Thursday, August 09, 2007

Preparing a Multi-Book Proposal

My friend Lynette who recently sold her second book to Steeple Hill asked me about writing a multi-book proposal. You can find Lynette and news about her books here -

If that link works it'll be a minor miracle considering how bad I am at this stuff.

Anyway, on to the subject at hand. Multi-book proposal writing.

First, I've got to be honest, I've never actually written one until this last sale, so I'm no expert.

Are you wondering how it's possible to get a multi-book contract without writing a multi-book proposal? So am I. Sometimes things fall into place. For me, I guess they did. My first sale was for two books - completely unexpected as I'd written one book and hadn't even suggested an idea for a second. My thought on this is that Steeple Hill was offering all their trade book authors multi-book contracts. They wanted STILL WATERS for their trade line. They offered me a two book deal. That seemed to set off a pattern which I'd love to have repeated over and over again. I feel truly blessed by how many books I've sold in multi-book deals. It doesn't typically happen this way, and my only answer to the question why is that God has reasons. It certainly isn't because of anything I've done.

Okay, that's not quite true. I have worked really hard. I meet my deadlines and I produce clean manuscripts (thanks to my freelance editor Sara Parker). I also listen to my editors and take their suggestions to heart. In other words, I try to make their work as easy as possible.

All that aside, I did finally decide to write a proposal for more than one book. In my latest proposal, I suggest a three book series. Here is how I set it up. First, I prepared a thorough proposal for the book I was working on. That included the three elements you saw in yesterday's post. It may seem like a lot of effort to come up with a sales handle, back cover copy, and promo sentence when you could simply send in three chapters and a synopsis, but by doing this you create a concise summary of your book. This allows the editor to know immediately whether or not the idea will work for her. It also looks very professional. That's always a plus!

Along with the above mentioned three elements, you also need to have a stellar three chapters and a three to eight page synopsis. Yes, I know three to eight pages is vague. I've had editors who like them short and editor who want more detail. If you're unpublished, I'd suggest the longer of the two because your synopsis allows the editor to see that your story works, that it has a clear plot and compelling characters, that it has both focus and direction. These are all vital characteristics of a well-written book.

In the proposal I just sold, I suggested three brothers and my cover letter read something like this -

Meet the Sinclair brothers - Tristan, Grayson, and Jude. One is an ATF agent, one is a lawyer, one is a New York cop. They're all men of faith, willing to do whatever it takes to protect the women they love. Once they find them, that is.

Lakeview Heroes, each of the brothers finds love in the most unexpected of places. Enclosed you'll find Tristan's story. The youngest of the three, Tristan is a man with a plan. Until Martha Gabler arrives on the scene and ruins it.

The next step is the hardest. Prepare a short summary of each of your proposed stories. This will give the editor an idea of where you're headed with the series. I'd suggest no more than a page. As a matter of fact, something along lines of the backcover blurb I posted yesterday would probably work. You don't need tons of details. Just enough to show the editor that you have a plan.

And, no, I stupidly did not include summaries when I proposed the Sinclair brothers. Don't follow my example. The fact is, I've already written nine books for Steeple Hill, and they have faith in me. Unless you are a multi-published author, you really do need to have a summary of each story. Even multi-published authors should have summaries. As I mentioned, sometimes I'm not all that savvy about such things until after the fact.

I think that's it.

We're Tye-dying shirts with my nieces and nephews today, so I've got to go prepare for the onslaught. If you have any questions about proposal writing, feel free to ask. It's the one part of writing that I actually feel pretty confident about!


Sabrina L. Fox said...

Thanks, Shirlee, very informative.

One question, I thought that even for pubbed authors Steeple Hill didn't offer contracts on proposals of unfinished books.

Is that not the case for their reliable authors, like yourself? I know my girlfriend just sold to them and we were just discussing this topic.

Shirlee McCoy said...

It depends on how many books you've sold, Sabrina. Generally, published authors are not selling completed manuscripts. Usually the switch happens sometime around book three or four. The first and second (and sometimes third and fourth) book must be complete before a sale. After that, it depends on certain things...though I'm not sure what.

A dear friend of mine just sold her second book to SH. Now she's been told she can sell the next on proposal.

Does that answer your question?

Sabrina L. Fox said...

Yep! ;)

Lynette Eason said...

Shirlee! I just logged on today and saw your post...thanks so much. I appreciate your encouragment!