I know we've talked a little bit about proposals in the past, but considering they are the first step to ever getting published, I think we can talk a little more about them! :) Here's a quick check-off list of six of the most important things your proposal needs.
1. Your name and contact information
This may seem like a no-brainer, but honestly, I have heard several editors talk about how they found the best proposal in the world and weren't able to publish it because they didn't know who wrote it. Make sure all of your contact info is on the first page and then be sure to put the tentative title of your project and your name at the top of each successive page.
2. Your "elevator speech"
The idea behind an elevator speech is that you can tell someone a basic synopsis of your story in two to three sentences, or in the time it takes to ride an elevator. This can be a great way to open your proposal - don't give everything away in this section!
3. Your credentials
What makes you qualified to write this story? Whether you're the same age as the main character in your story, you have the same occupation, you've written something that was published before (even if it has nothing to do with this particular story), put it down right here.
4. Your marketing ideas
Do you have a blog? A website? If your answers to those questions are no, then go start a blog (it's free!) and register a website domain of your name. Publishers love to see authors who are willing to help out the marketing team. Have you ever done any speaking? Better get practicing in front of the mirror because odds are, you'll be doing some now.
5. Your full length synopsis
No holds barred here - spill every bean your story has. We tend to like to keep a few secrets whenever we're telling people about our stories - but editors don't want to find out big surprises when they're contemplating buying a novel.
6. Sample chapters
Typically, you'll want to include the first three chapters of your story. So, polish, polish, polish those chapters! Some publishers will want the entire manuscript if you are a first time author, so be prepared to be asked for it.
I hope this helps! If you want to see a sample proposal, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'd be glad to send you a copy of one I used in the past. :)