Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Business Basics for Today’s Writer—Part Five—Cover Letters and Proposals

Today we’ll discuss how to format Cover Letters and Proposals in email. One thing I can’t stress enough is the need to find out if the editor/publisher you’re submitting to will allow emails with an attachment. There is no industry standard. Some publishers allow attachments and others require submissions to be pasted into the body of the email. For our purposes, we’ll assume you’ll be sending an attachment. If they require it to be within the body of the email, just make sure everything is included.

After you’ve determined how to send your proposal, the next thing to do is to check the publisher/agent’s website. Many of them have specific requirements for submitting a proposal. ALWAYS follow those requirements. The information I’m giving is general, never give that more importance than what the website says.

NOTE: Unlike an email query, the parts of a proposal need to be formatted so they can be printed out, if the editor/agent so desires.

If you're not sure about the difference between a query letter and a cover letter you'll want to revisit my explanation in last week's post, Basics of Query Letters.

COVER LETTER—every proposal, whether fiction or non-fiction—short or long, needs a cover letter. This is the introductory email you'll send. 
  • Author’s contact information – Name, physical address, phone number and email.
  • Short hook – to remind them of why they requested the material.
  • Specifics of when they met you or requested the material (possibly through a previous email).
  • Short explanation of the material (This is a 30 day devotional or This is a 85,000 word romantic suspense).
  • Formal signature line.
COVER PAGE—this will be included in any proposal, no matter the length
  • Title—in bold letters and large font, centered.
  • Contact Information—Repeat your contact info.
  • Genre and Manuscript Length.
TABLE OF CONTENTS—no matter the length of the proposal, always include a Table of Contents.

NOTE: Everything after the table of contents should include a header and a footer. These should be single spaced. For the header, include an extra line below the second line to separate it from the body of the proposal pages.

  • Upper left corner—Title/Genre.
  • Upper right corner—Word Count.
  • Second line of upper left corner—Your name.
  • Second line of upper right corner—Your email address.
Page Number—this can be centered or in one of the corners, just make certain that the placement remains consistent throughout the proposal. Include the COVER page and the TABLE OF CONTENTS in the page count. This means page 3 will be the first page where you see the page number on a page.

Most of your proposal will be single spaced. Here are the exceptions:

  • SYNOPSIS: If the editor/agent wants a synopsis that is more than one page long it should be entirely double spaced. If they only want a one page synopsis it should be single spaced.
  • SAMPLE CHAPTERS: These will ALWAYS be double spaced.

There are multiple, excellent websites that include sample proposals for fiction and non-fiction. These detail what to include much better than I ever could. Here are three of the best:
To follow up on a proposal you’ve sent, ALWAYS check the website guidelines. If there are no guidelines, I recommend waiting at least three months and then follow up with a polite email. NEVER call the publishing house or the agent.

There are lots of variations on ways to format proposals. And quite a few excellent books available. Just because you do something differently doesn't mean it's wrong. 

Where do you get your information on what to put in a proposal? Do you have any questions about proposals? Be sure to leave them in the comments section below.

And don't forget to join the conversation.