The Proposal Process and Your Agent
Two of the most important [initial] tasks of any good literary agent is to help authors develop winning ideas and assist them in constructing a proposal which captures the essence of that great idea. This is almost always easier ssaid than done because there is something of an art to writing persuasive business book proposals. One reason for that is there are few new ideas under the sun.
With more than 10,000 business books published each year in the United States, it is hard to write anything that seems fresh and new, let alone unique. The best proposals come from authors who work closely with someone who knows a great deal about the business book business—and, more often than not, that person will be his or her literary agent. These initial steps are so important that I suggest you find out just how much help your agent will provide for you before signing with that [or any] literary agency.
These first steps are all about process. In my experience the best proposals emerge from an iterative process in which the author and agent work on the “master” version of the proposal before sending it back to the other. This method ensures a process of continuous improvement. It also ensures that the strengths of the author and the agent will be reflected in the final version—which will in turn increase the chances that the project will garner one or multiple offers from the publishing community.
Once a publisher buys the book, then the editor enters the picture and the improvement process can continue (not only with the proposal and outline, but with chapters and the entire manuscript). Remember, no one has a monopoly on great ideas, so it is critical for the author to maintain an open mind throughout the entire book writing experience.