October 22, 2019

Book Proposal Examples: 3 Successful Fiction Queries

Having to write a proposal can be frustrating. My last blog identified 5 reasons for this. As step 1 in writing a query letter, you need to dispose of these frustrations.

Step 2 is to develop a picture in your mind of how your book concept might be put into either your pitch (verbal) or query (written) appeal. 

The purpose of either is to elicit a request for your proposal.

Below are 3 examples from real proposals to real agents. The full proposals (or nearly so) can be seen by following the links.

First is a work of historical fiction, which Kristin Nelson (Nelson Literary) has posted: Courtney Milan’s Proof by Seduction. The opening paragraph tells Kristin the reason that Courtney is sending Kristin her proposal. The second paragraph provides the pitch which probably was similar across all of Milan’s queries.

Proof by Seduction

Dear Ms. Megibow:

I met Ms. Nelson this last weekend at a pitch appointment at the Chicago Spring Fling conference. She had spoken with Sherry Thomas earlier about my historical romance, Proof by Seduction. Ms. Nelson asked me to send you the full, which is now attached.

As one of London’s premier fortune tellers, Jenny Keeble knows all about lies. After all, the fastest way to make money is to tell people what they want to hear. It works—until Gareth Carhart, the Marquess of Blakely, vows to prove what he and Jenny both know: that Jenny is a fraud.

Gareth only wants to extricate his naïve young cousin and heir from an unhealthy influence. The last thing the rigidly scientific marquis expects is his visceral reaction to the intelligent, tenacious, and—as revealed by a wardrobe malfunction—very desirable fortune teller. But she enrages him. She tempts him. She causes him to lose his head entirely and offer a prediction of his own: He’ll have her in bed before the month is out. The battle lines are drawn. Jenny can’t lose her livelihood, Gareth won’t abandon logic, and neither is prepared to accept love.

The Last Will of Moira Leahy

Elisabeth Weed (Weed Literary) has posted an example from her author, Therese Walsh, The Last Will of Moira Leahy. The first paragraph again gives a context, and the second paragraph provides the story.

Dear Ms. Weed,

Allison Winn Scotch e-mailed me just a bit ago to say you’d be interested in hearing more about my manuscript. I’m thrilled for the opportunity, as Allison raves about you and I believe your agency would be a perfect fit for my work.

Weed Literary is looking for inventive storytelling. The Last Will of Moira Leahy is a 100,000 word commercial rite-of-passage tale about death, identity and acceptance, told through the eyes of twin sisters and woven with a fascinating mythology in the vein of Louise Erdrich’s The Painted Drum. You’re also seeking provocative fiction with a dash of humor. Though 9 out of 10 women cry when they read this story, they’ll also laugh a lot.


A third example is posted by Michael Bourret (Dystel & Goderich) and his author, Lisa McMann, Wake.

Dear Mr. Bourret:

I’m seeking representation for Janie Hannagan: Dream Catcher, a 33,000-word paranormal novel for young adults. I see from your website that you represent YA fiction, and I wonder if this would be a good fit for your list.

For 17-year-old Janie Hannagan, getting sucked into other people’s dreams is growing tiresome.  Especially the falling dreams.  The naked-but-nobody-notices dreams.  And the sex-crazed teenager dreams.  Janie’s seen enough fantasy booty to last her half a lifetime.

But then there are the nightmares that leave her blind and paralyzed in fear, even after the dreams are over.  Those are the worst.  Because one day, someone’s going to notice her freefalling to the floor after somebody’s study hall naptime nightmare …

In each example, I see four things:

    1. Each query is addressed to a specific literary agent.


    1. Each begins with a rationale for making this query (reference from a fellow literary agent; contact by an author friend who is an agent’s client; and website descriptions).


    1. Each then offers a brief description of the work (and two of these include length and genre).


  1. A hook paragraph that offers more about the story.

What you are seeing here are successful fiction queries. To view nearly 50 additional examples, go to the entire series at http://www.guidetoliteraryagents.com/blog/


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