Writer's Notebook

If Manuscript Proposals Freak You Out, This Post is for You.

Posted on February 5, 2016 at 5:40 PM

Last spring, I took Advanced Creative Writing, Fiction (eek!) which was fun, and stressful, and a huge learning curve. I had never written more than seventeen pages in succession before. Before me stood the daunting task of writing a 100 page novella. Eighteen year old me had know idea what she had gotten herself into (even though the professor had warned her that the semester would be rough).

Our very first assignment was a book proposal. I had absolutely no idea how to write one, and I had to do a ton of research just to find a starting place. Going back to that manuscript, I am feeling a little more informed and experienced this time around. So, I wrote this post mostly to help anyone else taking advanced creative writing from CCU. I knew that if I need it, other people probably could use the information as well.

I will be charting out the writing of my first novel, The One, with helpful tips I find along the way for you to use in your own writing. If at any point you have questions, ask in the comment section below. I would love to hear from you.

My very favorite website and blog to go to when I have any question related to publishing is Jane Friedman's website. Her post on manuscript proposals is so informative. She tells you exactly what it is, is not, and step by step directions for writing one. She even offers a class on manuscript proposals! Just go to  this page.

I also like the Writer's Edge, which has a sample proposal. It is one thing to read about what a proposal is, but it is so much better to see an actual one (or sample of one) in order to really get a feel of what you are supposed to be doing.

For me, I kept finding that the most important information included the synopsis, competing books, and a target audience. Basically, you have to prove that you have thought this through and are not going to waste the agent/editor/publisher's time.

Now, let's sit down and start the preliminary work necessary to write our novel proposals: answering the question, "what is it about?"

Grab your pen and notebook, or whatever you use to communicate in written language, and answer the questions, "what is my novel about," "what is my main character like," and, "what is my plot?" This is hard, since you are basically distilling your entire novel into the synopsis, which is usually a page (and painful for English majors). You may ask yourself, "is this even right?" The answer is yes. And here are my favorite websites for when you (and I) get stuck in the what details are important or not for the synopsis:

Of course Jane Friedman is first on the list. Here is her post on writing a synopsis. When you begin to question if this is too much effort for the return you'll get, read her post.

This post from PubCrawl perfectly explains why you need a synopsis, and also explains how to write a one-page synopsis.There are examples of a synopsis in the post, and if you are a Star Wars fan like my husband is, you will enjoy it! :)

The top two posts are by those in the publishing industry. This post is by a fellow author, who shares our pain. It can be difficult to sit down to write a synopsis, especially if you are writing it before you begin, like we had to for ACW fiction. However, it will make the rest of the process easier, because now you have what is essential to your novel, and you can just fill in the details. It is nice to have a destination, however hazy, in mind when you start a work.

If you are still confused, I will be writing a longer posts on novel synopsis. If you have your synopsis, it is time to look into the business aspects of novel-writing/publishing.I know you probably aren't a business major, but being business minded is almost essential to getting published. Again, you have to prove to your agent that you somewhat know what you are doing, and what you want.

This part is more fun than it sounds. This is where you get to sit down and imagine your ideal reader. Can you picture them? They get up early. They trudge to the coffee pot and make a fresh pot, soaking in the aroma of opportunity. Cup in hand, they make their way to their library, and pick up their favorite new book, the one they can't put down, the one they tell everyone about, the one they have read cover to cover every morning this week. Not your ideal reader? Sit down and imagine yours.

What are their interests? How old are they? Publishers want to know that you have an end in sight, and that there is someone out there who will read your books. With your help, they can direct their marketing to your ideal reader. But you have to inform them. Here are my favorite posts on finding a target audience:

This post from Author's Platform lays out the hows, whats, and whys of a target audience. It is very in-depth, and it is geared towards us authors.

Don't let the "mad scientist" look fool you, this is Advanced Fiction Writings's post on target audiences.

Knowing your target audience is going to become part of your overall marketing plan for your novel. Really, how can you begin to come up with a marketing plan if you don't know who you are aiming it at?

Having a marketing plan thought through before you submit your manuscript proposal will impress the professional to whom you sent your proposal. I think that is a big part of the reason it is required in ACWF. Again, it shows that you are thinking ahead, and that you a working on making your novel go somewhere. You are taking action, and publishers like that.

Your marketing plan would include what you as the author plan to do to promote your book. Are you going to go to readings or book signings? (Which is highly encouraged!) Will you blog or use social media? Do you have a grass roots movement started by the book club you attend? Are you going to write book club discussion guides to help sell your novel?

If you were a reader, what could an author do to get you interested in their work? What would your ideal reader want?

I hope this post helped you reading it as much as it helped me writing it! Enjoy your weekend, and let me know if you have any questions in the comment box!


p.s. The awesome graphics that you see were designed by me. I got the sweet original from Allison at Wonderlass.com, with her permission. Check her out! She has awesome stock photos and great business ideas.



Categories: Writer's Notebook, Marketing, Advanced Creative Writing: Fiction

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