Elements of a Book Proposal

Elements of a Good Book ProposalA good book proposal should be convincing, thorough, and fully edited for spelling and grammatical errors. Keep in mind that your proposal reflects you and your professionalism so you want to make sure it is high-quality and follows industry standards. Proposals can range from 10-50 pages. Remember to check the website of the agent or publisher you are pitching to see if they provide specific guidelines for proposals you send to them. They will typically require some variation of the following.

In general, a proposal should have the following elements:

Typed on 8.5 x 11 white standard bond paper.

  • Contents should be double-spaced.
  • A footer should indicate the author’s name and book title.
  • Pages numbered consecutively.
  • A standard font, such as Times New Roman, in 12-point size for easy reading.
  • If sending via postal mail, it should not be stapled or bound with anything other than a large binder clip.

The following is an outline you can use to create your book proposal:

  • Cover Page – This should include the book title, sub-title, author name, estimated word count for the final book (typically 60,000 – 80,000 words), and author’s contact information (address, phone number, e-mail address and website URL).
  • Overview – Two to five pages that highlight the most important elements of the book. Keep in mind that your first few paragraphs are your best chance to hook the agent or editor. If these paragraphs aren’t immediately engaging, the rest of your proposal may not be read. Explain why the world needs this book, what the book is about, and why you are the best person to write it. If you are able to obtain any endorsements from celebrities or well-known authors, list them.
  • Market Analysis – One or two pages that explain who your target readers are. Are you targeting single mothers, people with food allergies, or corporate executives? Baseball fans, dog owners or teenagers? List any recent statistics that support your case for a broad audience.
  • Competitive Analysis – List at least five books that would compete with your title. Explain the strengths and weaknesses of each and how your book will be different or better. Make sure to cite the author, publisher, and date of publication for each book. If you haven’t read your competitors’ books, you will need to do so in order to complete this section. It is also a great way to help you structure your book since evaluating the competition is sure to give you some ideas for ways to make your book better.
  • Promotion Plan – Two or more pages that describe how you will market this book. This is an important element of your proposal so put a lot of thought and substance in this section. List any media experience and contacts that you currently have. If your website receives a lot of traffic, you write a national column, you are a public speaker reaching thousands each year, you have a massive social media following or have any other major audience credentials, list details here. Keep in mind that most publishers don’t spend much money to promote new authors. You can offer to do a book tour, but will most likely have to fund the tour yourself. If you have a significant amount of money that you plan to contribute to promotion efforts, indicate this here by saying, “The author is willing to match the publisher’s promotion budget up to $xxxx.xx.” If you plan to spend less than $5,000, leave this statement out.
  • Chapter Outline – Include chapter titles and key points for each chapter. This can be a bulleted list or several paragraphs describing each chapter.
  • Author Bio – Give a brief overview of your qualifications, previous writing credits, and anything that will justify why you are a good person to write this book. This is not the place to list your hobbies, pets, or other irrelevant details. Stick to the topic at hand and demonstrate your authority on the subject. Most importantly, if you have a large following (huge mailing list, regular speaking engagements, etc.), make sure you indicate it here.
  • Delivery Information – This is a short paragraph that lists the estimated word count of the completed manuscript, and the number of months needed to complete the manuscript.
  • Sample Chapters – Include one to three sample chapters.
  • Supporting Documentation – Include copies of published articles, publicity materials, and anything that demonstrates the author’s talents, accomplishments, and promotional abilities.

If you like this blog post, you’ll love our Author Toolkit for traditional publishing. It includes checklists, templates, worksheets and more. Check it out!

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