05 February, 2013

Publishing Proposal

Am I ready for my publishing audition?
For the last couple or weeks I've been working on the publishing proposal for my novel, The Art of Letting Go. I've never approached a publishing house before, so the skill of proposal writing was a new one to me. For those, like me, who have not been intiated into this area of writing, a publishing proposal is a cross between a business plan and an audition. It's the document you, or (more realistically) your agent, sends to editors of publishing houses to persuade them they need to sign you up right away.

The publishing proposal contains several elements. (I appreciate smaller/indie publishers etc. probably do things differently, as do other countries - hello my American friends! - but this is roughly how it goes for an agented author approaching a UK publisher).
  • a full plot synopsis in one or two pages
  • an author profile about the writer and their writing
  • a list of books published in the last few years which are comparable to the manuscript in question (and which preferably have been bestsellers!)
  • a discussion of marketing opportunities
  • detailed chapter synopses
  • the sample chapters of the manuscript
A few people have asked me whether this isn't the agent's job. Perhaps that's an understandable question, but it's equivalent to asking whether it should be an actor's agent's job to do their auditions for them! Agents are heavily involved with guiding a writer through the publishing proposal, ensuring it's the best it can be, but it is very much the writer's job to do, well, the writing!

I have to admit I've struggled a bit with this. I enjoyed the chapter synopses, because all writers know the frustration of writing the full synopsis - distilling 90 000 words of plot into a 500 word summary - and so it was nice to be able to put a bit more detail on the bones. I quite like writing synopses - it's the scientist in me, used to writing abstracts! - but it can be disheartening to reduce your lovingly-crafted prose into bland facts that always seem to make your book sound dull. David (my agent) has sent me away to re-write my full synopsis, which has led to a marked increase in chocolate consumption in my writing room, and we're still debating how many sample chapters to send (my chapters are very short), but the area I've struggled with most has been marketing. I'm really not sure what to say. Arrange an all-expenses paid book tour of the UK and I promise to be good and smile nicely at people? Hmmmm...

Being ready to approach publishers is tantalisingly close now. The fear of not getting a publishing deal (statistically quite likely) hasn't hit home yet, so I'm merely impatient to get it going! It'd be great to have it sent out by the time my three month agent-iversary comes round (I accepted the offer on the 19th November - two weeks to go!), but perhaps I'm being naive.

In the meantime, I've stopped dithering and thinking of other things I could be doing and have written the opening pages to my next novel, with the working title, Derailed. Great to be creating something new at last!

Have you had any experience of marketing to share with me?  Do you like synopses or loathe them?


  1. I think I'd struggle with the marketing bit, too - surely it needs an understanding of how much the publisher would be willing to spend, how long they would want to promote the book for, and all that behind-the-scenes stuff? I wouldn't know where to start; hopefully your agent will be able to give you some helpful tips on that.

    Good luck with it all.

    And you're on to your second book. Dammit, girl - you're putting me to shame!

    1. Ah, Dan! You've stumbled upon my guilty secret. Putting you to shame has been what's kept me going over the long winter evenings... ;)

  2. Exciting. Wishing you all the very best. Someone will snap you up in no time.

  3. Marketing is what I know the most about (my other job is heavily involved in this area). I've been keeping track of info/tips on marketing and reviewing blogs in my "area" as I've gone along. I'll me emailing you. The key is to pick out something from the book that you could materialise.

    For example, your book is involved in art - so I would think somewhere along the lines of that. Perhaps you know of an artist who you could work with? Perhaps do book launches in art galleries as well as bookstores? etc

    1. I'm glad you said that as that's kind of what I've tried to say! I don't really have any contacts but I've said pretty much word for word what you said about book launches. Any help gratefully received!

  4. I'm told that marketing is really a story that people can get interested in, whether the 'product' is a novel or a new type of spanner or a postal service for authentic mint humbugs. What is it that will engage the audience and make them care? To put it another way, what is it that draws you to a book and makes you want to buy it or recommend it?

  5. I've never got into this side of things. I hope to someday. :) I know over on this side of the pond, I've heard authors talk about having to write blurbs and prepare things for submission, but I don't know exactly what it entails.

    1. I think everything's just a bit different on your side. I know query letters are different between UK and USA. But I guess the principle is the same - trying to make your book look interesting (yet readable), unique (yet on-trend) and marketable! Easy! Hmmmm.....


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