Thursday, April 7, 2016

All About Fiction Proposals

And a giveaway! with guest Jill Kemerer.
 “An agent asked for my partial.”
“The editor requested my full!”
“I’m putting a proposal together.”

Partial? Full? Proposals? What in the world are those?

When I started learning about publishing, I had no clue what many terms meant. I still remember the day I scratched my head over “black moment.” Yes, I had to look it up! What a blessing to have great blogs like Seekerville to fill me in. Today I’m sharing what I’ve learned about the different types of submissions an agent or editor might request.

A partial (sometimes referred to as sample chapters) typically means the first three chapters of a novel and a synopsis.

A full refers to a complete manuscript.

A proposal expands on the partial. In addition to the first three chapters of the novel and a synopsis, it typically includes a brief description of the book, a summary of the audience, a competition section (also known as comparables), the author’s biography, and a marketing plan. If the book is part of a series, the proposal should include a brief summary of the other books in the series. Some agents and editors also want to see a list of contacts you could ask for endorsements as well as an influencer list.

If you aren’t sure if you need a proposal, check out this terrific article, “Why You Need a Book Proposal” by Rachelle Gardner, literary agent with Books and Such Literary Management.

Let’s break apart the proposal. Please keep in mind that I’m talking about fiction today. Nonfiction proposals have different requirements.

First Three Chapters. This is THE most important part of your proposal. Publishing is a very competitive business, so work hard to make these pages shine.

To be clear, these are the opening chapters of your novel. You cannot pick and choose which three chapters to send. If there’s a prologue, include it. One of the ways I drove myself into a tizzy when I first started querying was by getting too hung up on weird details. For instance my brain asks, “Is the prologue considered a chapter? Do I only send two additional chapters?” Focus instead on the number of pages. Aim to include 40-50 double-spaced pages of your manuscript. If you write short chapters, this might mean sending several chapters or even restructuring your early chapters to fit more scenes into the first three.

Synopsis. Write three to six double-spaced pages, and be sure to hit all the major plot points. Yes, this means spoiling the ending. Work hard to get the emotional impact of the book across in the synopsis. If you need help figuring out how to write one, see “Synopsis that Hook and Sell” by Debra Clopton via Seekerville.

Brief Description. Think of this as the back cover copy or the “blurb.”

Audience. Define your intended audience. Think about who typically reads the genre of book you write. For example, if you write contemporary romance your audience would probably be women aged 18 and older.

Competition. (comparables). This section should be comprised of three books similar to yours. Include the title, author, ISBN number, publisher, date published and a brief analysis of why your books are similar and what sets yours apart. A good article on this is “Selecting the Right Comp Titles” by Dan Balow of The Steve Laube Agency.

Biography. Focus on your qualifications as a writer as well as offering a bit of personality. If you’re unpublished, include writing organizations you belong to, contests you’ve won, writing experience, and if you have a degree or other credentials to write the book.

Marketing Plan. Sounds scary. For most of us, it is! Brainstorm how you will promote your book. Will you set up (or agree to) a book launch, book signing, or other book event? Will you reach out to local media, including newspapers, television stations, and radio stations? If yes, list the specific places and people you will contact. Will you organize a blog tour (or agree to a blog tour your publisher sets up)? List the blogs you’ll approach or give a general number. What about sending out newsletters and building an email list? Do you plan on actively engaging with readers on social media sites? Offering giveaways of your book? Building an influencer list? Asking for reviews? There are a million and one ways to market your book. Pick and choose the ones that you realistically can commit to and include them on your marketing plan.

As I mentioned earlier, the most important part of your proposal is your writing sample. That’s why I created a self-editing checklist to help me polish my first fifty pages. I look at eight categories with specific questions for each. The categories include, First Chapter, Plot, Pace, Tone, Characters, Romance Journey (for romance novels), Spiritual Journey, and Writing Mechanics. For a pdf file of this checklist and other articles about writing, go to my For Writers page or click on “First Fifty Pages Checklist.”

 About the categories:

The first chapter is vital. If an agent, editor, or reader isn’t engaged right away, they won’t continue reading. It’s that simple. You might only have a few pages to “hook” them. I don’t like getting rejections (and I’ve gotten many over the years), so I do everything in my power to make sure my first chapter has everything it needs. Most of the questions in this section revolve around the characters, story goal, and theme of the book.

The plot has to make sense, and it needs to flow properly. The questions about plot are intended to keep the reader turning pages. If you have trouble answering the questions in this section about your current work-in-progress, I suggest picking up a book in the same genre and evaluate it based on this list. It’s much easier to analyze a book other than our own! Later, go back to your manuscript and try to answer them again.

Pace. If you’re not sure if the pace is fast or slow, zoom out of your manuscript to get an overview of several pages. Is there white space? Long paragraphs? A mix of paragraph lengths? Short paragraphs tend to indicate a faster pace, while longer paragraphs slow things down.

Tone isn’t easy to self-evaluate, but with practice it can be done. Think about the genre you write. Take romantic suspense. Flowery language, long descriptive paragraphs and cutesy banter throughout don’t reflect the genre. Romantic suspense should be fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat action that raises the reader’s heartrate and keeps it there. I’m not saying the characters can’t be witty but have them wisecracking while on the run.

Characters. Characters don’t have to be sugary-sweet, but readers need to care about them. Give them compelling goals, reasons for wanting the goals, and obstacles to overcome. Pay attention to secondary characters. Sometimes those rascals take over! We don’t want that. If a secondary character seems to be taking center stage, consider writing a separate book for him. Keep the current book’s focus on the main characters.

*Romance Journey. This section only applies to romance novels. Think about your hero and heroine and ask yourself if they’re acting like mature adults who are attracted to each other. Ask yourself if they seem to be falling in love too quickly and if there are clear reasons why they can’t emotionally commit to each other.

Spiritual Journey. This section applies to inspirational (Christian) novels. Readers of inspirational fiction expect a clear spiritual aspect throughout the book. Make sure the faith journey is being shown or at least hinted at in the first fifty pages.

Writing Mechanics. These questions will help you look at sentence structure, repetitions, grammar and such.

You can download and print the complete checklist here, “First Fifty Pages Checklist” and it is always available on the For Writers page under the Extras tab at

If you’re a writer, what do you consider your writing strengths? If you’re a reader, what brings a book to life for you?

Thank you for having me today!

Her Small-Town Romance

Finding Her Way Home 

Cozy Lake Endwell, Michigan, seems the perfect place for Jade Emerson's new T-shirt shop—and perhaps a fresh start. After a lifetime of letdowns, she is finally ready to face the future on her own. So when local wilderness guide Bryan Sheffield offers to help Jade overcome a past trauma, she warns him they will remain strictly business. But soon, with the help of Bryan's big, complicated family and a boisterous St. Bernard named Teeny, Jade's frozen heart begins to thaw. Now Jade wonders if she can return the favor, bringing a little happiness to a man who has long kept his own sorrow under wraps…


Interested in purchasing Her Small-Town Romance? Purchase links available at

  Jill Kemerer writes Christian romance novels with love, humor and faith for Harlequin Love Inspired. Jill loves coffee, M&Ms, fluffy animals, magazines and her hilarious family. Visit her website,, and connect with Jill on Facebook, Twitter and sign up for her Newsletter!



 Leave a comment to day for a chance to win a copy of Her Small-Town Romance. Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.


Tina Radcliffe said...

Welcome, Jill! So delighted to have you back with us. I ordered bagels and whipped cream cheese for the night crew and lots of decaf.

This is a topic that we have somehow forgotten to explain. This is the first one of its kind in our archives. Thanks for addressing this.

I'll be back bright and early in the am with breakfast for our am readers and writers.

Marianne Barkman said...

Thanks, Jill. You asked what brought a novel to life for me as a reader? Well, I like books where I really get to know the characters intimately. Often this means a big book (Julie Lessman's) or series. Lauraine Snelling and Karen KIngsbury do this well, but my go to authors are still Seekerville!

Trixi said...

As a reader myself, for a book to come to life it must have the elements you named here. The book must catch me from the first paragraph. I love both historical & suspense; with the latter genre, if the opening scene starts off with a bang...well, you've got me hooked and most likely my heart racing! If you can't catch me in that time frame, I'll put the book away and go on to another. I have way too many to read to feel like wasting my time :-)Thankfully, I've not had to do that often!

The plot and pace kind of go together for me. It must be a believable plot with a good balanced pace. Too slow or too fast and I'll either get bored with it, or too fast and I can't or won't connect to the story. Definitely tone applies too, if I'm reading say a historical from 1800's & you include language or traditions from today, I'm not going to read it. Or like you said, in suspense....flowery language and cutesy banter have no place in the story. I'd get turned off real quick.

Most definitely characters! They are what make up the story for me. I like them believable, with real struggles, and HUMAN :-) I WANT to connect to them, as if I've made new friends. I love seeing them interact with one another, helping each other; especially with spiritual things. And secondary characters help round out the story, but like you said, don't take center stage. There's where I like to see series featuring them :-)

Romance & Spiritual journey....YES!! I read only Christian or inspirational books for a reason, I want to feel like I've grown in some way after reading it. Maybe due to what the characters do or say. More than once God has used them in a time of struggle or difficulty in my own life when they've relied solely on the Lord to solve it. I also love when they strengthen each others faith or maybe one will lead the other to faith :-) And for romance, again, don't make them fall in love so quickly that my head spins! Say a first kiss a week or two after they met. I like to see the romance develop over time. At the same token, don't make them fall in love so far into the story that I want to yell at them saying "Just admit you love one another already!"!!

A good book to me is balanced & well-rounded with all these elements you mentioned :-)

Good to have you here Jill!! I hope you brought some of those peanut butter squares you shared the recipe for on Yankee Bell Cafe the other day. I can't stop thinking about them! Guess it's time to break out the baking dishes and make some of my own :-)'s a little late tonight to do that...haha!
Also, I'm very excited for your newest release "Her Small Town Romance", congrats on that! Sounds like a great story, please add my name to the hat for a copy.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Okay, yes. Those peanut butter squares are to die for. You can find there here: Peanut Butter Squares with guest Jill Kemerer

Mary Preston said...

As a reader I want it all. A full & interesting story is what I seek.

Cindy W. said...

Hi Jill, thanks for the great post. As a reader, I need well created characters to make the story come to life for me. If they don't pull me in then I'll sit on the sidelines and never truly engage with the story.

I pray everyone in Seekerville has a wonderful day today.

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Tina! Thank you for including the recipe link!!!! CLUTCH! (I am possibly laughing right now, and possibly hugging Jill for peanut butter bars and chocolate...I'm just saying.)


This is a great look at what's expected, and while it might look daunting, it's not.

If you've caught an editor's attention in a contest, the first part (the three chapters) is probably done!

And then it's narrowed to the rest of the stuff, which Jill did a perfect outline of. (like that preposition at the end of that sentence???? LOVE!)

I am always amazed when folks don't seize the opportunities editors offer, because they don't offer this stuff randomly... and experience pays off in the long run.

Jill, thanks for being here, and thank you for being on Yankee Belle earlier this week.

Peanut butter and chocolate.... I'm so happy right now!

Jill Weatherholt said...

Hi Jill! This is a great outline-thanks so much! So far, I've only had experience with the partial proposal.
I'm looking forward to the party tonight. Unfortunately, since I'm up so early, I'll only be able to hang for 1/2 hour or so. I get overly stimulated by all of the messages popping up. :)

Rhonda Starnes said...

Thanks for sharing, Jil. I've saved a copy of the checklist to my computer. Now, I'm off to the day job.

Glynna Kaye said...

Good morning, JILL! This will definitely a keeper post for many! And your checklist is great.

I have something very similar that I refer to when prepping my proposals--so much to pack into that synopsis and the first three chapters. In fact, in reading through your checklist something caught my eye that I intended to insert in the first chapter and forgot--but now that I'm actually writing the book, I can easily slip that in there now! Thank you!

This concise and informative post will be especially helpful for those who've never before submitted a proposal--helps take the mystery out of it!

Suzanne Baginskie said...

Jill, thanks so much for your most interesting blog today. It's so nice to receive writing information daily. It sure reinforces what we're doing, especially when the doubting bug hits us. Making flat characters on paper come alive in a story is one of the hardest things to do. I loved your examples too. Have a good party tonight.

Jill Kemerer said...

Tina: thank you for hosting me and for the bagels! They're my favorite breakfast. I have one almost every day!! And thanks for sharing the Peanut Butter Squares recipe too!

Marianne Barkman: You listed two greats right there! I'm a fan of big books and series, too. The only problem? When I finish reading, I get a little sad because it's over!

Trixi: *waving hi* What a thorough, thoughtful response! I'm copying it to review--you captured so many of my thoughts as a reader! Thank you!

Mary Preston: "I want it all." Yes!! So do I! You nailed it!

Cindy W: It's so hard to define, the "pulling me in" isn't it? I feel the same--I want to fall right into a book and get lost!

Ruth: Those peanut butter bars are SO good!! And it's true--catching an editor's attention in a contest is a great sign your writing shines. Thanks for all your encouragement!

Jill Weatherholt: A lot of publishing houses and agents only ask for partials or fulls, thankfully! The Facebook parties are intense, aren't they? We appreciate you popping in later!!

Rhonda Starnes: Have a wonderful day at work today!!

Glynna Kaye: That's the reason I made the checklist--I found myself forgetting key details in my opening chapters. I thought, why don't I just write it all down and check the pages before sending them out? :) Thank you!!

Thanks so much for stopping by!!

Jill Kemerer said...

Suzanne Baginskie: Thank you, Suzanne! The doubting bug hits me ALL the time! Goes with the territory I guess!

Jill Kemerer said...

Oh!! Everyone, a bunch of Love Inspired authors (twelve in all) with April releases are having a virtual party tonight on Facebook! We're each giving away one copy of our books! We'd love for you to join us. It's from 8pm-10pm Eastern time. Here is the link if you're interested:


Sally Shupe said...

Jill, awesome post! Thank you for sharing. I am printing it off and keeping it. I have no idea what my writer strengths are; as a reader, I love characters I get to know, feel like they are neighbors, and can't wait to see again in a series.

J Baugh said...

Great post! Thanks!

Cynthia Herron said...

Jill, *waves* Great tips and spot-on thoughts! Congratulations on the release of Her Small-Town Romance-- thrilled for you, my friend! Hope to make it the FB party tonight. It's a little crazy over our way. We have senioritis at our house. Today is her job shadow day. Fun! :)

Tina Radcliffe said...

I'm setting my alarm clock for tonight!!!

Renee McBride said...

Good morning, Jill!

The timing of your blog post is perfect today, as I'm currently working on two proposals. One of them only requires one chapter. I guess that means it better have all the bells and whistles right up front.

Hey, Tina! Got any bagels and cream cheese left over from your night shift?

You all have a productive day! Thank you for your timely post!

Renee McBride said...

Correction, PARTIALS! Sheesh, you'd think I didn't learn anything.

...need more coffee!

Renee McBride said...

Correction, PARTIALS! Sheesh, you'd think I didn't learn anything.

...need more coffee!

Cindy Regnier said...

I had to write a full proposal for my past agent. If not for Seekerville and posts like this one (thanks Jill) I would have had no idea what I was doing. As it was, it turned out pretty good and the experience was invaluable. This post is a print and keep. Hopefully going to need it for future reference! Also- thanks for the checklist. Great tool.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Oh, I had my first facebook party EVER the other night, and it was amazing!

I can't believe I've never done one before. We danced all night!

I brought more peanut butter bars because I know the mid-morning crowd will be hungry. We always are!

And as I edit my way through yet another imperfect manuscript, let me reassure all of you that the proposal does not have to be perfect... it has to be good and the chapters have to RIVET the audience.

I promise you that riveting chapters allow an editor the grace to overlook a whole lot of other stuff a newbie might get wrong.

And I've never had to do comparables for Love Inspired.... For other houses, yes, but not them, mostly because the comparables are all their people! Who am I going to list? Tina? Jill? Missy? Glynna? Linda? Lenora?

See what I mean? No one else really publishes shorter category inspirationals, so I've never used those in an LI proposal and I've never been asked to use them, so if you're targeting Love Inspired, I think you can cross that off the list.

What do you think Jill? And don't tell me you put that in the blog and I missed it, but that wouldn't be a big surprise!

Myra Johnson said...

Wow, Jill, this is a workshop-in-a-blog! Thanks for sharing all this great information, and also for the helpful links you provided!

Honestly, I'd rather write the entire book before even attempting to put a proposal together, but I learned early on that if I wanted to keep selling books, I had to change my mindset.

For me, the two hardest parts of the proposal are the synopsis (since I'm basically a pantser and can't see clearly that far ahead) and choosing comparables. I'm definitely going to check out the Dan Balow link you provided!

Deanna Stevens said...

I like books that start off with a bang in the first few pages. I know where the story is going and then can't wait to see where it leads me! Yes, start me out with RIVET!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Jill What a great post today. Where were you when I started writing? smile Wow, I wish I'd known all these things earlier in my career. But better late than never. You did a great job and were very comprehensive with your info. Thanks for linking to references also. Always good to hear the pov of agents.

Thanks for joining us today. Have a great day.

Connie Queen said...

Good morning Jill.

The first 3 chapters/synopsis doesn't make me nervous, but getting together a proposal would. I'd be tempted to say, "I'll do whatever you want me to do to promote my book if you'll just publish it!"

This is so helpful.

Katy C. said...

As a reader, the back cover blurb is the often the biggest draw or deterrent. If the blurb gives too much information I sometimes decide that I probably don't need to read the book because I feel like I know everything but the filler. If the blurb is boring then I assume the book is boring. Sometimes I choose to put off reading a book because I know it's going to be good, but the blurb makes me think that I'm going to be pulled around emotionally and I'm not in the right mood. A good (and, okay, probably mediocre too) blurb make me want to dive right in!

Just Commonly said...

Wow, there's a lot of work to get your proposals going, especially enough to warrant an interest. As a reader, I think the first thing to catch my eye is the title, then the cover and then the blurb on the back. Most of the time, I don't even read the blurb. If the title and the cover piqued my interest already, I'm adding it to my TBR list (like your Her Small Town Romance). If it's a book by an author I love, no doubt, the book is already in my TBR list.

Thanks Jill!

Seekers, love that easy "Print Friendly" button on the bottom. I don't think I ever told you that, but that sure makes it easier!

Please throw my name in the hat. =)

Jill Kemerer said...

Sally Shupe: "...feel like they are neighbors" Yes!! That's exactly what a great book does! I hope to always evoke that feeling in my books, too. :)

J. Baugh: Thank you so much for stopping by!

Cynthia Herron: Aw, thanks!! What career is she shadowing? My DD has a field trip to a local University today, so I'm looking forward to hearing about it!

Tina: Your schedule is awe-inspiring. :)

Renee McBride: Haha!! Yes, the first chapter needs the bells and whistles! But I think of all the terrific books that have grabbed me, and they are all so different. Part of submitting is just trusting our gut! Best wishes!!

Cindy Regnier: Yes, every agent and publishing house has different requirements, so it's nice to at least know the differences between them all. I find that proposals help me stay current with publishing trends and force me to evaluate my marketing efforts. Win-win!!

Ruth Logan Herne: So true!! Comparables aren't necessary for Love Inspired. My agent has me do them anyway when we're shopping a new book or series. Since I read so many LI's it's not difficult! Plus, it forces me to really think about why a book caught hold of my heart. And I'm glad you mentioned not needing a perfect proposal. I made peace with the fact nothing I send out will be perfect because I'm not perfect!! That's okay!

Myra Johnson: Oh, I agree! I'd rather write the entire book, too! But, like you said, selling books requires a different approach! The synopsis always sends me running to chocolate. Synopses are evil. :(

Deanna Stevens: I do, too! And as a writer, I really struggle to make that happen!!

Sandra Leesmith: Haha! I'm pretty sure I learned everything--EVERY LAST THING--the hardest way possible! I don't want anyone else to have to do that! Thank you!!

Connie Queen: Marketing is really intimidating, isn't it?? I'm tempted to do the same! I think editors want a realistic idea about what you will do to promote the book. Make them promises you CAN keep. Most publishers have a publicity department that works with you. Love Inspired is a different animal because they have such stellar distribution. They do general publicity for all their lines and a few individual things for authors too. However, the marketing expectations aren't as heavy as they would be with other publishers. Each publishing house is different!

Katy C: I'm a back cover blurb girl myself! I love an intriguing premise! I hear you, though--who wants to get jerked around emotionally without a good idea of it paying off for a satisfying read?

Thank you so much for stopping by!

Jill Kemerer said...

Just Commonly (Annie): The title is your first grabber? How cool! For me it's usually the cover. I'm a visual gal! Belle Calhoune's Alaskan Brides series has such eye-catching covers, and I can't help myself, they always end up in my shopping cart at the grocery store! Thank you for always being so supportive!

Janet Dean said...

JILL, thanks for this excellent, thorough information on writing proposals. The first time a writer submits or gets a request the task can seem daunting. This is a great go-to post!

I think writing the set up is my strength. I love writing the opening, those first few pages that hopefully will grab the reader and make her excited to join the characters on this journey. Conflict is usually involved, but not always. I try to make each story's opening unique. If I get the people and their issues right in the opening, the story is easier to write. Not easy. Never easy. LOL But easier.


Keli Gwyn said...

Hi, Jill! It's great to see you in Seekerville again. As usual, you've offered us a post chock full of good stuff. Thanks.

I used to freak out at the thought of preparing a proposal, but once I created one I was happy with, I found I kinda like doing it. A proposal gives me an opportunity to sell myself and my story.

Like Ruthy, I don't include a comparables section in a proposal for my Love Inspired books. The other LIHs are my comparables, and they're a given. A section I've started adding came from reading a blog post by Book & Such agent Mary Keeley: Don't Forget the Reader Benefits. I find this section to be a great place to point out the story's theme, interesting historical details or events I've included, topics I address and such as that. I've been known to use the section to point out that pet lovers will enjoy the story because of the pet included in the story and give a brief description of said pet. I add anything I think will help sell the story. =)

One thing I found helpful was realizing that once I had prepared a proposal that my agent and I were happy with, I could use that as a template for future proposals. Knowing I don't have to start from scratch each time helps.

Congratulation on your latest release, Jill!

Megs Minutes said...

Jill - Thank you for writing this post and for the checklist! :) I'm going to go back and take notes!

Tina - I'm going to raid my Christmas leftover candy after reading about all these sweets?! LOL.
Those PB treats look grand.

Q.) If you’re a writer, what do you consider your writing strengths? I think I've gotten pretty good at starting a story with energy. As a reader growing up, I did not like for books to take 5 chapters to get the plot going. :) Often times, I'd put the book back on the shelf if it did.

As a reader, I really like well developed characters. If the characters are thought out and I start pulling for them, they can make up for plot, pacing, and grammar shortcomings! :)

CatMom said...

Thank you, Jill! EXCELLENT post that is going to the front of my Keeper File. :)
Thank you also for sharing your checklist - - exactly what I needed!

Just saw your note about the Facebook party tonight - - woohoo! Since I missed Ruthy's party I'll try to make this one - - sounds like fun!

Congratulations on your newest release, and I LOVE that cover. :)
Please put me in your drawing, and thanks again for sharing with us today.

Hugs, Patti Jo

kaybee said...

This is good, Jill.
As a writer, I think my strength is, well, writing. I can turn a phrase, and make words sit up and beg, or at least do what I want them to. My weakness is structure. I've learned a lot about that and gotten better with what I find here; also, my crit partner is strong in structure and points me in the right direction.
For a proposal, comparables and marketing present the most issues for me. I've gotten better at the synopsis, and I usually never submit a proposal until the three chapters have been through a couple of contests, so they are as good as they can get.
It's a risky business, but what isn't these days? My day job is print journalism, so...
Back to work.

DebH said...

Hi Jill
This is an awesome post. Scares the bejeezus outta me, but a great post anyhow. The whole proposal thing just seems so huge. I can handle the partials or a full request, because that seems normal. I've never been good at promoting myself. My boss at work even says so. I'm going to be checking out your links later because my work computer won't let me go to them (blocked, high security around here).

Will have to check out the FB party later. I would LOVE to win your new book. I really like your blurb.

Thanks TINA for inviting Jill. Seekerville is so great!

ohiohomeschool said...

Hello Jill,

I am hopefully going to the FB party. I would love to win a copy of your new book. It is on my TBR list.
Becky b.

Kav said...

Love learning about the inside biz of writing. So fascinating! I love a book that draws me in emotionally. I want be an emotional basket-case as I read. LOL The stories I remember best are the ones I actually lived. Have read a couple recently that kept me at a distance. At least it felt that way. Interesting plots and characters but I wasn't right there with them. Felt like I was hearing their story second hand. I didn't finish either book. :-(

Jan Drexler said...

Hi Jill!

This post is full of great information. Where were you five years ago when I was muddling my way through this stuff?

Actually, I didn't have to muddle very much with Seekerville around! But this post would have been printed out and put in my binder. :) (That's a hint for newbies - print posts like this out and keep them in a binder where you can refer to them often!)

By the way, I found out that we're almost - but not quite - related. My husband's cousin's sister-in-law is your aunt. Like I said, not quite related! But we Michiganders are as close to blood kin as you can get.

CatMom said...

JAN DREXLER, I am giggling at your "almost related" comment! ;)
Actually I am AMAZED at how you figured that out, LOL.
But I have to say as I get older I'm realizing it really is a "small world" (especially here in the south!).
Hugs, Patti Jo

Edwina said...

Great article, Jill and thanks for the First Fifty Pages Checklist! Most helpful! Please enter me in the drawing!

Cynthia Herron said...

Jill, she's job shadowing a dietician. She hopes to major in dietetics. :)

jcp smith said...

interesting! Please enter me in the giveaway!

alysap at yahoo dot com

Jeanne T said...

Wow, Jill. This is an entire workshop in one post. WELL done, my friend. I loved the First 50 Pages checklist. It's spot on. :)

What brings a novel to life? Characters who make me like them. And settings. And unexpected twists. :)

Missy Tippens said...

What a great post, Jill! Thanks so much for sharing your checklist. I plan to go grab it now!

Congrats on your new book release! I love the cover. :)

Meghan Carver said...

Good afternoon, Jill! Proposals can be terrifying at first, but once you start developing your information, it can be a real confidence-builder. Thanks for all the great information! :-)

Mary Connealy said...

Nice job, Jill you made things so clear!
thanks for being on Seekerville!

Missy Tippens said...

Cynthia, I totally understand the senioritis! My daughter had it really bad last year about this time!! (Actually, it started last Januaury when her last semester started. LOL)

Tina Radcliffe said...

How funny. Jan is related to Jill and Natalie Monk is related to Pam Hillman.

Missy Tippens said...

I'm so thankful LI only requires the chapters and synopsis!! :)

Missy Tippens said...

Jan and Jill, that's so cool that you're related by marriage!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Keli Gwyn. Thanks for referring us to that article. Appreciate that.

The cover, and the blurb are my deciders. Then if I can I peek inside.

I admit there are some themes I shy away from. Pregnant women falling in love is one. Not on a moral basis. But because pregnancy does not make me feel warm, cozy and romantic. LOL. Anyone else have themes they shy from?

Tina Radcliffe said...

" I can turn a phrase, and make words sit up and beg..." Kathy Bailey you are cracking me up.

Tina Radcliffe said...

BY THE WAY. APRIL LOVE INSPIRED TITLES garner you 5K points from Harlequin My Rewards. You can buy them on Amazon and turn in your receipt via email.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Katy C! Welcome to Seekerville. You have to tell us about yourself to help with the name confusion. We have Kate/Kathryn Barker. Kate and now Katey!!! Delighted to have you.

Jill Kemerer said...

Janet Dean: It doesn't surprise me one bit that the opening is your strength!! And it makes me feel better that it isn't easy for you, either. So hard sometimes!

Keli Gwyn: What a great idea to add to a proposal! You're really good at finding unique things in your books that appeal to readers. :)

Megs Minutes: Oh, I hear you! If a book takes too long to get going, I'm out! But if it's a slower book and I love the characters? I'm sooo in!

CatMom (PattiJo): Yay!! I hope you'll come to the party. Although, Ruthy's had cake, bouquets and dancing! It was a good time!

Kaybee: Yes, it is a risky business, and you're very smart to use contests to polish your chapters. I'm convinced contests and critiques helped develop my writing skills and give me the courage to continue writing even when getting rejection after rejection. Plus, I love your way with words!

DebH: Not every publisher or agent expects a proposal! Many times a partial or full is just fine. In fact, I should have clarified in the post that what Love Inspired considers a "proposal" is my definition of a partial. The first three chapters and a synopsis are a proposal in Love Inspired terms! As far as marketing, do one thing you're comfortable with. Then later on, add another thing. It all adds up eventually. :)

Ohio Homeschool (Becky B.): Yay! Hope to "see" you at the party!

Kav: "I want be an emotional basket-case as I read." Yes!! Me too!! Those books are the best!!

Jan Drexler: Well, 5 years ago I was muddling through it too! Haha!! You must be related to my Aunt Joan! Funny story, an aunt on my mom's side used to live next door to Aunt Joan's husband's sister. (I realize how confusing that sounds, but since you're from Michigan, you'll get it! Haha!!) BTW, my uncle Mike is super sweet!!

CatMom (PattiJo): In mid-Michigan, we're all related somehow--haha!!

Edwina: Thank you so much! I'm glad the checklist is helpful!

Cynthia Herron: Ooh! Great career!! I hope she had fun today!

Thanks so much for stopping by!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Okay, I do not want to be an emotional basket case as I read. I have that in my family. I want light funny when I read. To each his own.

Jill Kemerer said...

JCP Smith: Thank you!!

Jeanne T: Aww, thank you! I'm with you. I want to like the characters I'm reading about. :)

Missy Tippens: Thank you!! I love the cover too. The artists are amazing!!

Meghan Carver: Terrifying? Yes!! But you're right, they do get better. :)

Mary Connealy: Thank you! I'm so thankful to be a guest today!!

Missy Tippens: I totally want to chat with Jan right now!! I'm guessing we have many mutual relatives! And I'm thankful LI doesn't require the whole enchilada for a proposal too!!

Tina Radcliffe: Yeah, when I was pregnant, the only thing I could really fall in love with was a Peanut Butter Cup McFlurry. And I did fall in love. Every. Day. :)

Thanks so much for stopping by!!

Jill Kemerer said...

*DUH Moment*

If any of you are querying the Love Inspired lines, I should have made it clear that Love Inspired proposals consist of the first three chapters (50 pgs) and a synopsis. That's it! Unless you have an agent who requires you to create a full proposal, you're golden just sending in the sample chapters and synopsis!!

Christina said...

Jill, it's so nice to see you hear at Seekerville! This post is chock full of information and I've downloaded your checklist.
I am almost finished reading your newest release and, as I expected, it's a wonderful story. Congrats!

Barbara Fox said...

Jill, thank you for such an in depth lesson.

Being at learner level I try to absorb like a sponge but your post will make me put my printer to work. I can't claim strengths in my fiction writing yet but in non fiction blog I might claim strength in explaining how to teach riding, and then there is the occasional comment that becomes the shot that was heard around the (equestrian) world, which I pay for forever. LOL (sigh)

As a reader, give me romantic tension that makes your palms sweat with just a look.

Best wishes for success with Her Small-Town Romance

Jill Kemerer said...

Christina: Thank you so much!! You've been such an encouragement!

Barbara Fox: Well, one thing I've learned since having my work published is that we have to give ourselves grace. I don't get everything right in my books, and I have been known to put my foot in my mouth on Facebook and in emails! I've given myself permission to not be perfect. :)

Thank you!!

Sandy Smith said...

Thanks for the great post, Jill. I have wondered what those different terms mean. It sound a bit scary to me though. I will definitely be keeping this post. But I am wondering what an influencer list is.

Please enter me in the drawing.

Jill Kemerer said...

Sandy Smith: I know what you mean! It all sounded scary to me when I started putting them together too! An influencer list is a list of names of people who will help spread the word about your books. The types of names a publishing house wants to see are people with reach who are willing to read/review your book or promote it by other means. They might be fellow authors, bloggers, reviewers. They should be active on social media sites and willing to promote your book in more than one area (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, a blog, leaving reviews on Amazon and other sites, etc..) Basically, publishing houses don't want your mom and best friend on the list! Hope that helps!

Lara (Storm) Hitchcock said...

Jill, Thanks for the post and especially the checklist which has given me a lot to think about as I reconsider my first chapter. It took a couple of takes to figure out where to start my story and I'm still not 100% sure I've got it in the right place. It's a complex story with several very important characters whose stories I am hoping to weave together throughout the book. *Sigh* ... Not exactly making it easy on myself. ;-) (Not sure, but my strength might be backstory :-/)

By the way, I liked what you said: “Yes, the first chapter needs the bells and whistles! But I think of all the terrific books that have grabbed me, and they are all so different. Part of submitting is just trusting our gut!” So I guess that's what I'm doing. Trusting my gut.

Oh! And a wilderness guide? Nice. I am *so* in. :-)
(Just added your book to my Goodreads reading list.)

Laura Conner Kestner said...

As an unpublished writer with one finished manuscript and several more in the works, this post was absolutely fascinating to me - perfect timing! I learned so much. Thank you, JILL!

Jill Kemerer said...

Laura (Storm) Hitchcock: I'm laughing at your "strength might be backstory" comment! Boy, I know that feeling! I named the first two chapters of a rough draft I recently wrote, "Info Dump 1" and "Info Dump 2." Knowing backstory is really important. All I can say, is if you're writing a romance, make sure the hero and heroine meet by the end of chapter one, in the first few pages if possible. If you're not writing a romance, start at the moment where the main character's life is about to change. Not three months before, not two days before. Minutes before. Or start with the actual change! Best wishes!!

Jill Kemerer said...

Laura Conner Kestner: Awesome!! I love chatting with writers. I'm always learning something new!!

Lara (Storm) Hitchcock said...

Jill, Now that's a checklist I can manage! Two things (hero and heroine meet in first chapter with imminent change) instead of 50 ;-). I think (I hope) I more or less accomplished that. Thanks!

Beth Erin said...

The hoops you jump through to get these stories in our hands... thank you!

Exactly what Trixie said at the top! Much better than I could have articulated it.

Ruth, I cannot believe that was your FIRST facebook party. You are a natural. It really was the best ever!

Tanya Agler said...

Jill, I missed the FB party by 3 minutes. Sad to hear about it after the fact, but I am happy to read your post and find out valuable info on revising that first chapter and ways to make it shine. That's a plus.

Thank you also for asking the writers to think about our strengths as a writer. So often I think I look at contest feedback and only think about the negative. It's encouraging to reflect about my strengths. My strengths vary from book to book. With one book, the feedback was strong about the hero, another the heroine. My CP says I write a good front porch scene!

Thank you for this great info.

Jill Kemerer said...

Lara (Storm) Hitchcock: Haha! I know! Trust me, sometimes I just tell myself "figure out a way to get those two together right away." It clears up all the problems!

Beth Erin: We like jumping through them! No worries! (And Ruth's party was super fun!!)

Tanya Agler: No!! I'm sorry! About the contests...hang in there. I was not an overnight success story. I spent years entering contests, submitting, crying over rejections--but I just kept going. It's easy to focus on the negatives and a lot harder to look at our strengths. I'm glad you have a supportive CP! They make all the difference!!

Thanks for stopping by!

Julie Lessman said...

JILL!!! Welcome to Seekerville, my friend, and I agree with Tina -- we don't have anything like this in our archives! And let me tell you -- I would have KILLED for this before I got published, so EXCELLENT POST!!

I'm sorry I'm so late -- crazy day, week, and month where I've been meeting myself coming and going. But I'm glad I made it by because this post is worth it!

Jill, you asked what I consider my strengths to be as a writer, and I would have to say evoking emotions. I have such an overload of those suckers, that I gotta put them someplace, right? Saves wear and tear on my marriage, I'll tell you that! ;)

And, MARIANNE, you sweetheart you -- thanks for the shout-out for me and Seekerville -- MUCH appreciated, my friend! :)


Tina Radcliffe said...

Jill, thanks for spending the day with us and sharing this very informative and much need post!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Beth Erin, we have our annual Seekerville New Year's Eve party here, and it's just like that. Folks commenting all over the place, drawings every hour, people stopping in, people staying, it's hysterical for about 19 hours.... and at 3:00 AM ET we turn out the lights, but in the meantime, it's crazy fun.

Now I'm ready to host more!!!!!!

Happy dancing author!

Jill Kemerer said...

Julie Lessman: Julie, you're the queen of emotion!! You should teach a master class!! And thanks for your kind words!

Tina: Thank YOU for letting me take over today!!

Ruth: Now I want to stop in for a New Year's Eve Party!!

Thanks, everyone, for a terrific day!!

Deanna Stevens said...

I do enjoy Jill's books! toss me into the hat please :)

Jackie said...

Hi Jill,

I'm a day late, but I loved this post. Congratulations on your new release!