Why You Should Write a Book Proposal


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Whether you are going to self-publish your book or work with an agent or traditional publisher, writing a book proposal will help you organize your thoughts and ideas.

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  • In truth, you don't have to have a book proposal - you don't even have to submit your manuscript anywhere. You can always hide it under your bed and let it collect dust, or you can self-publish. Even if you are going to self-publish, though, there are some great reasons to write a proposal ... and it can help a lot to write your proposal before you ever start your novel.
  • Planning is the first and most important step you should take, and is often difficult because it forces you to ask yourself the tough questions such as what is your book about? If you were to submit your book to a publisher, this is the first question you would be asked. This is where the book proposal comes into play. I know you are thinking that you don’t need to do a proposal if you intend to self-publish, but I hope I can help you understand the importance of a proposal no matter how you intend to get your finished book in the hands of readers. Writing a proposal helps you organize your thoughts and helps you plan every aspect of your book. The proposal is much more than an exercise because nearly every word of it will be used in your book. Don’t think of it as a waste of time! The proposal will help you organize your thoughts and ideas for the entire project.
  • If you attended our seminar last year on getting your piece of the publishing pie, you heard one of the speakers who talked about the financial aspects of owning a publishing company say that you need to take off your author’s hat and put on your publisher’s hat. As the publisher, you need to be objective on whether or not this book will sell.
  • The audience for your book proposal is, first and foremost, a literary agent. Your second audience is an acquiring editor at a good publishing house. And your third audience is the sales and marketing force at that publisher.
  • Format: double-spaced, one-sided, numbered pages, unstapled on 8 ½” x 11” paper.
  • Tells the editor or publisher, in brief, what your book is about.This should read similar to back cover copy. It should be exciting, informative, and make someone want to read your book. Three to four paragraphs. Your overview is really an advertisement for your book.
  • Don’t forget to include any appendices or other supplementary material you intend to include (charts, sample forms, etc.)
  • About a half page per author, written in 3rd person. Make a good case for YOU as the best possible author for this topic. Include any speaking or media experience, and any articles written about you. This is the place to blow your own horn.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of exactly who will buy your book and why. Timeliness of the topic should be addressed.
  • Not only does the publisher want to know whether or not there is a market for this book, and how big it is, they want to know how you can bring this book to the market. This is where you talk about your platform, which we have discussed at many of our monthly meetings. Do you have a website? What social media sites are you active on? Do you blog? Include any associations you belong to that may be interested in your book. Include a list of key contacts you know that might be willing to help with sales and promotion.
  • For fiction you can compare your book to similar books in the market. List 3-6 of the most recent books published.
  • Include the Table of Contents for the book.
  • This is where it becomes crucial that your book is well organized and completely thought through.Fiction authors need to explain the story, start to finish.
  • Choose the chapters that are your strongest and most intriguing. Make sure that they are polished and perfect!
  • Proposals that are riddled with typos and grammatical errors will not be accepted by an agent. Remember: If you don’t respect your work enough to carefully edit it, others won’t respect it either.The most successful book proposals read like the book, not as a boring outline of what the book could be.
  • Why You Should Write a Book Proposal

    1. 1. St. Louis Publishers Association<br />January 12, 2011<br />Book Proposals<br />
    2. 2. “Just as you wouldn’t set out on a road trip without a road map, you don’t start a book without a plan.”<br /><ul><li>Bobbi Linkemer</li></ul>How to Write a Nonfiction Book From Concept to Completion in 6 Months<br />
    3. 3. But I am going to self-publish, so I don’t need a book proposal, right?<br />
    4. 4. Not Necessarily!<br />
    5. 5. Well, I write fiction so I don’t need a book proposal, right?<br />
    6. 6. Not Necessarily!<br />
    7. 7. So what is a book proposal?<br />
    8. 8. It is a marketing tool used to present your book to a literary agent or publisher. <br />
    9. 9. It communicates the overall book concept, identifies the market value, and demonstrates your ability to write and market the book. <br />
    10. 10. And if you are self-publishing?<br />The proposal will help you organize your thoughts and ideas for the entire project.<br />
    11. 11. With a fiction book proposal your sample chapters must truly shine to capture an agent or publisher’s attention. However it will look similar to a nonfiction proposal.<br />
    12. 12. Realize that the audience for your book proposal is vastly different from the audience for your book. <br />Know Your Audience<br />
    13. 13. The audience for your book proposal is not your readers. <br />It is a literary agent or a <br />publishing house.<br />
    14. 14. Most book proposals will contain:<br /><ul><li>Title page
    15. 15. Brief overview
    16. 16. Table of Contents
    17. 17. About the author section
    18. 18. Discussion of the market
    19. 19. Author marketing plan
    20. 20. Competition
    21. 21. Details of the book
    22. 22. Chapter outline
    23. 23. Sample chapters</li></li></ul><li>Contains the following:<br /><ul><li>Title
    24. 24. Author’s name
    25. 25. Contact information</li></ul>Title Page<br />
    26. 26. This tells a publisher in a succinct form what the book is about and defines the market for the book.<br />Brief Overview<br />
    27. 27. Include a Table of Contents for the proposal itself.<br />Table of Contents<br />
    28. 28. <ul><li>Why are you qualified to write this book?
    29. 29. What other books or articles do you have published? List sales figures if available.
    30. 30. For fiction, list any degrees or certificates in creative writing.</li></ul>About the Author<br />
    31. 31. <ul><li>Who is the market for this book?
    32. 32. Why would they buy your book?
    33. 33. How is this audience reached?
    34. 34. What magazines and books do they read?
    35. 35. What radio, t.v. shows and websites do they tune into?</li></ul>Discussion of the Market<br />
    36. 36. <ul><li>How are you able to reach your potential audience?
    37. 37. What steps have you already taken?
    38. 38. What contacts do you have?
    39. 39. What plans have you already made?</li></ul>Marketing Plan<br />
    40. 40. <ul><li>Give a general discussion of the marketplace on your topic.
    41. 41. List other books in print on your subject, or novels similar to yours.
    42. 42. Write a couple sentences on what each book is about.
    43. 43. Tell how your book is different.</li></ul>The Competition<br />
    44. 44. <ul><li>How many words will your book be?
    45. 45. How long will it take you to complete the book? (Fiction books should be complete.)
    46. 46. For fiction, have you included book club discussion questions?</li></ul>Book Details<br />
    47. 47. <ul><li>For nonfiction, you will need chapter titles and a small paragraph capturing each chapter’s theme.
    48. 48. Fiction proposals should include a longer synopsis.</li></ul>Chapter Outline<br />
    49. 49. <ul><li>For nonfiction, this is usually the Introduction, plus one or two chapters.
    50. 50. Fiction authors should include the 1st 40-50 pages of the book.</li></ul>Sample Chapters<br />
    51. 51. You’ve completed the book proposal. Now what?<br />
    52. 52. If you are self-publishing, it’s time to write your book!<br />Next Step<br />
    53. 53. If you are going the traditional route, it is time to research the proper agent for your book, and craft a succinct and compelling query letter.<br />
    54. 54. But before you send the book proposal off to an agent…<br />
    55. 55. Edit!<br />
    56. 56. Proposals containing typos <br />and grammatical errors are <br />not likely to be accepted <br />by an agent. <br />
    57. 57. If you don’t respect your work enough to carefully edit it, others won’t respect it either.<br />
    58. 58. The proposal is much more than an exercise because nearly every word of it will be used in your book. Don’t think of it as a waste of time! <br />