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I just got off the phone with an aspiring author (I’ll call him John) who’d sent out forty query letters expecting it would take a while to hear back from agents. Within a day he’d heard back from several with yay (send your proposal) or nay. Now what? He confessed that his book proposal was hardly in shape to send.
So, here’s my first bit of advice. Don’t contact a single agent until you have a polished book proposal. Ideally, you’ve had it looked at by a professional book proposal editor or book proposal coach and gotten some detailed feedback.
But let’s say you’ve sent your query letter too soon and you’re in the same position as John. Thank the agent for her interest. Let her know that you’ve decided to work with a professional editor and that it will be x weeks before she receives the proposal. Not ideal but better than sending something half baked.
John told me he wondered whether the agent were any good to respond so quickly. A quick response does not necessarily mean that the agent has no work to do. He may be especially efficient and organized. A quick look at Preditors and Editors showed that this agent was, in fact, highly recommended. Another reason not to blow the opportunity.
As you may know if you’ve read my other posts about book proposals, I highly recommend Michael Larsen’s How to Write a Book Proposal. In addition, since the new edition of the book is not yet out, go to Mike’s website and look at the guidelines for the proposal on a page. Busy agents and editors often want to see an executive summary nowadays and Mike and Elizabeth have an excellent blue print for that in the proposal on a page.
Good luck. What are your book proposal questions? I’d love to hear from you (and am happy to provide an answer).