Writing a book proposal is definitely one of the most intimidating tasks that writers have to face. It’s even more of a beast for non-fiction books! You have to create a package that attracts a publisher’s attention and then actually sell them on the idea of your book.
What if I told you that it doesn’t have to be that difficult? In fact, you only need to answer three questions with your book proposal to give yourself the best chance of getting signed.
Question #1: Who Will Read My Book?
Start with your primary market. This is the ideal group who would love to read your book. For example, if your book is about real estate in Florida, then Floridians would be your primary market. If you wrote a book about Christianity, then Christians would be your primary market. Every book ever written has a primary audience so figure out what yours is.
Now move onto the secondary audience. For the real estate book mentioned above, you’d probably also want to target those looking to move to Florida. Your Christianity book might also target other similar religions. A book always has a few secondary audiences that you should tap into.
Once you have defined your primary and secondary audiences, be sure to mention them in your proposal.
Question #2: Why is My Book Special?
How do you plan to explain what makes your book special, different, or unique? It all boils down to articulating these points to the publisher. There are a couple of steps to this.
First, you need to determine what existing books can be compared to your book. You should research different books within your genre and find at least three books that are similar to yours. Don’t hesitate to mention similar books. If you can’t list books that are like yours, then publishers are probably not going to take it. They always assume that if you’re in a viable market, then someone would have already tapped into it.
Second, list all of your book’s benefits and features. This part can be quite tricky but it’s our job to ensure that we highlight the benefits that our book has that others do not. Here are some possibilities:
- Completeness: If your book more comprehensive than others in the same genre? Does it describe a specific point more thoroughly?
- Timeline: Does the place and time of your book help persuade audiences to buy it? For instance, Mayan prophecy books were a huge hit in the time leading up to 2012.
- Access: Does your book provide access to information that other books do not? Real value comes when a book can solve a problem that other books cannot.
- Skills: Is your book designed to teach a unique skill? For instance, I once read a book that showed readers how to lose weight by standing at the office rather than sitting. The entire book was based on the niche of weight-loss by teaching a skill no one else was teaching.
- Knowledge: Are you sharing unique knowledge? The Baby Einstein course sold like hotcakes because parents want their kids to be smart! What type of knowledge does your book share?
Question #3: Who the Hell am I to Write this Book?
We must present ourselves as the best candidate to be writing our book. No one can explain this stuff better than us! In truth, there are probably others out there who have more experience in the niche than you do. Who cares? You’re the one putting forth the effort to write a book about it so that makes you the best! At least, that’s what you have to convince a publisher. Here are some topics that you need to discuss in your book proposal.
Your Background in Writing
Do you have previous experience in writing? Has anyone else in your family published a successful book? If the answer to either of those questions is “yes,” then be sure to include it in your book proposal. When you’ve already published a book, it says a lot of positive things about you.
- You can start and complete a book.
- You understand the entire process.
- You understand what a publisher requires.
- You take writing seriously.
- You’re trying to build a career as a writer.
However, if this is your first book then you’ll have to work just a bit harder to convince a publisher to trust you. In fact, I might recommend self-publishing a couple of shorter books before submitting your larger one.
Tell Thenm About Your Education
There’s no need to provide a laundry list of schools you have attended. You should include education that’s either related to writing or related to the niche of your book. The only exception would be if you attended a well-established university like Harvard. If you did not attend college, then you might want to leave this out. I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing. On the contrary; Bill Gates nor Henry Ford attended college and they were hugely successful. But it’s just too easy for a publisher to toss your proposal in the trash when they have a glaring proposal that says you didn’t attend college.
I recommend you beef up your resume by attending a few local classes or a few online classes related to writing. These are quite helpful!
Background Relevant to Your Book
Finally, you are going to need to describe your background in regards to your book. This is an absolute must! Don’t overload your proposal with junk that doesn’t relate to your book either. That doesn’t mean that you can’t include something a bit off-topic, just make sure that it’s something amazing. I see so many author bios that are filled with useless information. Don’t do that. Publishers will toss your proposal in the trash if you bore them.
For example, if you wrote a book that deals with weight loss, then the fact that you used to be overweight is a solid choice for background information. If you were abused as a child, then that might also be something unique to add. Just don’t add hobbies that have nothing to do with weight loss.
Putting it All Together
Now that you have compiled all of the useful information, you need to put it all together in a solid proposal. Here’s a quick reference of the layout for a book proposal.
Intro: Start by addressing the reader directly by name. Take the time to research the recipient. Never start a proposal with “ To Whom It May Concern.”
Paragraph 1: Start by introducing yourself and relevant background information. This should be kept down to two or three sentences.
Paragraph 2: Describe your book. What makes it special? Why would readers buy it? This should be no longer than four sentences.
Paragraph 3: Describe what type of reader your book targets.
Paragraph 4: End your proposal with a call to action. Tell the reader exactly what you would like them to do next, which is that you want to send them your manuscript.
Outro: Thanks the reader. Sign your name.