How to Use a Mini-Proposal to Save You Time and Money and Sell Your Book
If your book is a universe, your mini-proposal for it will be the stars of that universe, the most brilliant ideas, advice and anecdotes from the book that you want to write. Once you have a full proposal, choose the brightest stars from your universe and condense them into a mini-proposal of five to ten double-spaced pages.
The Parts of a Mini-Proposal
Here are the parts of a mini-proposal:
- A one-to-two-page overview of the book. This includes the subject hook, book hook, special features, a celebrity introduction and quotes, back matter, markets for the book, subsidiary-rights potential, spin-offs, competitive books and the resources you need.
- Your mission plan (optional). If you feel a sense of mission about writing and promoting your book, describe it in one first-person paragraph.
- Your platform. If you are writing a book aimed at a wide national audience for which author promotion will be essential, you must prove that you have a national platform, continuing national visibility in the media or because of your talks.
- A half-page promotion plan. List the five or six most impressive things that you will do to promote your book. Keep in mind that what publishers respond best to is numbers and the word “will.”
- A one-to-two-page list of chapters. List your chapters and provide one to three sentences about what each chapter will include. After the title of the sample chapter you have ready to submit, add the phrase: Available on request. For a how-to book, provide an annotated list of catchy chapter titles explained by subtitles that may start with numbers or gerunds such as using, making and selling. If you can and it will help you sell your book, create chapter titles that relate to a metaphor in the title of your book. For example, if your title was The 10 Keys to Success in Sales: Unlocking the Doors to a Million-dollar Income, you could have ten chapters about the keys and book-end chapters before and after them.
- A one-page bio with a small headshot You can change these page-counts as needed. But as with your full proposal, the criterion for what to include in a mini-proposal is what will most excite agents and editors about you and your book in as few words as possible.
Seven Ways You Can Use a Mini-proposal
Here are seven ways that you can use a mini-proposal:
- If writing a full proposal seems intimidating, try writing a mini-version of it first and then expand it.
- If the idea is commercial enough, your writing credentials are strong enough, or if you have already had a story or a book published about the subject, you may be able to sell your book with just a mini-proposal.
- You can test the waters for your book. Agents and editors reject close to 100 percent of the submissions they receive. Because they are perpetually swamped, they may welcome the chance to read a short proposal. If you have a mini-proposal, you can give agents and editors a choice and let them choose what they want to see. They may also be willing to read it as part of an email letter (instead of an attachment). This will speed up their response time, which can be crucial if your book is on a hot subject or one that will attract other writers. If they ask to a full proposal, send it. If you are writing a book that only you can write, and you don’t have to worry about people knowing about it or the information it contains, you can skip sending a query letter and mail/email the mini-proposal instead.
- You can send as many copies as you wish, but mention in your one-page covering letter that other agents or editors have the mini-proposal and that you also have an XX-page proposal. You can send both a mini-proposal and a full proposal and let agents or editors decide which to read. An editor may want a full proposal. But editors at larges houses usually have to excite other people in the house about the book, and a mini-proposal may be all their colleagues need to see.
- You can put your full and mini-proposal on your website with an address that only editors will know about. And Then email editors giving them a hot link to look at either of them.
- You or your agent may be able to use your mini-proposal to interest foreign publishers and other subsidiary-rights buyers.
- You can adapt a mini-proposal to approach editors about writing articles or serializing the book.
Adapted from How To Get A Literary Agent by Michael Larsen (Sourcebooks)