Don't Sell the Book → Sell the Proposal
This page will direct you to some examples of book proposal sections so that you can put together a winning book proposal. As mentioned in my discussion on how to get published, if you're interested in writing a book-length work of nonfiction, you don't need to write the entire manuscript before you make the sale; indeed, most professional writers, and most beginners as well, use a book proposal to close the deal. Writing a book proposal is often the most fun part of writing a book because at this stage everything is open to change and you can use your full creativity to structure and organize the book however you wish. There are, however, certain things a book proposal must contain if it is to do its job for you — and that job is to sell your idea first to a literary agent and then to an acquiring editor. The basic parts of a book proposal include the following sections:
- Competing Books
- About the Author
- List of Chapters
- Chapter-by-Chapter Summaries
- Sample Chapters
Your overview starts the book proposal by introducing us to your subject in a catchy way, making us want to read more. The marketing section explains who you believe will want to buy your book. The promotion section summarizes how you can help a publisher promote the title. The competing books section lists other books on your subject and briefly explains why yours will be better, newer, or highly salable despite comparable books on the market. The about the author section explains, in more detail than your query letter, why you are the best person in the world to write this book. The list of chapters is a table of contents for your book, and it's followed by the chapter-by-chapter summaries in which you summarize each chapter so that an editor can get a better feel for how your book will cover the material. Finally the sample chapters demonstrate your ability to write, and they give an editor a sample of your stye.
Once you complete your book proposal you'll be smiling just like Flannery O'Connor in this photo. Now you're poised to sell that proposal for an advance which can range anywhere from around $10,000 to . . . well, the sky's the limit these days — depending on how good your idea is, a six-figure advance for a first book isn't out of the question.