What Your Book Proposal Should Contain

PROPOSAL TABLE OF CONTENTS: A guide to the proposal with page numbers.


SALES HANDLE: The single selling sentence that sums up the book's uniqueness. Commonly called the hook.


SALES POINTS: A bulleted list of sales points - why this book will sell. These can be sales points for the publisher (i.e. sales figures for comparable, good-selling books) and also for the general reader (popular topic, new insight, etc.).

OVERVIEW: This is the most important part of the proposal. It will tell the publisher what the book is about, why its important, why you are the one to write it (your credentials), what your point of view is, how you are going about it, and what your approach is (funny, serious, how to). Think of it as a jacket copy but without hype. Lead with your strongest suit.

COMPARABLE BOOKS: Similar books that have sold well, preferably in the last two years. They need not be on the same topic, but should indicate that there will be a market for your book. Give publisher, format, price, and ISBNs.

COMPETITIVE BOOKS: A list of the competition, giving: publisher, format, price and 13-digit ISBNs. Plus an analysis of why your book is different and better. Note: these are NOT book reviews.


THE MARKET: Who is the readership for your book?


PROMOTION AND PUBLICITY: How can the publisher reach this audience? How are you going to help the publisher reach this audience? What are the possibilities? Are there organizational newsletters? Can you arrange for blurbs? (The best!) Or suggest blurbers to the publisher?


SPECIAL SALES POSSIBILITIES: If you have any way to sell the book directly - to companies, clubs, schools, etc. - list them here.


AUTHOR PLATFORM: Here is where you tell the publisher about your public presence: lectures you have given and will give, TV appearances, your use of social media outlets (including number of followers - any data to support your claims).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Your bio in a few sentences.


SPECIFICATIONS: The estimated length of the proposed book - number of words is best.


ILLUSTRATIONS: Give numbers of black and white and color.


DELIVERY DATE: Estimated date for delivery of manuscript and illustrations.


TABLE OF CONTENTS: A straightforward list of chapter titles. These should give a good sense of the flow of the book.


ANNOTATED TABLE OF CONTENTS: A list of the chapters, with each chapter annotated to show the work it will do in furthering the discussion or argument of the book. Think of each chapter as a building block. Show how it is going to carry the reader along. Note: this is NOT an outline from which you will write the book, its a selling piece, meant to tease and whet the appetite of the publisher to read more. Although you have to indicate to a certain extent what will be in the chapter, do NOT summarize the text.

SAMPLE CHAPTERS: Pick chapters that don't repeat what you've said in the proposal. In other words, an introduction is not a good sample chapter. The publisher wants to see how you will handle the meat of the book.