Say you go a writer's conference and plan to meet an agent in person. That agent will meet with several authors officially and many authors unofficially throughout the conference. They are very busy. Once they get on an airplane, they may stop long enough to start looking through their new pile of book proposals, but each proposal is over 20 pages long. A quick skim will likely tell them everything they need to know, but if you have a one-page, you give them all that important information on one piece of paper. That's an advantage, a good way to make a lasting impression.
How do you make a one-page? It's not easy, putting your whole work into a paragraph or two. However, if you can't sell your book in a paragraph or two to an agent, you won't likely be able to sell it to an audience. Agents and publishers know that. This is your first chance to let them know you have what it takes.
Here is a one-page I did for my recently contracted book, The Setup:
Start at the top with your book title, name, genre and word count.
Next, give a short synopsis of your book. Start with what you would put on the back cover of the book (your hook), but include how the story ends (agents and publishers don't need to be left with questions). If there's room, you can include the main topics covered, lessons learned, etc. Remember, this page is for what is most important; white space is better than unnecessary words. Every word on this page should help sell your book.
On the left, you'll notice I put a question (the main question that the character has to answer throughout the book). Below that is another box with my marketing experience and platform info.
On the bottom goes your bio and photo, and your contact information.
This isn't an exact formula. You can move things around, just so long as it all fits onto one page. This isn't the most professional one-page I've ever done, but it's the only one I could upload (I'm not good with technology, you know). =) I'd recommend using color, good paper and high quality printing.
When do you present your one-page? If you're e-mailing a book proposal, the one-page can be the first page after the table of contents (unless the company has a specific template for book proposals that does not include a one-page, in which case you're off the hook on this one!).
If meeting with an agent or publisher in person, I'd either put the one-page on top of your book proposal folder, or wait until the end of your allotted time and hand it to them separately. Warning: if you give something to them at the beginning of your meeting, they will likely be skimming it while listening to your pitch. If you want their focused attention, hold on to your material until the end, then present your work with the one-page at the top.
A book proposal is like an interview on paper. Your one-page is like that first impression and first handshake when you walk into the interview--it can make a big impact for good if you do it right!
Any questions? Comments?
Tune in next week for a guest post from my agent, Diana Flegal, of Hartline Literary (she's gotten me 3 book contracts already, so I highly value her perspective!).
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Your Bio-Introducing Yourself to the World