How to Get Your Proposal Ready to Pitch

Mary KeeleyGuest post by agent Mary Keeley of Books & Such Literary

Before you know it, you’ll be packing your bags and your hopes and making your way to Summer Conference. The keynoters and faculty members are busy preparing enlightening coaching sessions and workshops to help you take your craft and career to the next level. What you can be doing to gain the most out of your conference experience is preparing your proposal materials to pitch to agents and editors. Here are some preconference tips:

Agents and editors are your audience. When you’ve been accustomed to having your readers in mind during the many months (years) you’ve been writing your manuscript, it may take conscious effort to remember you are addressing agents and editors in your written pitch materials. If you are a new writer, perhaps attending a writers’ conference for the first time, heeding this tip will help you project yourself with a level of professionalism, which you need to have in order to compete in the market. I occasionally see proposals in which the author doesn’t write it as one professional addressing other industry professionals. These writers hurt their chances from the beginning because it demonstrates they don’t understand that ultimately . . .

Your proposal is your business plan. Writers often get tripped up on this aspect, focusing only on the content of the book and forgetting or unaware that a book proposal is a business document. Business language is the appropriate voice. View your pitch as a proposal for a business partnership between you and the agent or editor to whom you are pitching. Include information about your social media strength, how you will help to market your book, and potential reader interest in your book.

Format and organize it in a current business style. Attention to formatting, organization, and appropriate style is another way to show your professionalism. The business portion should be single-spaced. Your manuscript samples should be double-spaced. Use a current business format, and lay it out in an orderly, easy-to-read style. I recall quite well a proposal for a nonfiction book for moms. My initial reaction was that this proposal has to have something special because it was a tough genre to sell at the time. I confirmed the content was solid and the author had fresh, compelling insights and the right voice for her topic. My interest increased. Then came the tipping point: Her proposal was stunning in its orderliness and in the information she knew agents would need when considering a new client. I agreed to represent her, and three weeks later a publisher offered a contract. Professional presentation matters.

If you want to learn more about how to create a book proposal that is professional in style and content, agent Mary Keeley of Books & Such Literary Agency ( will be teaching a fun, interactive workshop, “Creating a WOW Impression with Your Book Proposal” at Summer Conference, August 12–15. Bring your questions and your proposal with you, if you have one.

Mary will be available for appointments in the Writing Center at Summer Conference. See more guidelines for Manuscript Submissions here

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