How to Write a Book Proposal

The most important thing to know about writing a book proposal (other than it has to be written well!) is that the audience for your proposal is a book publisher.  Write to sell your book idea to a publisher, not book buyers.  These are two separate audiences.  Dazzle the publisher, but without exaggerating your market or sales potential.

Summary and Overview

The summary should be approximately one page long. It should read like the back jacket copy of your book will read-exciting and concise (without exaggerating.) It tells the publisher in a succinct form what the book is about, who the market is, and mentions a little about the author.

About the Author

This section provides detailed information about you. Why you are qualified to write this book? What is your education? Have you been published before? Go ahead and brag. Include any blurbs about your previous works.

The Market

Whom you see as the audience for the book? Why would somebody buy this book? How is this audience reached? For example, are there some magazines aimed at the same audience that your book is written for? Are there special conferences on this subject (when and where)? In this section you should be as numerical as possible. Do you have any special relationships to the market? Demographic and polling information wouldn't hurt.

The Competition

What other books are in print on the same subject? How is your book different and better? There is always competition because people can always buy some other book in the same subject.

Annotated Table of Contents

This is a detailed chapter outline, with a paragraph or page describing what will go in each chapter. The more information the better: This section lets the publisher know that there's enough information to fill a book. No special format is required: Just let the publisher know what each chapter will look like. (You don't have to stick with this outline when you write the book.)

Sample Material

A sample chapter or portion of a chapter: The longer the better. This section give the publisher confidence in your writing ability. Previously published authors can sometimes get away with no sample material, but a sample chapter makes a big difference in what kind of offer you get, or whether the book is bought at all.

Proposal Length and Format

Like many things, that depends. Generally, 15 to 30 pages should be sufficient, not including the sample material. A proposal is a kind of business plan, in which you are asking a publisher to invest a sum of money in you on a unproved commodity. You have one chance to get it right.

Sample book proposal (Outwitting Writer's Block)
Another sample book proposal (How to Negotiate Like a Child)
Back to main page