4 Steps to a Winning Book Proposal

Michael Hyatt

MIchael Hyatt

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Four steps is all it takes to write a proposal that will propel your novel to the best-seller list. Not so fast!

Michael Hyatt is the former CEO and Chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers, one of the largest publishing houses in the world. His New York Times bestseller, Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World, offers advice for building the kind of following it takes to sell books—or whatever it is you’re trying to market.

On his website, he offers an eBook on how to write a winning book proposal, in both fiction and non-fiction versions. The fiction variant details the following four steps.

Michael Hyatt’s Four Steps to Writing a Winning Book Proposal

  1. Write a query letter with a first sentence that grabs an agent or editor so hard that they want to stop everything they’re doing and contact you right now.
  2. Create a title page that contains your name, an eye-popping title for your book, and the word count.
  3. Author a brief synopsis — a one-pager that doesn’t give away too much of your plot but shows you can write in a compelling and coherent way.
  4. Develop three sample chapters — for fiction, it’s the first three, but requirements vary by agent and editor. Some want five pages, some 10, and I’ve even been asked for the first 50. These should be the best writing in the whole manuscript.

Know When the Time is Right

As a budding mystery novelist, I’m developing my skill of inserting clues. Did you notice how well I did it in the above steps with words like grabs, eye-popping, and best? These should tell you that, while it’s nice to have everything summarized in four steps, it’s complicated. And it doesn’t start with a proposal.

Connie Flynn suggested that it starts by writing a good book. And writing a good book requires you to first develop characters that your readers want to get to know, create a plot that keeps their interest, and understand the rules and structure of the genre in which you’re writing.

Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World by Michael Hyatt

Michael Hyatt’s book on platform can give you ideas about how to build your following.

Oh, and, like Hyatt’s most recent book says, you need to build a platform—your tribe, the people who like what you write and want to know each time you have a new book, or when you’re offering a new product that can help them.

In fact, in his Advice to First Time Authors, Hyatt puts the book proposal as the third of six steps that, once again, assumes you’ve already written a publishable manuscript. He says that you need to:

  • Educate yourself
  • Follow publishing blogs
  • Write a killer book proposal
  • Have someone review your proposal
  • Find a literary agent to represent you
  • Consider self publishing
  • Don’t lose heart.

Find Balance

Even if you have a great idea and an incredible manuscript, you’re going to get rejections. So, do what you love—write your novel. Know your characters and bring them to life in a story you enjoy telling. While you’re doing it, get away from the computer and out of the house. Network, socialize, go to your happy place. Take classes in writing, join an organization like Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America or Romance Writers of America. Become part of a critique group.

All of these things will take you to the point when it’s time to write the proposal. You’ll have the words you need when it’s time. On the road to getting there, listen to Michael Hyatt talk about why you need to build your platform and how his book can help you do it.

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