Ask the Agent: Requested Materials
Lisa wrote with this question:
When you request a proposal at a writers conference and ask for the first five chapters and a synopsis, is that all you want? Or do you want a market analysis, character sketches, etc.?
This is a great question, because it once again points out the need for clear communication. If I ask for a proposal, that’s what I want. If I ask for the first five pages and a synopsis, that’s what I want.
A book proposal is a specific document with expected contents: synopsis, audience analysis, competitive analysis, author bio and marketing information, etc. When an agent asks for a proposal, they expect you to find out what a proposal typically includes, and send a professional and thorough document.
If an agent says “Send me the first three chapters of your book along with a complete synopsis,” then send exactly that. If you’re not sure whether they want a complete proposal or not, just ask.
A query is another kind of document altogether. It’s a brief letter that pitches your book and your credentials to write it. From reading the query, the agent decides whether they want to see more, i.e. a proposal and/or sample chapters.
The important thing to take away here is that these terms (proposal, query, synopsis) have specific meanings, and we usually ask for exactly what we want. If you are not sure what an agent or editor is asking for, CLARIFY. Make sure you understand.