Ask Me Anything: Submitting on Proposal

Here's the actual question:

What's the deal with submitting on proposal? Does this only happen with a book option? Or can a previously (traditionally) pubbed author submit on proposal to anyone after their first book? Or does it depend on the agent + editor?
It actually depends more on the author. For a few reasons.

Here’s the easy/obvious one. If a previously (traditionally) published author wants to submit on a proposal, the better their sales record, the more likely a proposal is sufficient.

For instance, Stephen King can submit on proposal. (Actually Stephen King can write a line on a napkin and probably get an offer. Or even just call his editor and say “I want to write another book, how about it?” This is because Stephen King is a well-known and well-established brand. I mean, he's Stephen King, he has a huge track record. His name sells books.)

But other bestselling authors who are not quite at Stephen King level can also submit on proposal. Authors who have won big awards (think the printz or the national book award) can very easily submit on proposal. Authors whose book sales are on an upward track can submit on proposal. Authors who are submitting to an editor they already worked with can submit on proposal.

Whereas authors who have not published in a long time or have “midlist” sales—they could submit a proposal, but the chance of getting an offer is going to be higher if they had a full ms.

The other reason is depends on the author is let’s face it: some authors are better at synopsis writing than others. I have some authors that can write a really engaging synopsis full of tension and great characterization. And I have some authors who really struggle with that—partly because they’re not big outliners—and their synopses can make their story sound convenient or unrealistic or just not that interesting. 

As an agent I can help them edit their synopsis and try to fix it but sometimes it might just be easier for them to write more of the book so that they know where it’s going. Again—this is a bigger factor with authors who are newer and perhaps not as established sales-wise.

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1 comment:

Shelley Watters said...

Great post, Suzie! Could've used this a few months ago when I was trying to figure out exactly what a "proposal" was for the option portion of my contract. Another thing having an agent would've helped with! lol!

Thanks for posting! As always fabulous advice!