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After completing your book proposal, the following tips should help you with formatting and packaging. Please note that a book proposal is sent only after an agent or editor has requested one. Do not send an unsolicited book proposal; rather, write a query letter and ask if you may send your book proposal. For information on how to write a query letter, go to, click on "Publishing Tips," then "Query Letters to Agents."  For information on writing a book proposal, click on "The Nonfiction Book Proposal." For information on writing a fiction proposal, click on "Fiction Proposal."


Formatting – Double space your proposal and use a #12 font (Times New Roman is normally used). List your last name and the title of your book, such as “Cotner / WRITING AND SELLING AN IRRESISTIBLE BOOK PROPOSAL,” on the upper left corner of each page. Number your pages. Include a Table of Contents so an editor can quickly reference each section.


Attachments – What should you include to enhance your credibility and the importance and timeliness of your book? Attachments include items such a list of pet catalogs for my ANIMAL BLESSINGS proposal or a Newsweek article on surfing trends for a proposal on surfing travels. If you’re wondering whether to put certain material in your proposal or use it as an attachment, ask yourself whether your material will be too detailed for a proposal, such as an extensive listing of pet catalogs. I always keep the reader (an agent or editor) in mind. If I feel my proposal is getting too bogged down with details, I will move that material to an attachment and state, “Please see Attachment A for a listing of pet catalogs.” For those who have written on your proposed topic in other publications, be sure to include your newspaper and magazine clippings in your attachments.


Packaging - When your book proposal is completed and you’re ready to mail it to an agent, DO NOT use staples. Rather, use paper clips for like materials, such as chapter outlines, sample chapters, and attachments. (If an agent decides to represent you, she will be forwarding your entire proposal to an editor, who will then make multiple copies of your proposal to share with others at the publishing house. Loose-leaf materials can be easily fed through a copier.) Then, put a manuscript rubber band (long rubber bands can be purchased at office supply stores) around your entire proposal and attachments (all the paper-clipped sections). Your material will generally fit into a Priority Mail packet or a FedEx or UPS packet. If your material does not fit into one of these packets, then use a #5 bubble mailing envelope. A manuscript box is not needed.


Mailing – Send your proposal via first class, Priority Mail, or 2-day or 3-day FedEx or UPS. It’s rarely necessary to send a proposal overnight unless the agent requests you to do so. If you would like to have your material returned to you (if the agent decides not to represent you), be sure to include a self-addressed packet with enough postage for the return of your material. Or, if you want the agent to recycle your material, just enclose a #10 SASE (a standard business envelope) for her response.


How long to wait for a response? Generally, an agent will respond within four weeks. If you have two or more agents interested in your proposal, you can give your “first choice” agent a two-week exclusive look (state this in your cover letter). If you haven’t heard from Agent #1 in two weeks, you’re free to move on to the next interested agent.


I wish you a positive response for your book proposal!


© 2010 June Cotner, publishing consultant and author of the bestselling Graces and Dog Blessings and 24 other books. PO Box 2765, Poulsbo, WA 98370


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For more articles on how to get published, go to and click on "Articles on Publishing."