Book Proposals: What Should My Book Proposal Contain?
Maybe you've heard that a book proposal is the most professional way to present your nonfiction book idea. (It is.) Maybe you've wondered how to write a book proposal and what to include. (This Web site will tell you.) Should you write the entire book or just a proposal? If you have the entire book written, do you still need a proposal? Will agents and publishers want to see a proposal or a finished manuscript? If you do have a book proposal, what's the next step, who do you approach with the proposal? Do you send it to publishers, editors, literary agents? These are all legitimate questions. In fact, I had all these questions in mind when I was working on my first book, The Art of Kissing. Because the subject of book proposals is complex, it's only natural to have questions about it when you're starting out on the path to becoming a published author.
Some writers naturally wonder whether they might not be better off just writing the entire book and trying to sell that. After all, a proposal takes time and what you say in a proposal may be different from the finished manuscript when it's finally completed. So isn't it better to simply write the entire book? These questions are faced by nonfiction writers all the time. In fact, D.H. Lawrence faced some of the same questions during his career since he wrote both fiction and nonfiction. All these questions are answered on this Web site. (D.H. Lawrence and Frieda, Chapala, Mexico, 1923. D.H. Lawrence Collection.)
A good book proposal includes the following sections.
- The Overview of the book proposal
- Marketing your book title
- Promotion of the book
- Competing books
- About the author
- Table of contents
- Chapter-by-chapter Summaries
- Sample chapter
Use this structure to write your book proposal and you'll be considered a professional. While there are other methods and outlines you can use, a book proposal must answer the questions, "What is the book about?" "Who will buy it?" "How can the publisher promote it?" "What books compete with it?" "Who is the author?" and "What topics are covered in the book?" Only by answering these questions can you hope to persuade a publisher to buy your book. That's why you need all these different sections. Include them and you'll eventually get that call from your literary agent telling you she got an offer from an editor at a good publishing house.