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What is a book proposal?

Posted by Maria Murnane | June 12, 2012

You may have heard the term “book proposal,” but chances are you have no idea what one really includes. Don’t worry, you’re not alone!

If you’re working on a non-fiction book and looking to get it traditionally published, you don’t have to submit the entire finished product to pitch either a literary agent or an acquisitions editor at a publishing house. Instead, use a book proposal, which I like to think of as a business plan for your book. In other words, a book proposal should convince people to invest in your book, much like a business plan should convince a venture capitalist to invest in an idea for a start-up company.

Even if you’re firmly planted in the indie camp, creating a book proposal is a great idea because it will lay the foundation for your marketing campaign. It may also help you uncover ideas for how to promote your book that you wouldn’t otherwise think of.

Think of it like a business plan for your book

According to my friend Diane O’Connell, a former editor at Random House who now helps authors get published, a good proposal includes the following components:

  1. Description of book (a few sentences)
  2. Chapter-by-chapter synopsis of entire book
  3. First chapter, maybe even two
  4. Author bio (why you are qualified to write it)
  5. Competitive landscape (what similar titles are out there, how have they sold, what makes yours different)
  6. Who will buy it (identify the size of your target audience)
  7. How you will promote it (this is commonly referred to as your “platform” and should include such things as an existing client base, upcoming speaking engagements, number of blog subscribers, Twitter followers, etc.)

The last three elements will take some time and research on your end – a solid book proposal might be 80 pages long! I know that sounds like a lot of work, but research and preparation will better arm you for publishing success.

Even if you are self-publishing, O’Connell says creating a book proposal is a good idea. Checking out the competition and writing the chapter synopses can help you clarify what you want to write about – and make the task of finishing and promoting your book that much easier.


This blog post originally appeared on Reprinted with permission. © 2012 CreateSpace, a DBA of On-Demand Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.


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