I’m gearing up to teach at the Florida Christian Writers’ Conference in early March. Doing so made me think that a lot of writers are also getting ready for the busy writing conference season ahead and are preparing to put their best foot forward when they meet with editors and publishers.

With that in mind, I’d like to address one aspect of preparation: the one-sheet proposal. The one sheet is just that–one sheet geared to a specific book idea. This is obviously quite different than a full proposal, which can be upwards of fifty pages or so.

The idea behind the one sheet is to present your idea, not your actual writing. One sheets are great for conferences or anytime you only have a few minutes to present your book idea to a prospective buyer. Most publishers discourage bringing an entire proposal to a conference because (1) it’s rather cumbersome to carry everywhere; and (2) they won’t have adequate time to read it anyway.

An effective one sheet, however, can serve the purpose of getting an editor interested enough in your idea that he or she requests a proposal from you. So let’s take a look at what a one sheet looks like…

Add the working title of your book front and center toward the top of the page, just below your contact info. Keep in mind that eventually your title will more than likely get changed by the publisher, so don’t get too attached to it!

Next, write two or three sentences maximum for your book’s concept. What you write could also be referred to as your “elevator speech”: What would you say to an editor if you met one in an elevator and wanted to pitch your book idea? If you can’t summarize your book in two or three sentences, it probably isn’t clear enough in your own mind yet.

You’ll also want to include a brief (one paragraph) synopsis of your book. Here, you’ll expound on your concept and offer specifics on what your book is about and what purpose you intend for it to have: How will it affect your audience? Why is it important? If you’re writing a novel, give a basic overview of your plot line, the main characters, and the book’s theme.

Your next section will be market potential, where you define your target audience, offer statistics and research on the size of your market and why your book is important to this market, and how you plan on reaching your audience. You can also include your platform in this section–what will you do to help market your book? If you have an extensive platform that you know will be a huge selling point for you, you’ll want to create a separate section just for that.

After market potential, add a section on comparative titles or the marketing edge your book has over other similar books on the market already. Do your homework and list a few titles that are like yours, yet give specifics on how your book will differ from what’s already out there.

Final sections include a short bio of your writing experience, especially as it relates to your book, along with any other relevant experience you may have; the proposed length of the book; and the completed time frame of when you can finish writing the book if you were offered a contract (most publishers would expect the book to be completed in 6-9 months).

This seems like a lot to fit on one page, but it can be done. Make sure every word counts and that you’re only including information that is absolutely necessary to help sell your book idea. A well-written one sheet should be very readable so that it can be quickly scanned by an editor, with all the important aspects easy to find.

I realize this was a quick overview of a lengthy topic, so if you have any questions on constructing a one sheet, please share your comment!

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