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I'm working on a book idea ( historical fiction with creative nonfiction pieces) and I want to create a proposal for it. I haven't done much research on publishers or that process yet, but I assume I'll be submitting my proposal to many different publishers for consideration. I want to create a book proposal that will satisfy most guidelines for submission.

I'm wondering things like:

  • a good default font to type a proposal in.
  • how much spacing should be between sentences.
  • the overall format of a proposal; what information should be included?

So far I think I should include a quick intro of who I am and a few chapters of my work, but I'm a little lost about what else I should include.

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I did the Masterclass course on how to write a novel, thought by James Petterson, and his idea of an outline was different (and much better) than anything I saw online. He basically summarizes every single chapter of his books in a long paragraph for each. In the end, after reading the whole thing, the Publisher will have understood the entire plot. This is also a great idea for yourself as a writer too, because you will begin the "writing" part with all the pieces in place. All you have to do is flourish them with your scenes.

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    A summary is a part of many proposals, but this isn't, in general, an adequate answer to the question as given. – Chris Sunami Dec 8 '17 at 15:18
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There is only one answer for this:

Make your submission match the individual Publishers submissions guidelines.

They have them for a reason, and clearly state how submissions are to be formatted/compiled. And this means that yes, you will probably have to re-work it for each submissions.

If you don't want to do that, then don't expect it to be read or looked at.

  • I actually looked at a few different publishers before posting my question. The smaller ones that I looked at (and would actually give me the time of day) didn’t have specific guidelines which is why I’m asking the question. – MCsuchNsuch Nov 19 '17 at 23:36
  • Then ask them and not us. – Thomo Nov 19 '17 at 23:54
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    You easily could’ve tailored your message to say there isn’t a default. The point is that I didn’t know if there was or not and so I’m asking for the standard. You don’t need to be rude. – MCsuchNsuch Nov 20 '17 at 1:30
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If you are submitting to a publisher that has their own guidelines, you should follow those, even if you are submitting many other places. They provide them for a reason, and following directions is the easiest gatekeeper to pass on the route to publication.

In my experience, the following are the most common generic asks for a modern book proposal, which is entirely oriented around solving the question "how will we sell your book":

  • Hook: Why would a reader buy this?

  • Audience: Who would buy this?

  • Author's platform (formerly author bio): What are you bringing to the table that will help sell your book? (expertise, name-recognition, social media presence, networks, etc).

  • Comps (comparison books): What similar books are currently doing well in sales?

  • Outline/Summary: Some publishers/agents want a brief outline, others want a detailed, chapter-by-chapter summary, it's often best to include both.

  • Excerpt: Some of the common guidelines are "the first 30 pages" or "the first 3 chapters". It should be absolutely 100% free of errors and typos.

Generally, your proposal should be a double-spaced, unremarkable 12pt serif font like Times or Times New Roman. I typically include a page header with my last name, the book title and the page number. There are a number of good online and print resources with more detailed instructions, I would highly recommend finding and following one --Writers' Market generally includes one in each edition, for example. Also be aware that many publishers/agents prefer to receive a query letter first, and a full proposal only on request. (The query letter usually contains only the hook, platform and comps. It's a good idea to include some indication that you've specifically targeted the recipient, not just sent out a generic e-blast.)

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