Paige Wright Books
Paige Wright Books
Paige Wright Books
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Writing Book Proposals and Query Letters

Book proposals

Submitting Your Manuscript Directly to the Publisher is Generally Not a Good Approach

Publishers generally do not spend much time reviewing manuscripts that are submitted to them directly or "over the transom." An exception might be made when the author has an established track record with the publishing house or is a person with "celebrity" status in the market segment for which the book is intended. In either of these circumstances, the acquisitions editor and the publisher's review committee have a high degree of confidence that the book will be profitable and the proposal will likely receive immediate consideration. In the more common situation, however, when the author is unknown to the publishing company and previously unpublished, the recommended procedure is to work through a literary agent.

Creating a Book Proposal

If your goal is to have your book published by a trade publisher, our firm will work with you to create a book proposal which conforms to the generally accepted format publishers and literary agents are looking for.

When you are looking for a literary agent, you will want to find someone who has internal connections with a publishing house that is likely to have interest in the project. Both publishing companies and literary agents specialize in particular types of content. Literary agents make their living based on the power of their connections and the strength of their Rolodex. For example, there are agents (and publishing companies) who specialize in travel books, art books, children's books, food books, computer books, business books and almost any specialty category you can think of. Finding the appropriate literary agents that are good prospects for your manuscript is part of the package of services we provide our clients.

The Query Letter

The relationship with the literary agent is initiated through an email query letter. In this letter the book concept is pitched and we offer to send the book proposal for review. The agent indicates whether he or she would like to see the book proposal or not. We will help you prepare the query letter and advance the conversations with the agent when he or she expresses interest in the project.

One of the most important things to remember when you are preparing a book proposal is that trade publishers are driven by profitability and marketability considerations. The over-riding objective in the book proposal is to show the publisher how and why they will make money on the project. The other important thing to remember is that trade publishers are committing fewer and fewer dollars to book promotion and are increasingly expecting the author to fund the marketing of the book.

When the literary agent responds favorably to the query letter we send him or her a copy of the book proposal document via email or regular mail depending on their preference. Frequently, the literary agent will make suggestions for modification of the proposal to make it a better fit with the targeted publisher's product line. We will work with you to incorporate these changes.

Representation by a Literary Agent

clientIf the literary agent decides to take on the manuscript he or she will produce a contract defining the terms of the relationship with the author moving forward. The author is generally entering into an exclusive relationship with the agent for a fixed period of time during which the agent will shop the project to appropriate acquisitions editors. If the manuscript is picked up by a publishing house the agent will become the author's representative in all subsequent dealings with the publisher.

The literary agent is compensated by earning a percentage of all that the author earns for the life of the project. Representation agreements also routinely specify that the agent will earn a percentage of your royalties on derivative projects such as film, TV, digital and audio versions of the content. Our recommendation is that you should retain the services of an attorney experienced in publishing agreements to assist you in the negotiation of this agreement. (It is important that you understand that our firm does not represent you in any legal capacity and that we serve only in a business advisory capacity.)

Once the project is under agreement with the literary agent you are in a holding pattern as far as publishing options in concerned. During this period, the author will generally proceed with the manuscript development process writing additional chapters so that the project does not lose momentum.

If the literary agent is successful in pitching the book to a publisher, you will be offered a publishing agreement which must be reviewed by an experienced attorney. The agreement may or may not provide for an advance against royalties and will contain other terms and provisions which will define the nature of the author's relationship with the publisher and how you will make money on the project.

The Publishing Process

If you have been offered a contract with a publishing company our firm will work with you in a business advisory capacity during the period of manuscript completion and submission. When you contract with a publishing house you give up a certain amount of control over the project - how the book will be published and marketed and what the final product will look like.

The Ictus Initiative
The Ictus Initiative