the middle of her bavith. Upon a thin strip of leather, she placed seven needles. She commenced to inserting these sharp splinters of bone and bronze in and out of the yarn to begin the painstaking task of weaving a seamless garment from top to bottom.
Everyday since Avi sewed, stopping long enough to fetch water, cook, eat and drink, bathe and lie down. Her source of income came to a halt for she had given up mending her neighbors’ cloaks and scarves and belts, but was never in want.
Three days before Pesach, something strange occurred. She fastened the hem then clipped the thread and held the finished ef’-od up to examine it. “Perfect,” Avi said. Delight filled her eyes. She started to mount it to the wall to stretch and shape it in case the man who would wear it proved to be much larger, but an eruption outside interrupted her. Avi held the undergarment tight to her breast, refusing to allow it to touch the ground as she stepped outside.
Not far away, people shouted praises, fanning palm branches high and low. Something moved her forward, arms gently caressing the ef’-od in her hands, her feet unable to stop until . . .
Their eyes met.
No one ever described him, or told of the kindness in his eyes, the joy emitting from his face. If they had, their report was inaccurate. There was much more to him than the miracles they proclaimed. Avi searched for a word to describe him, but all her mind could come up with was love—something she felt the moment they locked eyes. The crowd all about him shouted, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.” As if someone had bellowed a thunderous command, the people stepped aside, making a clear path for Avi which led directly to him. Before she drew a breath to speak, he said, “Thank you.”
“My Lord, are you the one they speak of . . . Yeshua . . . the chosen one . . . the one who has come to save us?”
“I am he,” Yeshua said.
Avi loosened her grip on the garment, knowing without a doubt that the ef’-od belonged to him. After she gave him the robe, she fell to her knees and hid her face. In a low muffled voice she praised him. Overcome with unspeakable joy, Avi couldn’t articulate her thanksgiving above a whisper, but Yeshua heard every word. Yeshua touched her arm. Avi stood.
“Thank you, my Lord,” Avi said, “for I have received endless joy on this day and forever. All is now well with my soul.” Avi’s spirit confirmed what her heart had wrestled with for quite some time. As she had worked on the garment, a burning grew inside her, driving her, encouraging her, guiding her hands until she finished. Now, in this moment, gazing upon the Messiah, everything in her was complete and fully satisfied.
Point of Interest: Just as Ahijah tore his clothes into twelve pieces to represent the twelve tribes of Israel, depicting the division of the kingdom (I Kings 11:29-39); Christ’s seamless undergarment represents one robe in which we are all clothed and cannot be torn apart.
Definitions: ef’-od = Hebrew reference to an undergarment or tunic; bavith = a house, usually one room, can have an upper room/level; Yeshua = Hebrew name for the Messiah, Jesus Christ; Pesach = Passover.
Donna B. Comeaux has been writing for the Ruby for Women Magazine (http://rubyforwomen.com) since 2013. Donna has also written devotionals for Hopeful Living, a publication designed to encourage senior citizens, and for Believer Life. She also contributes to The Christian Post blog section at http://blogs.christianpost.com/search.html?term=comeaux. Not only will you find other inspirational stories on her website, you will also find tips for writers, devotionals, and a few of Donna’s political views as well.
Donna and her husband have two grown sons and eight grandchildren. They reside in Oklahoma.
This story is also in the March 2017 issue of the Ruby for Women Magazine. Click here to purchase a hardcopy: https://www.createspace.com/6972935.
This story can also be found on The Christian Post: http://blogs.christianpost.com/an-unlikely-choice/waiting-for-the-messiah-28715/
One Hit Wonder
Barabbas was a thief and everyone knew it. Bible scholars think he was also a revolutionist. I tend to think he was simply Satan’s little helper to seal the deal in Jesus Christ’s crucifixion. Satan wielded a methodical, crafty plan to maneuver people in the wrong place at the wrong time. He took full advantage of everything imaginable, including similarities between Jesus’ and the thief’s name. “Bar Abbas” is translated “son of the Father.” Did Jesus not refer to His Father as “Abba?” Think this is a coincidence? I doubt it.
Every person involved in the crucifixion of Jesus knew exactly what they were doing, to a point. Pilate knew all too well the Jewish council envied Jesus and wanted Him dead. Yet, the governor did not usurp his authority to free an innocent man. He’d rather please the people.
The people’s ambition to overthrow the government created an insatiable need to kill our Savior. They weren’t out of their minds. They weren’t mentally unstable. They didn’t have moments of rage. They didn’t have bad parenting. Selfish gain hindered them. Satan coaxed them into believing they needed their revolution at any cost. If Jesus didn’t come to earth to rescue them from the hands of the Roman Empire, they determined to find someone who would. Why not get rid of Him and move on to someone more capable to take on their cause?
None of them realized their plans had holes. They had no idea Jesus would wreak greater havoc after His death. Fear and panic reverberated through their community when word spread that Jesus had risen from the dead. A host of witnesses verifying He had been seen and heard in numerous places troubled them.
Whatever revolution the people had in mind, the spiritual one that began at Jesus’ resurrection took precedence.
How many times have we seen the masses storm the streets, take to the CNN Network and Fox News, in an effort to press the public to their way of thinking? If we listen to their arguments long enough, they tempt us to throw up our hands and cave in.
The scriptures are clear: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2) “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12)
Don’t be fooled. Satan is sly, sneaky, and patient. He is maneuvering the masses today as he did in bible days. What troubles me most is when my Christian sisters and brothers allow Satan to seep into their lives and massage them into compromising situations that both grieve and cause them shame.
Did it ever occur to you that you are being used? Satan can dangle something good in front of us then lead us into a trap. It could be as simple as a wife spending too much time with her mother and not dropping everything to serve her husband (and vice versa). It might be your need to tell your sister in Christ that she hurt your feelings. Leaving things unsaid “kindly and out of love” can tempt you to harbor anger. Or maybe you want to work one more week of overtime, leaving your wife and children alone, thinking one more week won’t hurt them. After all, it’s only seven days. Right? Feelings of abandonment are powerful emotions to overcome. You must remember Satan is in the family destruction business.
Listen to what the scriptures say: “Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible, but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.” (I Cor. 10:23) Yes, it is good to work overtime to feed your family. But it is wrong to do so excessively. If we’re not careful, Satan will tempt us with our needs and the growing crowds surrounding us will chip away at our firm foundation until we are standing in the middle of a marsh and left wondering how we got there.
Do not be easily persuaded. Test the spirit. Stand your ground. Don’t become immoral. Keep yourselves pure. Don’t slander your brother and sister. And please don’t look the other way when you see them on the streets. “Greet each other with a holy kiss….” (Romans 16:16) And fight for those who can’t fight for themselves. That’s exactly what Jesus Christ did for us.
by Donna B. Comeaux
Freelance Writer, Author, Poet
September 1, 2013
Written for Park Plaza Church of Christ
The sermon on Barabbas will be preached Sunday, September 1, 2013. You will be able to access this sermon by Thursday afternoon. Keep checking the website for the upload of the sermon if it is not up by Thursday. Follow these instructions to get to the church website: GO TO Parkplaza.org to hear the sermon on Barabbas. Once on the website, click “Media,” then click “One Hit Wonders.” There is NO signin or registration. ENJOY!
Below, you will find the Book Proposal Form from Steve Laube’s audio class. See my previous post if you have questions.
When you click on the link above, it should automatically download to your machine.
If you feel uncomfortable downloading unknown files to your machine, go to this link: http://www.christianwritersinstitute.com/ and search for audio classes. Then search for Elements of a Good Book Proposal.
I hope this helps.
Donna B. Comeaux
I hope you enjoy this FREE book, A Match Made at Christmas by Julia Ridgmont.
I love Sandra Brown’s books. I just wish she wouldn’t include illicit sex scenes in them. But that’s just me. If you’re interested in how she goes about writing her novels, click on the website I have listed below. I hope you can gain some insight into how to write your next suspense novel.
Donna B. Comeaux
Writing a book proposal is a daunting task. I’ve been at it all day long, trying to polish it so that I can send it out with my cover letter for my new book. I won’t lie to you. This part of the business is like a dental appointment. You know it’s coming up, but the closer you get to the day the more tempted you are to pick up the phone and cancel the appointment, or in my case, reschedule.
I think the same way most of you do. Why can’t someone just see my book, pick it up, and buy it? Oh, I’m not being naive. No, sir-ree! I’m being lazy.
Since I don’t claim to have a lazy bone in my body, I’m making a checklist, and guys, I’m definitely checking it twice. Why? Because this puppy isn’t a piece of cake. Every publishing company wants something a little bit different from the next one.
So, let me be the first to say: PAY ATTENTION TO THE GUIDELINES.
At any rate, I wanted each of you to know that I’ve taken an online class by Steve Laube. The class was $10.00. Believe me when I say that it was worth every dime I paid for it. Should I say that again? It was worth every single dime I paid for it. Okay, pay attention: If you take the course, make sure you have pen and paper handy. My note-taking was enormous. There is a wealth of information on this video (I keep saying video, but it was audio. Sorry. My mistake.)
If you’re wondering why you are receiving rejections, take this class and see if it will answer your questions. I’m confident it will. A good proposal won’t guarantee you anything but a read by the agent/editor, and probably a partial one, at that. Only good books and good writing win the prize. So, do like I’m doing and get back to work and polish your masterpiece.
I’m laughing at myself because as I write this I’m working on fumes. I think I’ve only slept fourteen hours in the last three days. I was hard at work on my latest novel. But it all paid off. It’s now in the hands of the editor. So, instead of going crazy worrying about the errors she’ll find, I decided to work on my book proposal. Man! I should have taken an aspirin and gone to bed. Bum!
If you’re so inclined, share your stories with us about your journey toward publishing. And if you have any tidbits of information that we can all use, please share those, too.
Below is the website to the Steve Laube course.
Good luck everyone.