What makes a great book proposal? The Margins’ literary agent offers an answer:
Great pitches are like awesome desserts eaten weeks apart. It’s kind of hard to compare them unless you’re taking them in one right after the other. (I acknowledge that this is a weak metaphor, but there’s a reason I’m an agent.) But to me, the best pitches have a few things in common. The first is that they’re specific to me. In other words, they’ll reference a book I’ve represented that is similar to their own, or show that they know what I do. They also know where they fit into the market. They know that they have a young adult novel, or an upmarket women’s novel, or that they combine this author’s gritty atmosphere with that author’s flawed but sympathetic characters. They don’t hyperbolize and they never say they’re the next Eat, Pray, Love, Harry Potter, or The Da Vinci Code. They’re short—generally about three paragraphs, with a brief introduction, a brief summary, and a brief biography. And typos trigger an automatic delete.