Let’s be honest — selling your novel or nonfiction book to a traditional publisher can feel like a bigger hurdle than writing it. Whether you dream of selling your novel at Barnes & Noble, or publishing a nonfiction book to expand your platform, a stellar book proposal is your key to success.
Before you send out your book proposal, here are 5 seemingly innocuous details that may end up dooming your book proposal or manuscript to the rejection pile, no matter how many hours you’ve dedicated to its chances for success.
5 things to avoid in your book proposal
1. Not including a SASE
Wonder why you never heard anything from the publisher or agent you sent your manuscript to over a year ago? Maybe it was because you didn’t include a Self Addressed, Stamped Envelope. Publishers and agents have enough overhead without spending postage to get your manuscript back to you.
A SASE shows you’re not only considerate, but that you know how to play by the rules.
2. A too-short or too-long manuscript
If your manuscript weighs less than a weekly magazine or more than The Complete Works of Shakespeare, go back to the drawing board — or the computer.
Take a look at all the books in your local bookstore. Notice the size. The vast majority are between 200 and 350 pages — or about 70,000 – 90,000 words. Aim for this range. Publishers will see right off the bat that you either need to trim down or bulk up.
3. Improper format
Write this rule down on a Post-it and practically super-glue it to your writing desk: Manuscripts should be typed in 12 pt roman, double spaced with a five-space indent for paragraphs, no extra space between paragraphs, one-inch margins all around, and printed on one side of the paper only (apologies to the environmentally concerned).
Do not “typeset” your manuscript or proposal to look like a finished book. Deny your impulse for fancy presentation. If you do that, the reader won’t even bother to read the first sentence. Really. Trust me.
4. A copyright notice on the cover page
This sounds a bit ridiculous, but it signals to the reader that you are either an amateur or paranoid. If the publisher is going to buy the book, they will copyright it for you; if it’s not good enough to be published, chances are nobody is interested in ripping off your ideas or words.
5. A weak title
The worst “title” you can have? Work in Progress. Believe me, I’ve seen more of these than I can count!
If you haven’t taken the time to come up with a catchy title, the reader will wonder what else you haven’t taken the time to do — like come up with a good story and three-dimensional characters.
Want to know more secrets to getting your work taken seriously by agents and publishers? I’ve gathered them all into my Special Report: 50 Ways to Stay Out of the Rejection Pile. Just sign up for my newsletter to download the Special Report directly to your computer.