Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Write the Book Proposal that Sells


I don’t know a single person who enjoys it, especially writers. But we all keep trying until someone recognizes that our book, our proposal is the one that should sell. I’ve even learned how to embrace it because the two times I’ve been rejected, I received priceless feedback that helped me pitch it better the next time. I now view rejection as a lesson.

If you’re looking to get a commercial or academic publisher, here are the top five things you should include in your book proposal. Remember, only non-fiction writers need one. Novel writers send entire manuscripts to get publishers’ attention.

1. An Overview:  This includes a hook sentence, a one liner that tells the gist of your book. It expands to tell the benefits and features of your book that differentiates yours from others. I find this to be the hardest page to execute, so I often write this last.

2. Market Analysis: This is a view of who your potential audience is. For example, if I am writing a book that targets journalists, my market analysis would include all the journalism groups and schools in the U.S., plus any other people I can think of who may read about journalists. I would also include a Personal Marketing Strategy that shows how I will personally market my book, but this separate page isn’t required. You can include it as part of your marketing analysis, if appropriate.

3. The Competition: This gives you a chance to research the books that are similar to yours.  I do this by utilizing Google, and even going to bookstores and looking at the books, once I have titles in hand. State what is different about yours. You do not want to criticize, however.  

4. Chapter-by-Chapter Summaries: Write a brief description of each of your chapters. This should be the easiest part for you, since it’s all your work.

5. Two Tables of Contents: One Table of Contents should go before the Overview to show all the elements of your packet. The other should reflect the Table of Contents of your Sample Chapters, which are included at the end of your book proposal. Depending on the publisher, you will need to write one to three actual chapters. Publishers want to know if you can write and what they are really getting. 

The only thing missing from this list is your author bio. Why? It’s still necessary for the book proposal, of course. You have to show expertise and credibility in your subject before a publisher will take you seriously. 

Ready to share that passion and arm yourself with a great book proposal? I do it all the time.


Jill Cox-Cordova is the owner of Write Avenue, which specializes in promoting positive outcomes for aspiring journalists and writers. Her niche for individuals is book proposals and resumes. Based in the Atlanta area, Jill serves clients nationwide. She is writing a book to help aspiring and veteran journalists.

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