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.

Promote Your Non-Fiction Book

There are two things every author must know about promoting your nonfiction book. First, it is your responsibility, no matter what publishing method you use – conventional, print on demand (POD), or do-it-yourself. Second, promotion should begin long before your book is finished. In fact, you should be thinking about it from the very beginning of the planning process.

One of the first questions you probably asked yourself was who are my readers? Once you have identified them, your next step is to find ways to tell them what the book is about; what problem it will solve; why it is funny, informative, or moving; who wrote it and why; and, most important, why they want to spend money to own it.

What follows are seven proven ways to reach your readers with this information:

1.  Create a website.

You must have a presence on the Internet. A Website showcases your book, highlights the cover, introduces you as an expert author, delineates the main points, tells where the book may be purchased, and provides a place for testimonials. A Website doesn’t have to be expensive or elaborate, but it should be professionally designed and constructed. Unless you are a Web guru, invest in a professional Website designer.

2. Brainstorm ideas.

Gather a group of your most creative friends to generate as many ideas as you can (It’s a good idea to feed them). Break your reading audience into subgroups, and list all the places to find them. Where do they hang out? What organizations do they belong to? Where do they shop? What are their passions, hobbies, and vocations? The spreadsheet you create is the beginning of your promotional plan.

3. Send advance readers’ copies (ARCs).

When the book is finished but not yet published, send bound copies of galley proofs to book reviewers at print and electronic media. Be sure to stamp them “Reader’s Copy” or “Galley Proof.” You want to time the reviews to coincide with the publication and availability of your book. Reviewers want to read it before it hits the shelves. Timing is everything.

4. Submit articles.

Your book is a goldmine of article ideas. Every major point is an article ready to be excerpted or paraphrased. Once you know what your target audience is reading, you have a list of potential publications, print and electronic. Write a 25- and 50-word author’s blurb to be printed at the end of every article. When you submit to an online article Website, indicate that the article may be reprinted at no charge, as long as it includes the author’s blurb.

5. Take part in book fairs.

Share a table or booth with other writers or with members of an association of which you are a member, if it is relevant to your topic. Book fairs can mean long hours on your feet if you go it alone; but, when you share the workload, the experience can be fun and rewarding. You’ll meet new people, reach readers directly, and become personally involved in selling your book.

6. Share what you know.

Offer to give free presentations at bookstores and other venues that carry your book. This is a great way to build your reputation as an expert in your field, provide value to the bookseller and the book buyer, and connect directly with your readers. It’s good for your ego to be asked to sign your own book. One caveat: if you don’t feel comfortable speaking in front of a group, join Toastmasters or hire a speaking coach. Don’t muddle through your presentation.

7. Assemble a sales package.

Put together a press kit to send to local radio and TV stations. Include a news release with pertinent information about the book and future scheduled appearances, an author’s bio, talking points to use in an on-air interview, a sample book cover, background information, and favorable reviews and testimonials. A press kit is like a resume; it gets you in the door. Once you get there, the rest is up to you.

Promoting your book is an ongoing project. It isn’t something you do once and then move on. As long as your book is available and there are potential readers who could enjoy it and benefit from reading it, you have a job to do. This is, after all, why you wrote it.

About the Author
Bobbi Linkemer is a ghostwriter, editor, and the author of 12 books under her own name. She has been a professional writer for 40 years, a magazine editor and journalist, and a book-writing teacher. Her clients range from Fortune 100 companies to entrepreneurs who want to write books to enhance their credibility. Visit her at

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