Your Biography

The very last portion of a book proposal is your biography.  This is the chance to brag a little bit about yourself and to tell the editor/agent pertinent information about yourself.  For example, say you've written a middle grade novel where the kids are running around trying to outwit an ancient Mayan prophecy and you also happen to be the world's current leading expert on all things Mayan, that would be something to include in your biography.  Or perhaps, you run a blog with 1500 followers that offers advice to parents adopting children from China, and you wrote a picture book about a little boy going with his parents to pick up his new baby sister from China.  Again, that would be something to mention.

Also, this is the time to remind the agent/editor (you've already mentioned it in the cover letter) if you are a published author.  You can also enclose a one page list after your bio of your top publishing credits.  However, again, use your discretion.  If you've published 45 magazine articles, 12 short stories, 16 novels and edit an online journal, you don't want to list every single credit.  Hit the highlights.


Your Marketing Plans for Your Book

The other major component of the marketing portion of a book proposal is where you detail out your marketing plans for your book.  This section consists of your:
  • Promotion Plans -- Things you can do to get others to spread the word about your book.
    Examples would be things like blog tours, reviews (blog or traditional), small contests.
  • Marketing Plans -- Things you can do to directly tell people about your book.
    Examples would be postcards, book marks, your blog or newsletter, book release party, school visits.
  • Promotional/Marketing Opportunities -- Things that could be done that you do not personally have the resources or contacts to do yourself.
    Examples would be ARC mail outs, bookstore tours, advertising in major market publications.


Potential Markets for Your Book

While we wait to see who will win the Picture Book Cover Letter Contest, I feel that we can go ahead and move into the marketing portion of the book proposal. From here on out the rest of your book proposal is dedicated not to your actual writing itself, but how to ensure that others are made aware that your written word is out there to be read.
The first thing to consider (so not coincidentally it falls first in a book proposal) is the potential markets for your book.  Obviously the primary market for your book is whatever age range you wrote it for.  But there are lots of secondary markets for children's books.  The other more obvious ones are:

  • The Adults in the kid's life (guardians/parents/grandparents)
  • The Educators in the kid's life (teachers & librarians)
  • Siblings just a little bit above or below the primary market
In fact some of these secondary markets are so important that they are actually primary markets themselves.  After all, a Newbery winner is marketed more towards the librarians than the actual kids that might someday read it.


Picture Book Cover Letter Contest

So, I read all of the entries, and I have picked the two I would be most likely to request if I was a general editor/agent.  I had a hard time narrowing it down to just two.  There were a couple that appealed to me more as the kind of book I actually publish, and there were two that had great summaries in their letters, but the rest of the letter fell just a tad bit short. These two, in my opinion, had the best overall letters.


Cover Letter/One Page Summary Contest

Ah, the time has come to test the cover letters and one page summaries you've been practicing.  Announcing:

The Buried Editor's Cover Letter/One Page Summary Contests

There will be 2 categories for this contest with one winner in each category.  They are:

  • Picture Book Manuscripts:
    To enter this category you will need to post a cover letter for your manuscript on the forum board set up for this contest.  The cover letter needs to be just like a cover letter you would attach to the top of a manuscript submission.

    Prize: The winner will receive a free critique of the manuscript mentioned in the cover letter.


Final Picture Book Submission Update

As of this point, every person who has submitted a manuscript to our picture book call should have received some sort of response from us now.  If for some reason you didn't, please let us know so we can see what happened.

If I asked to hold onto your manuscript, then I will be contacting you in the next 10 days about editorial ideas I have, things I need from you, etc.

If your manuscript ended up being rejected, do not despair.  You were in very good company.  I only requested to continue looking at 8 manuscripts.  I also would like to thank you for taking the time to send your work to us.  Even though I wasn't able to personally respond to all of the submissions, I am still honored that you were willing to let me consider your work.


A Little More News

I'm so very excited because I get to welcome back Assistant Editor (aka Rebecca).  She originally left CBAY to go to grad school, but she'll finish that up this year, and for now is returning back to her old title.  This is exciting for me because it means the editorial staff is no longer just me and Intern, it's now me, Intern, and AE.  Yippee!

I realize you probably don't really care.  Your thinking, "Okay, cool.  But that doesn't really affect me."

Au contraire, mes amis.  Au contrarie.

AE has just spent a fair amount of time interning at Scholastic where she spent most of her days wading through slush and queries, and apparently she must be feeling withdrawls because when I suggested that we open submissions up to teen queries, she thinks, and I quote, that it "all sounds exciting".  Insane, I know.  So, we're going to hash out exactly how we want to do this, and then post the new submission guidelines both here and on the official CBAY site.

However, I thought I'd give you all advance warning so you can start polishing up those old teen manuscripts you've got lying around and generally perfecting your query letters.


A Little News

At this stage in our book proposal, we are going to pause and take a brief break.  Everything we've done so far are things you might find yourself submitting during a general submissions process.  Since every publishing house/agency is a little bit different, some might want your to query with a letter and a summary, some might want a submission with letter, one-page summary, series summary, and first three chapters, and some people just want a simple query letter.  Everyone is different, and that is why it is so important to always check the website of the publisher/agency you are submitting to to check for their most recent guidelines.

After this point, everything we will work on in the book proposal will be geared more towards marketing.  These elements are rarely submitted during a submissions process, but they are important things for you to consider, especially after your book is under contract.  However, don't think you should wait until then to start brainstorming.  You never know when someone will ask you about your marketing plans, and these days, authors are expected more and more often to have some sort of idea in place.

But that will be for the second half of this month.  For the rest of this week, you should continue to polish your cover letters and one-page summaries.  Why?  Because in the near future I'm going to run a contest for cover letters/one-page summaries.  There will be 2 categories: cover letters only contest for picture books, and cover letter plus one page summary for middle grade and teen books.  I know MGs and teens that it's unfair that you have to write two pages, but it's really hard to do a one page summary of a picture book.  The winner in each category will get a free critique of their full picture book manuscript or the first 3 chapters of the MG/teen manuscript (depending on which category he/she wins).  I don't have a date for the contest, but as soon as I do, I'll let you know.

Until then, keep practicing.  And if you haven't tried posting for feedback on the Buried in the Slush Pile forum, you really should.  Everyone's been giving great comments over there.


Series Summaries for Book Proposals

There are two types of book series:
  1. Set Series - the kind with a set number of books planned from the beginning.
    These are the series where every single book has a complete plot arc (or should), and then the overarching series also has a plot arc.  The best example that every one will instantly understand would be the Harry Potter books.  In each book there's a plot (Harry getting the Sorcerer's Stone, Harry saving Ginny from the Chamber, Harry competing in the Tri-Wizard Tournament, etc.), but the series itself has an overall plot (Harry vs. Voldemort).  From the beginning, there were going to be 7 Harry books, and by golly, (even if some of them got kind of long) there were 7 Harry books.  Other examples of series like this would be the Percy Jackson books, the Series of Unfortunate Events books, and locally, The Forgotten Worlds Series from CBAY.
  2. Open-ended Series - the kind where each book is its own stand-alone adventure.
    In these books, you can have as many adventures as you can think up.  The only thing that carries over are the characters.  Beloved by book packagers and the ghost-writing teams, these series can literally go on indefinitely.  The most famous are the various series produced by the Stratemeyer Syndicate (Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Bobsbey Twins, etc.)  However, there are also modern day versions like The Babysitter's Club (who may or may not be written personally by Martin -- I won't pretend to know) and many chapter book series written by a single author like the Magic Treehouse Books and, my favorites, the Judy Moody books.


Picture Book Submissions Update (2)

As of last night, I have officially read every single submission I received. Still, that leaves 142 manuscripts to respond too.  Intern has a busy couple of weeks ahead. 

Of course, Intern won't be going it completely alone -- there are at least 29 responses that I want to write myself.  However, that still leaves 113.  On the plus side that means everyone should have heard something from one of us by the end of the month.  On the negative, all of the 113 (and most of the 29) are rejections.  Man, all of us (you and me both) hate rejections.


Forum Ideas

So, I'm happy at the way the new Buried in the Slush Pile Forum is working.  The layout is clear (if unexciting), and it's easy to find all of the different people who want feedback on their various summaries.  Best of all, the ones I haven't viewed yet are marked as new, so I don't miss anyone.  I also can't argue with the free price tag.  Supposedly there should be ads running around somewhere, but I haven't seen any.

A few people have started posting their summaries, and the feedback they've been getting has been great.  No one has said anything I wouldn't, and some of my comments have just seemed superfluous.  We're going to keep working on these through Sunday, so if you haven't posted anything yet, there's still plenty of time.  On Monday, though, we'll be moving on.

But as great as the forum has been for critiquing, I've been wondering, what else could we use the forum for?

One idea I had was to have a board on there dedicated to submissions.  We could have a thread on that board that could deal with who/where is accepting submissions and a link to the place's submission guidelines.  As you run across someone accepting (or no longer accepting) submissions, you could add it to this thread.  We could also have a thread profiling editors and agents so that when you go to figure out where to submit, you would have some names and editorial preferences to see if your work would fit that person's tastes.  I'm actually working on a (free) manuscript submissions workbook that I'll be debuting in the next few weeks that has a worksheet like that.

What ideas do you have for the forum?  I am open to any and all suggestions.


One Page Summaries (Revisited)

A long, long time ago (as the song says), I posted about one page summaries.  What I said then is still true now.

A one page summary, or book synopsis, is a one page third person short story of your novel.  It's one of those few times that you can tell a story without a single scene, and obviously since you have one single-spaced page, in as few words as possible.  Your summary tells the entire plot and subplots of your novel, introduces all major and possibly a few minor characters, and introduces the major thematic elements.  Like your one paragraph summary in your cover letter, it also needs to be illustrative of your writing voice and give the editor/agent a sense of how the manuscript will read.  Not quite as difficult as a one paragraph summary (because you have more words), these can still be hard to write.  It can be hard to figure out what is important enough for the summary.  I find that the easiest way to write one of these is to make an outline of your novel with all the major plot markers listed.  Then you'll know what you have to include, and you can make choices from there.


A Brief Look Again at Cover Letters

The first part of any book proposal (or submission for that matter) is the cover letter.  A query letter is also, in many ways, identical to the cover letter.  Basically, these are incredibly important things to be able to write.  Also, you're going to be writing quite a few of these over your professional career, so you might as well learn how to write them now.

Of course, I talked extensively about cover letters during the picture book submission process back in January.  To review that post where I talk in detail about cover letters (electronic, query, or otherwise), click here.  Today though, we are going to quickly review the parts, and then do a little practice.


Picture Book Submissions Update

So, I worked again on Submissions last night, and I now have the following statistics to give you:

Total received: 231
Number left for me to personally read: 76
Number still needing a response: 149
Number I have requested to keep looking at: 3
Number I have requested be resubmitted as another type of project: 2
Number I have requested a rewrite: 1


Children's Fiction Book Proposal Overview

Just like queries and cover letters and even manuscript submissions, everyone does book proposals a little bit differently, especially in the children's book industry.   Since fiction children's book editors rarely see full out book proposals, we don't really have a hard and fast standard.  So, like when you are querying or submitting to an editor, you should find out what their specific book proposal guidelines are.  After all, some people might like to see a synopsis for each chapter of the book while others might be content with a one page summary.

However, on this blog we are going to discuss the most common, and in my opinion, most important parts of a book proposal.  They are:
  • Cover Letter
  • One Page Overview
  • Series Overview
  • Chapter Summaries (or Outline)
  • Potential Markets for the Book
  • Author Biography
  • Promotion/Marketing Plans/Opportunities
  • First 3 Chapters (occasionally full MS)
  • SASE (if physical submission)


A Little Proposal for You All

Ah, it's March.  And that makes me think of spring (it's firmly spring here), basketball, green beer, and book proposals.

Wait, what?

Okay, so March doesn't inherently make me think of book proposals.  I'm not sure any time of year particularly inspires that line of thought.  And frankly as a children's book editor of fiction books, book proposals rarely cross my mind at all.  After all, you will rarely need to write out a book proposal for a fiction book, and there are many well-established children's authors who have never written one at all.

And that, my friends, is a shame.