Four Ways to Rise to the Top!

ACFW Advice, Agents, Authors and writing, tips, writing Leave a Comment

by Tamela Hancock Murray
The Steve Laube Agency

Since agents receive more proposals than they have time to represent, a huge obstacle for new authors is getting their manuscripts to the top of the stack. Every week I review excellent proposals from writers I would be proud to represent. If only I could double my hours in a day!

This happy dilemma speaks to how much CBA has matured. We are attracting the best and brightest writers. I don’t discern an attitude that readers should be happy to see Christian content, no matter how preachy or bland, simply because the writer’s heart is with God. I am proud of the professionalism of the top submissions I receive. At The Steve Laube Agency, we look to your proposal as a tool to gain the attention of the editors we know, so they in turn can feel confident that they won’t be shot down in Committee thanks to a proposal that is missing critical elements or is otherwise poorly executed. New at proposal writing? Never fear — we will help you fine-tune the final proposal editors will see. But here are a few ways to get through our door:

A Must-Read Title

If I can’t wait to open your proposal because I’m intrigued by the title, you’ve got my attention. And that title will get editors’ attention, too.


Whether you’re writing genre romance or a novel that’s extraordinary in its uniqueness, we’ve got to sell it. Tell me what I can tell the publisher’s sales team so everyone understands what type of book is being sold. Then book buyers will understand how they can sell your novel to readers. Just saying your novel is a first-ever or one-of-a-kind doesn’t help. I need to know who will be buying your work and why.


Established authors with a great sales history will jump to the top, particularly when writing a new story for their current market. Worried about poor sales history? Please don’t hide by omitting facts. To represent you well, we need to know your history so we can strategize how best to market your work. A bleak sales history will be revealed sooner or later and later is not wise. Why? Because I don’t want to waste my editors’ precious time pursuing a manuscript only to have to confess a checkered past right before the Pub Board meeting. We want to keep good will, not squander it. Debut authors need not despair, either. Publishers can find excellent places for new authors. Regardless of where you are in your career, you’ll find that stellar writing will put you ahead of less-eloquent writers.

A Great First Page

There’s a reason many conferences offer workshops where first pages are critiqued. The first page really is critical to your success. Readers want to jump right into the story and stay there. Put us in the middle of the situation, then let us know later why your heroine dyed her hair burgundy.

Of course, proposals contain many more elements, but perfecting these will put you ahead in the game. Find our proposal guidelines at

I look forward to seeing your work!


Tamela Hancock Murray, a full-time literary agent with The Steve Laube Agency, has been in the industry for over 15 years. As an award-winning author, she published 17 novels, 12 novellas, 5 nonfiction books, and numerous newspaper and magazine articles. An agent for the last 11 years, she represents many top authors and is known for discovering and developing new talent. She lives with her husband and youngest daughter in Northern Virginia.

Comments 0

  1. Thank you for sharing, Tamela!

    As a new writer, I’m thirsting for advice that pushes me harder and urges me to put my best work out there.

    Now I know I need to work a little harder on the first page in my WIP. 🙂


  2. Tamela,
    So what happens when you do have a checkered sales record, with most of the checks going in the wrong direction? Do you mention this in the proposal? What if you’re considering a nom de plume for your next work? Since my latest fiction proposal is getting about a 40% request rate from agents for the full manuscript, I am confident the story is a winner. Not so sure about the execution, because I haven’t gotten a clue that any of the requesting agents have read beyond ten pages even while taking six months to a year to reply–10 are still reading. I’m wondering if they look up my track record and then decide I’m not a good risk no matter how much they may like the concept. When do you think it’s time to go directly to editors?

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