Writing a Non-Fiction Book Proposal

aaron-burden-90144Writing a book proposal (and knowing what to do with it) is an incredibly important process that all authors and aspiring authors should have down pat. A literary agent can receive hundreds if not thousands of proposals each year.  Very few of those make it past the slush pile, even fewer actually get their manuscripts read.  That’s why it’s important to nail down the ability to deliver a powerful proposal for your manuscript.

When writing your proposal, there are six things that are paramount:

  1. Develop a one-sentence summary of your book. Not only will you use this to interest and engage potential publishers, but it will become your “elevator pitch” when others ask you about your book.
  2. You’ll need to convince publishers why your book (or idea) is a marketable product. This is the MOST IMPORTANT aim of the proposal. What is your idea/vision/mission? Why is it unique? How will it help or impact others? In this case, the creativity and prose of your writing matters less than the actual business impact (or marketability) or your book.
  3. Be sure to identify your target audience. Avoid blanket statements like “football fans,” or, “Christians in America.” Those are far too broad. Who specifically will read it, and why do they care about your book? You need to make the market clear for the potential publisher.
  4. Share freely about yourself (author bio). Who are you? Why are you an expert on this topic? Why are you credible, and what is your experience (e.g., you’re a blogger with 2,000 hits a day, you have a degree in metaphysics, you’re a mom of three and an ordained minister, you’ve spent the last four years researching search engine optimization, etc. Share facts that are relevant to your book.). Cite any other previously published work.
  5. Create a table of contents (or chapter outline). Even if your manuscript is not complete, it’s important to have a chapter outline, and a brief synopsis of the contents of each chapter. Demonstrate to publishers that your book is organized, has a cohesive theme, and an obvious beginning, middle, and end.
  6. Research existing competition. What other books out there are similar to your work? Are there any title similarities? How is your book different from what’s already on the market? Why will consumers buy your book over the others?

Here are three excellent sites with good information about developing an effective book proposal; we recommend you read all of them:


Start Here: How to Write a Book Proposal



How to Write a Book Proposal



Write a Book Proposal That Leaves Publishers Begging to Publish You



Remember, the BEST way to learn is by doing. Just reading these posts isn’t going to give you the skills you need to write a concise, well-phrased, and persuasive proposal. You will not be convincing of how important your book’s message is unless you PRACTICE. Also consider having other people in your life (friends, spouses, professors, etc.) read your proposal and share their thoughts. Feedback can be an incredibly constructive part of this process!

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