Do you have an excellent idea for a book, along with its execution dynamics, all prepped in your head? If your answer is yes, then this is what you need to do next — write a book proposal that publishing houses just won’t be able to say no to.
What is a Book Proposal?
The primary purpose of a book proposal, designed for a non-fiction piece of work, is to convince the Literary Agents or the Publishers to turn your vision into a legitimate book.
Therefore, a book proposal can act as an intermediate between you and your author career. Instead of writing the entire book first and then looking for an editor or agent to invest in it, your book proposal can help you get contracted by a publisher who could be paying you to write your book!
A book proposal does not necessarily have to contain every element of the book. However, it will act as a business plan that will summarize the central idea, some sample chapters, a probable marketing plan, and all the well-strategized points to persuade the publishing house to work with you.
What must your Book Proposal show a Publisher?
Publishing Houses receive thousands of book proposals every month, and this is not an overstatement. So, the question that arises here is why they would choose you over the other writers?
The one thing that every publisher contemplates about every proposal is ‘Can this book make us money?’
Now, this does not mean that you need to go about devising a cash making plan for every page of the book. This simply means that you need to show the publishers what makes your book stand out from the lot. You not only need to convince them, but you need to find a way to sell your idea to them.
Let your book proposal say out loud, what makes your book unique, what is it about your book that will help people form an attachment with it, and what is it about your book that will make it inevitable from becoming a mainstream one?
How to structure your Book Proposal?
Writing a non-fiction book proposal can be tricky because of the diversification of the components that need to be included in it.
In this article, we have laid out a proper step by step format to guide you regarding what exactly you should put in your proposal.
Whether it’s about a person, book, or a book proposal, first impressions do matter. This is why you need to make sure that your proposal has an informative and intriguing title that captures the publisher’s attention in such a way that it makes it irresistible for them to continue reading.
Your title page should include the full title and subtitle (separated by a colon or on a new line) as well as “A proposal by” followed by your name.
Overview of the Book:
To put it as simply as possible, the overview is the hook of your book. However, most writers assume the overview just to be a summary of their novel. This is where they go wrong, and this is usually the reason why their proposal gets dismissed.
Think of the overview as your window of opportunity to convince the publisher to take up your book. Mention the key points that will work as compelling stances for readers and explain how this book will solve a problem for those readers. Don’t forget to mention the commercial potential of your book as well.
All you have to do is contend with six or seven key aspects that explain why the audience would be willing to spend any amount of money on your story. Then, just make your case, and make it compelling!
About the Author:
The “About the Author” section of your book proposal and the one on your actual book can be different from each other. So, you don’t have to spend days and nights perfecting a one that works well for both.
To ensure that you put your best foot forward, begin with your qualifications and then proceed further, listing your achievements in the niche you’re writing about.
Sometimes, authors get rejected because they make this section a little too much about themselves and go all into the bragging mode; when they should make this about the audience and establish more emphasis on building trust and gaining the publisher’s confidence.
All you have to do is convince them that you’re the right person to pen this book down, with authentic and genuine reasons backing it up.
Table of Contents:
This is basically the index of your proposal, giving general info about every chapter. Make sure that you do not explain what is already going to be in there. Instead, with every chapter that you sum up, answer a question leading to the overall progression of the book.
Clarify the theme, the issue, and the possible resolution that you’re offering, along with why it is better than the other alternatives already available at the audience’s disposal.
Your structure, your point of emphasis and your diction should be exact, creative and adequately exemplified for the publisher to grasp with the utmost accuracy and detail.
Include a maximum of 2 paragraphs per chapter and as many valuable critical points as you can, relevant to the same. This step is fundamental because you cover some significant hooks of your book, and you don’t want to fall behind on that.
Another vital factor to take care of is the framing of the chapter titles. Don’t be unvaried, and do not make the mistake of calling them “chapter one, chapter two”. Instead, try to incorporate the title with a stimulating essence. Your audience would want to go through the whole chapter and solve the mystery behind the title for themselves.
Sample chapters are for you to familiarize your writing tone, vocabulary and diction with the publisher or the literary agent. So now there are two kinds of people, those who send in a book proposal after completing their manuscript and those who send it in before completing the entire manuscript, after having written 2-3 chapters and getting a faint idea of where it is going.
In both cases, the sample chapter attached in the book proposal should be top-notch, contain good hooks, be very clear and understandable, and be interesting enough to captivate your agent’s attention and cater to his intrigue.
An ideal sample chapter would satisfy the publisher and leave him wanting to dig further into whatever topic your book is about. For example, say you’re writing a self-help book, but there are already enough self-help books in the market. Choosing yours a very dicey option.
In this case, make your self-help book about something underrated but also about a pressing problem so that people can find the answers in your book. Then, create the questions that nobody’s asking and offer a solution for them. If followed with careful progression, this tactic can turn your manuscript into a go-to book for people.
Competitive Title Analysis:
This section includes a rationale on why the title that you’ve chosen for your book is different and more standing than the other counterparts who have already dwelled in your niche. This section may not necessarily be there in a typical book proposal but still stands as a valid point in giving a more precise idea to the publisher about the already established authors of a similar title in the market.
Disclosing this provides a competitive edge and allows you to hold your book to specific standards in terms of the quality and richness of the text.
Include a list of 5-10 previously published books whose concepts coincide with yours and have already proven to succeed in the market. The motive behind doing this is to show the publisher that your book is likely to attract large audiences who are interested in such themes.
However, at the same time, you also need to make sure that you emphasize how your book will stand out from its competition. You need to prove to the publisher that your story will not be just another cliché rotting in recycling piles.
We know that this part sounds a little tricky. Still, you need to find a middle ground to easily compare your book to its existing competition without taking away its authenticity and distinctiveness.
Your list of competitive tiles should also include the title, author, publisher, year of publication, price, page count, and ISBN for the books listed.
Before beginning the writing process of your book, you might want to ask yourself certain questions like, ‘whose hands will this book land into’, ‘why would they want to buy this book’, ‘how many of them would be interested in purchasing it and so on.
To pitch their book, most writers just keep this section generic and try to add as many age groups and strata as possible. But, let us tell you, if you are considering doing this, it might turn out to be the biggest regret of your author career.
While it’s a good idea to write a book that helps people beyond the barriers of age, gender, race and other criteria, you also need to remember that not everyone requires the value that you are offering in their life. Therefore, when it comes to a target audience, you have to be as specific as you can be.
Defining your target audience can help you carefully choose the marketing platforms that will genuinely increase the reach of your book, rather than wasting your time and money on platforms that won’t do you or your career any good.
Not only this, if you have separately mentioned your target audience in your proposal, it will reflect signs of credence and meticulousness to the publisher because you won’t come off as an amateur just cluelessly writing their book.
Once you’ve covered questions like ‘what type of specific audience would read your book’, you might want to ask yourself, ‘how would the audience get to know about the book in the first place?
A marketing plan will lay out a simple blueprint that will go a long way in bagging your book, the sales it deserves. Having a well-strategized plan-of-action can elevate the number of copies that this book will sell by a significant mark.
The author tries to figure out how the target audience is most likely to find out about this book in a marketing plan. Would it be from an awareness group? Would it be from an e-commerce platform? Would it be from a podcast or a snippet in a piece of radio news? Would it be from a social media account? Would it be from a website?
Of course, this step varies significantly with the contents of your book. This is why identifying who the target audience is and what the best-suited platform to market according to your target audience is, goes a long way.
This is also the perfect section to mention all of your professional contacts and experiences, that in your opinion, will prove to be an accomplice in selling your book like hotcakes! You need to remember that this particular section might prove to be the game-changer in the publisher’s eye because they will be looking for an author who can become an asset to them and not a liability.
Template + Resources
- Book on Amazon – How to Write a Book Proposal: The Insider’s Step-by-Step Guide to Proposals that Get You Published
- Book on Amazon – Write the Perfect Book Proposal: 10 That Sold and Why
- Book Proposal Template by Pandadoc
- Book Proposal Template by Proposable
- Non-Fiction Guidelines by Template.net
- Wiley Book Proposal Guidelines using Questions Approach
- Elsevier Book Proposal Template for Academic Proposal
- Download Book Proposal Template by TCK Publishing
Time to get started!
It’s a given that your idea must really be worthwhile to the masses for your book to become a success. However, having a great idea alone is not going to be enough. The real task will be convincing people why the idea for your book is worthwhile and why they should invest in it in the first place.
The most appropriate non-fiction book proposal will amalgamate all the indicators mentioned above in a uniformly cited portfolio. Therefore, the only key to perfect this step of your book writing process is to be your biggest critic, ask as many questions from yourself as possible and dig deep for their answers.
Your non-fiction book proposal is the biggest sales pitch you’ll ever make in your author career. So, wouldn’t you want it to be a sure-shot, well crafted, and most importantly, a promising deal?
Now that we’ve laid it all out for you, you can finally begin helping the world solve their problems, one book at a time. So buckle yourself up and get ready to write the best book proposal that you can think of, and engrain your name as a pioneer in your field for ages to come.
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