book proposals

Book Proposals: A Guide To Sealing The Deal

Book proposals demonstrate the viability of your book idea in today’s market. Numerous authors use this technique to persuade publishing houses to invest in their work before you start writing the actual manuscript.

The proposal should be between 15 and 50 pages and include a synopsis of the book, the author’s biography, possible marketing strategies, a chapter outline, and a sample chapter. Utilize the following tips and tricks to create an attention-grabbing publisher-ready book proposal.

8 elements that book proposals should have

writing proposals

Writers can access a book proposal template and sample proposals online to understand what to include in a book proposal. While the specific content of your book proposal will depend on your publisher’s submission guidelines, you should have the following elements in your book proposal.

1. Title page

A book proposal should include a title page, as with any other submission to an agent or editor. Why? To facilitate individuals contacting you or your agent and placing an order for the book. Your proposal will stand out from the crowd if it has an eye-catching title page design. You can be as creative as you want with the cover page of your proposal as long as it is professional and industry-appropriate. Incorporate the book proposal’s theme into the design to ensure that it is both visually and functionally appealing.

You should follow book proposal formatting and design guidelines to ensure an appealing title page. Utilize white space liberally to call attention to the book title and other critical details. Certain book proposal tools include pre-formatted book proposals. The text on the page should be easily accessible and readable.

Color schemes that are visually appealing but unobtrusive should be used, taking inspiration from the industry or the client. Ascertain that your design complements the identity of your business plan. Printed copies of your title page can help you determine if the design will print well. Your cover page should be visually appealing in both print and digital formats. Additionally, printing the document can aid in the critical proofreading stage.

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2. Overview

The overview should provide a high-level summary of the book’s content and purpose. Both nonfiction and fiction authors should view their overview as the “hook” for their book proposal, enticing a potential traditional publisher to continue reading. How likely will potential book buyers purchase your book after reading the back cover summary?

Numerous authors incorrectly emphasize the book’s concept, inspiration, or reasons for readers’ interest in this section excessively. While this appears to be the logical course of action, it is not. The editor must thoroughly understand the book’s content to decide whether to accept or reject the manuscript.

There is nothing wrong with delving deeply into the content, but only in the context of your audience’s needs, problems, and desires. Assume that the overview is a book’s sales potential presentation of a book proposal. You’re attempting to persuade the editor that your book will benefit a large number of people and will be seen as the answer to their problem.

3. Outline

To begin the writing journey in an organized manner, you must first create a book outline. Your book’s Table of Contents should include a brief summary of the contents of each chapter outline. While the structure and style of fiction and nonfiction book outlines are conceptually similar, the format and style of the table of contents outline will vary according to the genre. 

A good fiction book’s structure, plot, scenes, and characters are critical components. A nonfiction book’s topic clusters, concepts, and deliberate information architecture are all critical components. Your book concept must be demonstrated from beginning to end to be effective. Authors frequently become bogged down in lengthy descriptions of the table of contents of each chapter. 

Keep in mind that this is a promotional piece, not a piece of information. Each chapter description should generate interest and intrigue on its own. The chapter summaries should also include many enticing tidbits and assertions to keep the reader’s interest in your book proposal.

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4. Author bio

The author bio section of the book proposal should serve as both an introduction to yourself and a defense of your qualifications for the job. Demonstrate that your book concept is likely to have commercial appeal to a purchasing audience once more. Include any relevant articles or books you have previously published, preferably with views and sales figures, to substantiate your claim that this book should exist and that you are the best person to write it. 

Additionally, include a list of publications and news outlets that have covered your work in your author bio. If the reader is unfamiliar with you, they must see that you can manage this project and effectively disseminate it to a larger audience. Take this into consideration. 

As a result, you’ll need to be pretentious in your bragging. Traditional houses will also consider your public speaking and television appearances when determining whether to offer the right person a book deal. Bring it up now if you have prior experience with this.

5. Sample chapters

The submission guidelines of the agent or traditional publisher will dictate whether or not sample chapters may be included. Unless the submission guidelines allow for more, sample chapters in book proposals are typically limited to three. Select one of these chapters as a model. You can send significant chapters in the middle or after the story. The first three chapters are preferable in this case to the later ones.

Your editors want to ensure that you are anything but dull as a first step. Many inexperienced authors believe that a typical day in the protagonist’s life should be included in the first two chapters, along with an extensive backstory. Indeed, immediate action is preferable.

If you can accomplish this within the first few chapters, the publisher will recognize that your story will not drag on indefinitely. The first three chapters will demonstrate your writing style, references, and the balance of action and contemplation to the potential publishers.

6. Marketing plan

What can you do to assist in the distribution of the book? Discuss only what you are capable of and will accomplish with the free resource at hand. If you’re writing your marketing plan for a book proposal, you must exercise extreme caution in what you say and imply. Whether or not the publisher is involved, you must be confident, steadfast, and forthright about the outcome. Make it measurable, specific, and attainable.

The key to a successful marketing plan is not the number of novel ideas or experiments but rather the connections that are already working for you and the readers you can reach through today’s efforts. To retain an intended readership, you must demonstrate in your book proposal that your ideas transcend mere speculative fantasies.

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7. Competitive title analysis

This is the section of book proposal where you’ll discover how your game stacks up against others in its genre. Your analysis may be limited to a few competitive titles if your book is narrowly focused on a single subject or audience. While comparing competitive titles, keep the following details in mind:

  • The title and subtitle of the competing book
  • The author and publisher
  • The publication year
  • The page count
  • The price
  • The original format
  • The ISBN

Rankings on books sites, star ratings, and customer reviews are superfluous. Additionally, there is no reason to include the book sales figures of the competition. Without the author’s assistance, the agent or acquisition editor can look it up independently. 

Following that is the critical section: a brief summary of the book’s approach to each competitor compared to your own. The title should be between 100 and 200 word count in length. You should be able to differentiate your book’s title from those of your competitors and justify the necessity of your book.

If you make a mockery of the competition, it may backfire on you. The editors will be able to tell if you haven’t done your research, and if they are aware of the competition, they will be able to write a book proposal that catches. Never claim that your book is unaffordable. Even if you have no competitors, your book may fail to sell due to its uniqueness and specialized nature.

8. Target audience

The intended audience for your book is the one for whom it was written. The audience for your book proposals is the group of people who will gain the most benefit from or enjoy reading it. Even if a portion of your readership does not correspond to your intended target audience, you are still attempting to reach them. Writing, pitching, and marketing your book will be difficult if you do not know who your audience is.

To write a successful fiction story, it is necessary to understand your audience to craft an engaging, amusing, and informative narrative. Certain segments of the population are more receptive to specific book topic and content. Understanding your audience enables you to target your stories more effectively and increase the number of books you sell.

The intended audience in nonfiction is the person or group the book is most likely to assist. Numerous first-time authors make the biggest mistake of writing for themselves instead of their intended audience.  Before writing the book, narrowing your audience can help you focus on the content that your readers will find most interesting. Additionally, it aids in the book’s sale. 

6 tips for killer book proposals

book proposals

Your book proposal should be brief, well-researched, and exciting to stand out from the crowd. The following guidelines help ensure that your book proposal written is the best it can be.

1. Keep the publisher’s objectives in mind

If this is your first book deal, money is unlikely to be your primary consideration. Perhaps you’re simply interested in promoting your name or learning what it’s like to have your words printed on paper and displayed on bookshelves. 

Regardless of the reason, having your work published is prudent. It’s critical to remember that not all publishers place the same value on the same things. Unsurprisingly, most publishers are only concerned with the commercial viability of your book.

Avoid wasting time in your book proposal explaining how your book will help you accomplish your goals. You must persuade them that publishing your work is in their best interests. Occasionally, publishers will publish a book despite its low quality if they believe it will be commercially successful.

2. Enhance your book’s marketability

When you write a book proposal, the quality of the writing is not always as crucial as marketability or authorial appeal. Many authors struggle to accept this concept. Publishers must have a firm grasp on the marketability of the book or the channels and motivations for its discovery and purchase. Demonstrating the value of this work both on and off the ground is critical.

Is it one-of-a-kind in any way? When it comes to the thousands of dollars they will invest in a book. Publishers are more concerned with sales than anything else. After gaining insight into the inner workings of the book, the publisher should be pleading with you to allow them to publish your work.

3. Have an elevator speech prepared

Before starting to write a book proposal, ensure that you can briefly describe the subject and style of your book in no more than one or two sentences. This information will be available to the publisher for the book proposal and subsequent advertising. However, it also serves as a guide to help you stay focused on your book’s objectives while you’re writing it.

proposal tips

4. Proofread

To ensure that your book proposals are free of errors, have them read over and proofread by a knowledgeable friend several times. Allowing grammatical and spelling common mistakes in your book proposal sends many negative signals to the publisher, and they are not positive ones.

5. Establish the story’s setting

Indicate which books your completed work will resemble in your book proposal. It could be both in terms of content and style. It not only assists the publisher in determining the project’s scope but is also highly beneficial during the actual writing of the book.

While publishers value originality and creativity, copying another author’s style is unacceptable. However, using a few critical texts as style guides can assist you in developing your voice.

6. Exercise caution when comparing

Avoid comparing your proposed book and international bestsellers written by well-known authors in your book proposal. Publishers may take you less seriously if they believe you’ve exaggerated the size of your book’s potential audience.

4 common book proposals mistakes


Your book’s fate is determined by the book proposals you submit. Writing an excellent book proposal is the most effective way to secure an agent and a significant advance from a major publisher. When writers work on this marketing tool, they often make mistakes. Several of the most frequently made errors by authors when submitting book proposals are listed below.

1. Having no platform presence

The most challenging aspect of building an author platform for new authors is determining when they have amassed an adequate number of followers, posts, and email subscribers. As a result of the rise of social media, reader engagement with content has shifted dramatically. 

Publishers must understand that you, as an author, understand the complexities of author platform growth. While developing a solid book proposal requires time and effort for writers interested in working with traditional publishers, it is well worth it.

2. Not writing a hook for the overview

Without a strong hook, the book proposal overviews will fail to pique interest and engagement. Each piece of writing should contain a hook, defined as the essence of a book idea presented in an engaging, direct, and understandable manner.

It must be distinctive, approachable, and compelling enough to capture the reader’s attention. This can be a difficult task, but with consistent rewriting, editing, revision, and refinement, you will succeed.

3. Having no idea who your actual competitors are

By identifying your target audience and demonstrating how your book fits within the genre it is written, you can prove to publishers that you have a specific audience in mind for this book as part of a compelling book proposal. Conduct market research and determine your book’s market fit to include in your book proposal.

Three to five comparable titles in your proposal will demonstrate your familiarity with your market, your target audience, and the type of content you are creating, thereby strengthening your book proposal and attracting additional attention.

4. Not having a chapter-by-chapter summary

While it is unnecessary to know exactly what each chapter of your book will contain, imprecise summaries convince agents and editors to reject your actual proposal immediately, your summaries must be concise but specific enough to imply that your promises are attainable.

Bear in mind that writing a book is not the same as writing a research paper. Copyright concerns and a shortage of original ideas are two possible roadblocks if you intend to reference other works. Avoid excessive citations to the creation of other authors, particularly in the sample chapter summaries of your proposal.

Frequently asked questions

book proposal

Here are answers to some of your frequently asked questions about book proposal.

1. How long is a book proposal?

Your book proposal’s length is determined by the amount of detail you include and the amount of sample material you have. A book proposal is typically between 15 and 30 pages in length. Because a book proposal also includes chapters, the length varies considerably between projects. 

There is no reason your book proposal should not have sample material if it is less than ten pages long. You can conduct additional research and add material to your marketing section, chapters, and other areas.

2. What is a literary agent?

A literary agent acts as a liaison between authors and publishers in the literary world. After reading and selecting the best stories, a publisher will compensate the author for transforming the story into a book that can be sold in bookstores or online. As a result, the author hires an agent to assist them in marketing their work to various publishers.

People use a commission-based compensation structure to compensate the agent. They act as an intermediary between authors and publishers. Moreover, they read for enjoyment and earn money by selling their wares. Literary agents can work independently or collaboratively with other agents in a large office setting.

3. What is a query letter?

Authors use query letters to pitch magazine and book editors their article and book ideas. You must write a one-page cover letter to pique an editor’s or agent’s interest in your work.

At times, authors will submit a query letter for completed work, such as a book manuscript. Consider query letters to be an introduction to you and your work to a literary agent or editor. 

It is a letter used to persuade literary agents and editors that your project is worth their time and money. They may request to see your work if they like your question. An editor or agent may request a book proposal from a nonfiction writer. Consider sending an entire manuscript or a few chapters of your novel if you are a fiction writer.

4. Are proposal guidelines strict?

Ascertain that you adhere to the press’s guidelines for submitting a proposal. They will specify the document types they wish to receive. If they do not request chapters as part of the proposal but are interested in the book, they will contact you to request sample chapters or the complete manuscript.

If you have completed sample chapters, but the publisher does not require them as part of the proposal package, you may indicate so in the letter.


Proofread your book proposal, whether it is a work of fiction or nonfiction. For some, having a professional editor point out areas that a first-time author might overlook is a viable option. While these guidelines and recommendations have gained widespread acceptance, each agent and publisher has its own rules and expectations. 

However, when it comes to writing a book proposal, the situation is significantly different. It is simply unique, not more challenging. To maximize the marketing potential of your work, you must approach it from a new angle. A thriving writer must be a master of their craft and well-respected in the literary community. 

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