I was decorating for the fall season today and set up a display of cornucopia - the traditional horn of plenty overflowing with fruit and vegetables of the season. It got me thinking today about the fruit and veggies that I put into a fiction proposal to ready it for an agent or an editor.
So what do I put in this type of "horn of plenty?" For starters, it's important to have a good first line to grab an editor or agent's attention. The hook, if you will. I begin with a two or three sentence "hook" that describes my proposed book. Something that will catch their attention and make them want to read more. I then go into a short synopsis or blurb of the intended book. Writing a synopsis of any length takes practice. It is no easy task to condense a 300 page novel into a few paragraphs. But writing a succinct synopsis that shows the plot and theme of your book gives the editors and agents not only an idea as to the book's content, but shows off your skill as a writer. It makes for a good impression which is needed to lift your work above the others massing in an editor's computer Inbox.
I then will add in a listing of published and contracted books. Even if you don't have much to say, try to put in anything you have accomplished that is writing related. You can also add in if you maintain a blog and / or web site. When I first began, I was even adding the letters I had written to the editor of my local newspaper that were published. I then add in a short bio about myself and any other credentials that might prove helpful.
Next comes the chapter by chapter synopsis. Again, this can take quite a bit of effort to do and do well, especially if your book is not yet finished. But even with this, I have found that constructing a synopsis that includes three to four sentences describing the main action of the chapter, helps me write the book when the time comes. Again, succinctness is important.
Finally comes the all important three sample chapters. Make them shine. Whatever it takes. I heard from a few editors at the last conference that if the first chapter doesn't grab them, they won't even bother looking at the rest of the proposal. So make sure you are giving them a shiny red apple they cannot refuse. And make certain the rest of the chapters are equally as good. Check your grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Nothing turns off editors more than these simple mistakes.
It's beneficial as well to have others critique your proposal for any mistakes. Then once you have it ready, send it off with much prayer that God will open the door at the right time for your project. And surely the editor will enjoy feasting on your wonderful words.