QUERY LETTER—a one-page pitch document sent to literary agents and publishers used in the attempt to persuade them to request a full book proposal; A query letter is a strategically crafted document that should contain an overview of the book, the author’s platform and reach, a clearly defined ideal reader, and a compelling reason for that agent or publisher to consider investing in the author and book project.

BOOK PROPOSAL—a 30-60 page business plan for standard nonfiction and memoir pitched to literary agents and publishers; a strategically developed document that must demonstrate a market for the author’s idea (a real need of a clearly defined group of readers—see ideal reader below); the author’s authority, unique selling proposition (USP), platform, and commitment to marketing and promotion; the core idea and scope of the book; and the author’s ability to communicate in a clear and compelling way

10 Query Letter & Book Proposal Inspection Points

  1. Query Letter--Is your query letter concise but thorough, reflecting the intellectual and emotional arc of the book? Does it demonstrate why this is the right time for this book and that you are the right author of it? When thinking like a literary agent and acquisition editor, does your query letter make me want to learn more about you and your project?
  2. Overall Completeness and Ease of Navigation of Your Book Proposal--Does your book proposal contain all the required elements of a professionally crafted pitch? Is your proposal organized in a way that allows readers to easily find what they want, and does it flow smoothly from one section to the next?
  3. Author Mission/Vision--Is your mission/vision clear and compelling?
  4. Book Summary, Book TOC, and Chapter Summaries--Do these elements show the intellectual and emotional arc of the book? Are chapter titles strong and reflective of the content of the chapter, or are they lacking specificity and, therefore, hard to conceptualize? Are your chapter summaries too short or too long, and do they give the reader a strong indication of the style of the book and your voice? Do all these plus your sample chapter(s) demonstrate that you understand structure and how to create and maintain the momentum necessary to keep readers engaged from page 1 to The End?
  5. Author Bio--Is your bio thorough but concise, and does it demonstrate that you have the expertise and experience to write with authority and depth on the subject matter of the book?
  6. Author Platform and Reach--An extension of your author bio, what level of commitment to spreading your message does your proposal demonstrate?
  7. Competitive Analysis--Are your comp titles appropriate for the project you're pitching? Is your competitive analysis thorough, up to date, and is your USP clear and compelling?
  8. Ideal Readers--Do you clearly demonstrate who your book is for and why those people not only need to read it but that they want to read it? Do you clearly describe the size, demographics, and psychographics of your book's primary, secondary, and tertiary ideal reader groups?
  9. Sample Chapter(s)--Is your sample content well-written, and does it speak to the needs, wants, and expectations of your ideal readers as described elsewhere in your query letter and proposal?
  10. Overall Persuasiveness--When thinking like a literary agent and acquisition editor, how persuasive is your overall offer? Did you convince me that there is a large and eager market for your book and that you are well-qualified and positioned to access it? If not, why not?


Book Proposal Testimonials

"After 15+ years in publishing, I can say that Cristen sets the gold standard for freelance editing. She recently worked with us on a client's memoir proposal, including an extensive amount of co-writing of sample chapters. From the start of the process, I was highly impressed with her writing, her ideas, and just how much organization and inspiration she brought to the project. Her writing was beautiful, clear, and very true to the author's unique voice. Collaborating with her has been a joy for both author and agent. She had tremendous impact on this project, and we will look forward to working with her on many more, given our experience."

Lilly Ghahremani, JD, MBA, literary agent and co-founder of Full Circle Literary

A literary agent (name withheld) told me, "I'm glad [client] worked with you to hone the proposal because the hard work shows and cohesiveness shows." (October 2021)

"...As the first major acquisition editor who saw my book proposal commented, 'For a first time author, this certainly is not a first time proposal.' Simply put, without Cristen as my editor I would never have the opportunities in front of me that I do today."

Steve Adelman, co-founder of the Avalon Nightlife brand worldwide and author of Nocturnal Admissions: Behind the Scenes of Tunnel, Limelight, Avalon, and Other Legendary Nightclubs (Santa Monica Press, 2022)

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