Workshop 4: Writing A Novel Proposal That Will Get Noticed
Book proposals are a mystery to many writers—but they don’t have to be. In her ACFW Conference workshop, Writing A Novel Proposal That Will Get Noticed, Tyndale House editor Jan Stob explained the ins and outs of a winning proposal. She set out the differences between hook, pitch, and theme. Of the three, the hook—the reason you pick the book up and what’s unique about it—is most important to her.
As always, though, the writing comes first. Stob noted that, like every editor she’s ever talked with, she goes straight to the sample chapters. She wants to connect with the characters. If there’s no connection the rest of the proposal won’t change it.
Finding a new twist on an old theme is important. For instance, Stob said Tyndale has a lot of Irish immigrant stories right now and she’s not looking for any more. However, a new twist will always catch her attention.
She shared a couple of recommendations for the comps section. Keep it to four or five titles and be specific about how each compares to your book.
Every section of your proposal should be concise and specific. For instance, listing your target audience as readers from 8-80 will not work. “I don’t know many eight-year-olds who have interests in common with 80-year-olds,” Stob said.
Beware of clichés
Stob listed several things she’s tired of seeing either because they’re clichés or overdone. All residents of the Middle East are not terrorists and our writing should reflect this. Christians aren’t all clean-cut, well-mannered people. The tattooed guy with the ponytail as the bad guy is overdone, as is characters having sex once and getting pregnant. Sure, it’s possible, but as a plot point it’s overdone.
Stob suggested not skimping on the marketing section of your proposal. “Give it serious thought and show you know your stuff,” she said. Any social media presence should also be included. A good marketing plan can help you stand out.
Stob said statistics from Bowker illustrate how publishing has changed in the last 10 years. In 2003, ISBNs were issued to 300,000 books. In 2011, the number topped three million. However, she noted that the advent of ebooks has made it difficult to figure the sales numbers for the average book.
At the end, she shared that Tyndale Digital First was created because there were so many good books they couldn’t publish.
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