Preparing a Non-Fiction Book Proposal

dreamstime_5932237Unlike fiction manuscripts (which must be completed before agents or publishers will look at them), a non-fiction manuscript does not have to be finished when you submit it to potential publishers or agents.

If you feel you are ready to take this step, the following guidelines will help you prepare your proposal:

  • Present the proposal on letter-sized, letter-quality paper. It should be double-spaced, unbound, and typed in a font such as Times New Roman or Courier New.
  • Your title page comes first. The actual title should be about a third of the way down the page.
  • Personal information, such as your name, address, telephone number, fax number (if you have one), email address, date, and the phone number of your agent (if applicable) should be at the bottom of the page with the final line as the page’s last line.
  • The next two to three pages will include your overview — a concise statement of your project. Write tight. Every word counts.
    Following this is your autobiographical information, i.e., who you are and why you are qualified to write the book. List any previous published books and/or articles. Include all your applicable experience related to this book, including public or media appearances. All relevant information will help sell your project.
  • Your marketing section comes next. This is where you promote your book and explain why it is needed in the marketplace, who will purchase it and why. Be specific. Don’t offer generalized statistics.
  • Then list what you have found in your market research. What is on the market that is similar to your topic and how much? Let the potential publisher/agent know you have done your competition research and explain how and why your book is different. If there are numerous books on the same or similar topic, point out the public’s insatiable appetite for the subject. Approach your discussion from whatever angle you feel will help sell your book.
  • Provide your ideas for promoting (marketing) your book. There are many models to choose from, so give some thought to this. See if you can present a unique idea that might appeal to the publisher.
  • What comes next is the essence of your proposal — the chapter outline. This is where you present the book’s contents. List the title for each chapter, even if it’s tentative, and clearly summarize what it is about. If you think it would be helpful, include a table of contents. The length of the outline is up to you, but it’s generally best to be succinct. Get your point across with as few words as possible and then move on to the next chapter. Remember, this is only an outline.
  • If you have written a few chapters, you may wish to include one or two with your proposal. This sometimes accentuates you and your project in the eyes of the publisher/agent. You may also include anything else that is pertinent to your project, e.g., videos, DVDs, copies of published articles, etc. Be sure they are directly related to your subject matter.

The average proposal runs from fifteen to thirty double-spaced pages with the chapters from ten to twenty double-spaced pages. Some proposals are a hundred pages, while others are only six or seven. The important thing to keep in mind is to use whatever amount it takes to explain your book project to a publisher or agent.

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