Publication Process: What’s a Proposal?

Currently I’m working on something called a proposal. Actually, two of them–one is for the sequel to Dreaming Death, and the other for an unrelated novel, which is currently called The Devil in the Details (a terrible title.)

So what that all about?

A proposal is a package that an agent will use to sell a novel (or group of novels) to an editor. Although the specifics will vary, the proposal is, in this case, a short synopsis (the difficult part) of the proposed novel and a sample of the beginning of the novel (I’m going with about 50 pages–the easy part.)

The first time my agent asked me for a proposal, I had to ask her what a proposal was. I had no clue.  But she patiently explained, and I got to work.

I dread writing synopses with a creeping sickness in my gut that tells me I’m leaving out all the good stuff and putting in all the boring. That’s not the way it’s supposed to work.  But because I’m constantly second-guessing every sentence of the synopsis, it takes me far too long to write one. I tweak and tweak and want to cry. It takes me -days- to come up with 3 pages I find acceptable.

My agent looks them over and makes some suggestions, and I tweak them again.

The basic idea here is to convince my editor that I do have a good plan for a book, because a proposal is often for a book that’s not yet written.  (In housebuilding terms, this is showing potential homeowners a blueprint.  In clothing terms, it’s like looking at a jacket in a catalog.)  But by the time we get to doing proposals, the publisher knows I -can- write a book. That’s not in question. They just want an idea what it will look like….so I show them what I have, and they make a decision based on that and my previous work.

So this part of the process is a little bit different than it is for first-time writers being pitched to an editor.

First-time writers (in genre) have to have a completed book, and editors generally consider that. They don’t have a track record, so that’s why they want the finished product. They need to know that the writer can actually produce the book they claim they can…

(Now, admittedly, there are exceptions. This isn’t the -only- way this happens. But it’s how the process is working for me and my publisher.)



Do you have any questions about how this end of the process works? I’d be happy to answer, inasmuch as I can.

Do your proposals go differently? 













My agent has been looking them over and making some suggestions to tweak them, and when the editor’s ready, my agent will start pitching them to her.






2 thoughts on “Publication Process: What’s a Proposal?

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