You are here:

Writing Books/book proposal?



Dear Vincent,

Thank you for your helpful answers.

The book agency requires a synopsis with the first 3 chapters without specified requirements.

The only darkpoint was to me is that should a synopsis/outline countain the followings (over the querry and you mentioned):

- table of contents
- main & minor characters
- chapter by chapter outline     

in order to make my 'product' easier to look through and sell of course.

This is still a unanswered to me.

May I rob your time to help me to see clearer?

Thank you for your help again.



Followup To

Question -
Dear Vincent M. Wales,

I would like to ask some technical info about ‘How to build a book proposal’. Is there any specified order to draft it?
The following is my own idea about building a book proposal.


1. Query letter (one page)='mini-synopsis'
2. a short summery of my book in a marketing  style
3. Technical Info about the book (number of pages)
4. Synopsis (one page)
5. Table of contents; main and minor charactors's discription and chapter outline
6. The sample of the first three chapters.

Do you think is it a good way for a book proposal or not? What order would you advise and what else should I write in it?

Some says that the book proposal with the synopsis and the sample chapters are advised to write them in double space. Why is this unwritten rule?

Thank you very much for your help in advance!

Sincerely Yours,

Tibor Konig

Answer -

I'm a little confused by your question, because in item #5, you mention descriptions of characters.  This implies that you are talking about fiction.

In fiction, it is almost unheard of to write a book proposal.  Proposals are for books that are not yet written, and publishers today don't want to hear about fiction that is not yet written (unless, of course, you're already famous).

For fiction, you would use a query letter and possibly a synopsis or sample chapters, depending on what the publisher wants.  This is your first step: find out what they want.  To do this, you'll want to grab a copy of a book such as Writers Market, which lists publishers and their needs and requirements.  Their listings will tell you whether they want you to send, for example, only a query, or a query plus synopsis, or something else.

Always give them exactly what they ask for.  If they ask to see three chapters, don't send them four.

Your query letter has three purposes:

1.  To introduce your manuscript (and, if appropriate, you and your credentials).
2.  To put a positive spin on your work.
3.  To intrigue the recipient enough to want to read it – to solicit it.

In the first few sentences of your query, you should:
• Mention significant publications and other writing credentials (awards, etc.)
• Give the title and type of book you want to send.
• Give the name of the person who recommended or referred you to this person (if applicable).

After this, you should describe the piece, focusing on the plot of the story. Try to make the query “fit” the book.  e.g., if it’s a humorous, quirky book, write a humorous, quirky query. This section should run ½ a page to 1 ½ pages.

The thing to keep in mind is that you must successfully communicate to the editor or agent the excitement you feel about your book.  Try to convey the passion you feel for it.  

Follow this with any background or experience (if any) you’ve had that relates to the book’s subject.  It can go a long way.

In your final paragraph, ask the recipient if he/she is interested in looking at the manuscript.

If a synopsis (sometimes called an outline) is requested, you'll want to provide on.  And all this is, is a heavily condensed version of the book, with the emphasis on plot.

This should be typically be done in the third person, and also in the present tense, not the past tense.  The beginning and ending of the outline should read and feel like the beginning and ending of the book, even in condensed form.

You'll want to focus on the events occurring moment-by-moment, as though the reader (and writer) were there watching them happen.

Most outlines are broken into chapters, just as the books are.  But a single, unbroken narrative can work, too.

Use standard MS formatting.  (Double-spaced, 1" margins all around, etc.)  Ten to fifteen pages is about average for an outline, but there are no hard & fast rules about length.

You may, if you like, include a Cast of Characters page, listing all major and minor characters, as well as a sentence or two describing their background, circumstances, personality, and/or relationship to other characters.

Your query letter, by the way, should be single-spaced.  But manuscripts and outlines should be double.  Why?  Simply because it's easier to read.  Remember, these folks are reading a LOT of material, and it's just a point of consideration for them.

Hope that's helpful to you!  


Table of Contents?  No.  Again, if this were an actual book proposal for a NON-fiction book, then maybe.  But not for fiction.

Main & Minor Characters?  If you wish.  It's not necessary, but as I said in my original reply, you can include a "Cast" page telling a tiny bit about each one.

Chapter by Chapter Outline?  Yes, your synopsis (which is the same as an outline) will be arranged by chapters, just like your book is.  



Writing Books

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Vincent M. Wales


I am a speculative fiction novelist (fantasy, science fiction, and so on). While I may be able to answer questions on non-fiction, my specialty is fiction. Please keep that in mind when asking questions.


For four years, I taught a series of fiction writing classes in Sacramento, CA.

BA in fiction writing.

Awards and Honors
My 2004 novel, ONE NATION UNDER GOD, won BEST FICTION in Fresh Voices 2006, BEST FICTION and BEST YA FICTION in the NCPA Book Awards, and placed as a finalist in BEST BOOKS 2005. In 2002, my novel WISH YOU WERE HERE won awards for Best Fantasy and Best Fiction/Drama in the 8th Annual SPA Awards. My latest work is a trilogy titled THE MANY DEATHS OF DYNAMISTRESS (a superhero memoir). The first book, RECKONING, was released in 2013 and won the SF category in the 2014 San Francisco Book Festival, took second place in the 2013 Royal Dragonfly Book Awards for the SF/Fantasy/Paranormal category, second place in the SF category of the 2013 Reader Views Reviewers Choice Awards, and was finalist in Foreword's 2013 Book of the Year Awards, Fantasy category. The second book, REDEMPTION, will be released in early 2015 and the final book, RENAISSANCE, is scheduled for release in late 2016.

©2017 All rights reserved.