Book Proposals…

Writing Wednesday

On Wednesdays I like to share bits of information that I picked up on my journey to publication and preparing to be published again. The kind of information I wish someone shared with me.

Book Proposals

I like to write from an outline and once I’m a few thousand words into my manuscript I start thinking about the proposal. Your proposal is actually a business plan for your book.

I was always more a sit down and write kind of writer until I started writing books and taking on freelance work. I found myself procrastinating and easily distracted by new and shinier things that came across my laptop screen.

If I wanted to do this book writing thing full time I needed to get organized and get writing.

I now start with an outline for whatever I may be writing. Blog posts, articles, books and ghostwriting projects all start with an outline.

Once I have a simple outline, I start working on the proposal.

I do NOT like writing proposals. That is, until they are done. Once they are done I feel like my book could write itself. Trust me you will thank me later!

If you are writing or planning to write nonfiction you will need a very, very good proposal to send to agents and or publishers. If you are writing fiction you should at least have an okay proposal, for yourself. It will help you stay focused.

The first rule of proposal writing is to take your time and get it right. The second rule is it should be written before you write the book. I know bad news but again you will thank once it’s done.

It used to be if you wrote nonfiction and an agent wanted more information after you queried them they would ask for a proposal. More and more they are asking for proposals no matter what genre you write. It’s a good idea to have one prepared before you start the query process.

I find that writing the proposal before or while I am writing the book gives me an organizational advantage. You can always add to it or change as you go along.

A few questions you may want to ask yourself before getting down to the business of writing your proposal:

  • What is my goal or goals in writing this book?
  • Who am I writing the book for? Who are my readers, my target audience?
  • What published books are similar and why will mine be different?
  • Why am I the best person to write this book?
  • What will make my book stand out from the rest?
  • What is my schedule for getting it done? How much time each day can I commit to writing?
  • What is my budget for editing, publishing and marketing?

A literary proposal contains a cover page that lists your word count, genre, title, short description of the book, your contact information and then:

The Cover Letter-

This should be a brief introduction, your contact information, genre, word count and your query.

The Table of Contents-

(List the contents of your proposal,) not the book.

The Synopsis-

The synopsis is a short, preferably a one- page description of the main theme of a book. The synopsis deals with the books central characters, their conflicts and their relationships. The synopsis does not have to go into subplots but should include a brief description of the beginning, middle and end of the story including the main plot and a brief description of main characters.

The synopsis will be part of the query letter that you submit to agents or publishers. Its purpose is to give them the whole picture from beginning to end. It needs to convey the emotions of your main characters, conflict and resolution and yes, it must include the ending.

It should be written in third person even if your book is written in first.

This is the first example of your writing that a profession in the business of publishing will see. You want to make sure it is the best you can do. It’s a good idea to have a literary editor go over it for you. That may give you the edge you need to get an offer of representation.

Your synopsis should be 500-600 words and single spaced.


Target Audience

Who will buy this book and why? Do not say think or say everyone will love and want to read this book because they won’t. Pick a specific demographic and then two sub demographics.

The Competition

What titles are there already in print similar to yours? Remember that competition in the book world is a very good thing. If there are numerous titles that only means, there is consumer interest. Agents and Publishers love competition. List these books and explain why they are similar and why they are different. Why is your book better?

Author Platform

This explains how you will be able to reach your target audience (where you are on line, your church, groups or organizations you belong to, connections etc…) this is not how many ideas you have but how many connections you have and the action steps you are willing to take to improve your presence.

Detailed Author Bio

Who you are and why you are the best person to tell this story and the best person to promote the book. Include resume information.

Marketing Plan

I will discuss marketing plans more in depth in the marketing chapter.

Only list what you know you can do not what you hope to do. Example: Do not say I will appear on the Ellen Show and she will love my book unless you know for a fact you can make that happen and can prove it. Make your plan concrete and include believable numbers. The secret to creating this plan is not how many ideas you have but how many actual connections you have, your platform and the action steps you are willing to take to improve your presence.

Chapter Outline-

List a brief description (the beginning middle and end) of each chapter.

Sample chapters

Choose two or three of your absolute best complete chapters.

Have several people including your editor go over your proposal.

Happy Writing,


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