Book proposals are what literary agents send to publishers to see if their publishing house wants to buy the book. Not only does a book proposal share the core idea of the book, it also shows publishers how and why the book is a marketable product.
So what all needs to be included in a non-fiction book proposal? Great question. Below, I break down the different parts of a proposal and what needs to be included to capture a publisher’s eye.
This is your elevator pitch. Craft two to ten sentences that encapsulate you and your message for this book. This is the most important place to choose your words carefully. Be concise, but clever. It is your first impression and the best chance to grab our attention.
Here is where you go into detail about your concept. In a few paragraphs to two pages, you will explain what you are writing about, why you are writing it, and why you are the one to write it. You want to emphasize the originality and differentiation of your book in the marketplace. It is helpful to explain that you have identified a societal need for this message and provide evidence for how that is so. Explain what you can offer to fill the felt need. Don’t go into too much detail here. Introduce yourself, the felt need, and what you can offer.
FEATURES & BENEFITS
Features (optional): Here you will list any special features that might be included, such as tables, charts, guest writers, or any special approaches to writing you might employ. For instance, if there will be a small group study in the back of the book or if someone famous is writing the foreword.
Benefits: Here you will identify the “felt need” of your audience—the societal need discussed earlier—and how you will meet that need in a brief, bulleted delivery. Think of this section as what you would see on the back cover of a book to draw in the reader picking up your book from the shelf in the store. Include five to ten bullet points.
Readers of Title will:
• Turn their lives around
• Discover the secret to happiness
• Realize their strengths and gifts
• Understand that they bring something to their community
• Learn how to look at life in a new way
This is where you explain what conversation on your topic has already taken place and why you want to throw your hat in the ring. It is general coverage of the marketplace and how you fit into the existing discussion of this subject. Here you will list three to five books that cover a topic similar to yours. Provide a brief description of the similarities and how your approach is different. It is not about trashing theirs, but demonstrating the fresh angle you bring to the discussion. It’s best to pick bestsellers and really successful books for this section to show publishers that yours would belong in the same space.
This is the place for a brief biography that lets us know who you are and why you are writing on this topic. Here is where you establish yourself as an authority on your selected subject. It is not the place for the story of your life, nor is it the place to list your likes and interests. It is okay to include personal information; but, unless you are writing a book about knitting, the fact that you like to sit on the sofa with your labradoodle and knit matching hats for your family on rainy afternoons is not relevant.
PROMOTION AND PUBLICITY AVENUES
Promotional Videos (Optional)
These are not necessary, but visual media is becoming more and more important in presenting your ideas. If you have a video that relates to your topic, you may include it here.
Social Media and Online Presence
Please list all forms of social media you use and your handles. This includes Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, websites, blogging, etc. Also include stats on followers, hits, and subscriptions.
Speaking Engagements (Optional)
If you have a speaking schedule, whether it is on this topic or others, list it here. Include venue name, dates, estimated size of audience.
Additional Writing/Blogging Features (Optional)
If you have been guest blogging or have articles featured in notable publications, provide that information here. Include links to blogs or writing features. If you have information on circulation or followers for those publications, that would also be helpful.
This is not your wish list of people you’d like the publisher to contact for you. This is a list of people (20-40) you know who have credibility in the field of your topic or notoriety with your audience who will accentuate your own authority on the topic. Pull their social numbers: Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter and list them under the endorsers’ names. Then add them altogether so publishers can see your potential reach.
This section will demonstrate that you have a fully developed concept and have given thought to how your book will progress and how each chapter builds on your message to an effective conclusion. In each summary, you should include an explanation of what will be covered and how this contributes to the overall theme of the project. Chapter summaries can be anywhere from one paragraph to one page. Try to be concise but use as much space as you need to communicate your message.
Always be thinking about how each chapter applies to your audience. The most straightforward way of doing this is having a takeaway section at the end each chapter summary that shows what the core message of the chapter is. Book proposals for non-fiction books typically have between ten to fifteen chapters. You can break the chapters into parts if that helps with structure and flow (i.e. Part 1, Chapters 1-3; Part 2, Chapters 4-7; Part 3, Chapters 8-10).
Include your Introduction and strongest chapter for a sample of your writing style. Not all chapters are created equally and serve different purposes. If you feel your first chapter is one that lays a foundation but doesn’t give an accurate picture of the theme and you have a stronger chapter for demonstrating your style, you may include that instead. But a solid introduction that explains why you have undertaken this project and what you hope to convey to readers is key, so we want to see that you can come out of the gate with strength.
With these elements combined with distinct and engaging writing, you will have yourself a professional book proposal! Then you can send it to firstname.lastname@example.org; we would love to discuss your idea with you.