October 22, 2019

Are the New Short Book Proposals for You?

Fiction proposal, nonfiction proposal, book proposalLisa Tener, literary agent, posted “The New Short Book Proposal” on Huffington. Is this something for you?

Going short means removing some of the length in your strong areas in order to give literary agents or publishers’ editors a quick read–and the possibility to pick it up sooner and make a favorable decision (the short approach exudes confidence).

The reasons for such reductions are varied: perhaps the item is so contemporary that little needs to be said; or you have the information planted elsewhere and it can be easily retrieved; or all lines point to you as the most obvious author. When you are in this enviable position, you should consider taking advantage of it.

Be Strategic in Selecting Elements for Reduction. The idea is to target key elements in order to identify some of them for word-count reduction. These elements are often listed as:

  • Overview
  • Introduction
  • Book Concept
  • Market
  • Competition/Complementary Books
  • Promotion Plan
  • Author Platform
  • Table of Contents
  • Chapter Summaries or Outlines
  • Sample Chapter(s)

Let me extend a few of her categories with my own commentary.

A Compelling Overview. This is the trickiest of the bunch. The overview should always be as tight as one can make it. The question is whether its concentrated expression can stand without further elaboration not only in the overview but also in the later categories.

  • Readers, of course, have the option of requesting more information. Yet, few will request more info if the overview isn’t enthralling or the later category leaves readers puzzled.

You’re a Google Favorite and Your Online Presence Speaks for You. Make sure you are the one who pops up at or near the top on a search. Here is what happened to me recently: White pages told me that only one instance of an author I was searching existed in the U.S. I clicked on the search result with several key words highlighted. Yet, it wasn’t he; did I reach his son or nephew? I don’t know. I couldn’t determine which if any of the entries was truly his.

  • If your identity does pop up at or near the top clearly, then consider putting some of your background or longer materials online. I encourage email submissions whenever possible; links work well in this environment.

You have Subject Momentum and Your Proposal is Distinct. Tener includes in this category “the author’s platform, the subject of the book and the momentum carrying this subject …”

  • In short, if you are the best current visible author for a book on this subject (nonfiction) or genre (fiction), then you will need to include much less in your proposal.

You have a Platform and a solid Promotion Plan. Agent Michael Larsen defines platform as, “your continuing visibility with potential buyers, online and off, on the subject of your book or the kind of book you’re writing. Your promotion plan shows how you will leverage your platform to sell books.”

  • Here is an instance of “when you don’t have much, you can’t say much.” An author with 2,000 active  blog readers should mention this–including the signs of being active which should be more than your subscribers haven’t unsubscribed.
  • If you state that you plan to do a blog tour, then also state which websites and your connection with each blog owner. Most book proposals are short on details (or actual plans). This is one area where I would strive to say more with actual plans than to go short.

In general, I continue to favor the longer, but tightly worded approach, which readers can scan if they want.

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