What your book proposal should contain
Start with the working title of the project along with your name, email, and phone number.
2) A brief synopsis of the book
Some people suggest a one-sentence synopsis; I have always used a
one-to five-paragraph description of the project. This should
essentially be your elevator pitch, so be sure to describe your book in a
succinct and compelling way.
3) Longer synopsis of the book, if you feel it is necessary
This is a longer narrative description of the project. It should clearly answer the following questions:
- What is the project?
- Why are you the right person to write this book?
- Do you have any special connections or access that is worth
mentioning—for example, if this is a book about a museum, do you have a
contact there? Have they agreed to work with you?
- And, again, stress why this project is commercially viable. What is the audience for this book, and how can you reach them?
4) Chapter breakdown
Create a list of chapters with a few sentences describing what you
will cover in each. If this will be an art book, you might also include a
few images here; If you have an idea for a well-known person who might
be a good fit for writing a foreword, include that, too. It helps sales
to have a famous name attached to any book. And, you need not know the
person—it can just be an idea for an appropriate person.
Note: Don’t worry about getting it all perfect at this stage.
5) Sample chapter (if actual chapters are not yet available)
For non-fiction, include the text you would use as your introduction
along with one or two sample chapters. If your project is fiction,
instead of sample chapters, you should submit the first 40 to 50 pages
of your manuscript, or, if applicable, the entire manuscript. In either
case, the quality of the writing is important, but much more so in
fiction. Also in the case of fiction, be sure to craft your early pages
well to grab the reader and make them want more.
6) Book details
Here is a place to describe the details of the project. You might
include approximately how many words you imagine the final book will be.
If you are in including images, you might include a list of how many
images you envision, whether the book will be color or black and white,
and whether the images will be free to use or require a budget (for
acquiring the rights to use them). If an art book, include some of the
strongest images up front in the proposal, and perhaps a few pages of
small images at the end of the document; you might also want to pepper a
few images throughout the proposal to illustrate the text.
7) About the author/biography
This should explain who you are, and make an argument for why you are
the right person to do this project. Again, demonstrate that you can
reach a buying audience with this book idea. This section should list
any relevant articles or books you’ve already published, preferably with
view counts and/or sales figures; a list of the magazines and other
press outlets that have reported on your work; lectures you have
given—basically anything that supports your argument that this book
should exist and you are the right person to write it.
Remember, our editors do not know you, and you want to make sure they
can see that you are capable of doing this project and of effectively
getting it out into the world. For this reason, you’ll need to be a bit
braggy. If you find it difficult to write such self-aggrandizing text; a
workable solution may be to show a first draft to a friend who knows
you and your work well, and ask them for suggestions of how to make it
We would also be interested to know if you’ll be willing and able to
do public speaking or television appearances to promote your book. This
will inevitably come up later in our dialogue, so make sure to mention
your experience here if applicable.
We would want to know that our authors are able to reach an audience
who will buy the book. This section should demonstrate your reach. List
here your stats for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, a website or blog if
you have one, etc. Also include the number of people on your mailing
list, if applicable, and detail any other way you have of engaging with
9) Market profile
Begin with a narrative: What is the market for this book? Establish
that this book does not already exist, but similar books do. Now make a
list of similar books and note the date of publication. For each book,
write a brief synopsis, and what makes it similar or different from
yours. The goal here is to demonstrate that your book is filling a gap
in a viable market.
10) Format (if an art book)
Describe how you imagine the book will look. What size is it? What is
the design like? Do you see the book as full color or black and white?
If you have design skills, you might also include a few sample spreads
(a spread is two pages of a book side by side) showing how you imagine
the general layout will look. If a photo book, be sure to include images
as well, and detail if you have permission to use them, what kind of
camera you used, and what resolution/quality the images are.
11) Selling venues outside of traditional bookstores
Do you know of specialty shops that would be likely to stock this
book? Eg. Museum shops, or other specialty shops of various sorts? If
so, list them here.
12) People who might provide a blurb
Do you have any ideas for well-known, influential, or famous people
who might provide a blurb? If so, include a list of your ideas.
13) Preliminary schedule
If your manuscript isn't yet ready, how long after signing the
contract would you need to deliver the final manuscript and, if
applicable, all of the images?