10 Tips For a Nonfiction Book Proposal That Lands a Contract

10 Tips For a Nonfiction Book Proposal That Lands a Contract


1. Choose a title that identifies your subject and its sales potential in 30 characters or less so it can fit into industry wide databases. A book’s title is its primary sales tool. Everyone who hears your title should learn precisely what your book is about. With 4 million titles on amazon.com, make your title tell.

2. State how your subject relates to your targeted audience. Who or what are the book’s principal players or concepts and what resonance do they hold for your market?

3. Answer, So what for $27.95? In 3 bulleted sentences list the take-home value of your book for the reader-buyer.

4. Identify a gap in the literature on your subject and state what makes you the best author to write this book. In 2 paragraphs state what each chapter covers and show how the book’s structure is designed to unfold your core argument.

5. Who exactly needs to buy your book and why? How many people is that (e.g., “350,000 members of the national organization for unsighted mountain climbers, Group Name and URL”)? What does the consumer expect to get out of the book? How does your book deliver this?

6. State specifically what makes your book better, more salable, more original than each of the leading 4 competing in-print titles (listed with full bibliographic information).

7. Include an annotated table of contents listing all elements to be included (illustrations, glossary, index). Use chapter titles that clearly identify chapter contents. In 20 words maximum for each, reveal how Chapter 1 leads into your big-picture subject and how each subsequent chapter builds on preceding ones and ties into those that follow.

8. What do you bring to the book’s marketing table? Describe your author’s platform to convey specifically how your authorship adds value to the publisher’s book-marketing efforts. Cite URLs for any website centered on you, on your subject, on your target market and quantify monthly visitors.

9. Shape a gripping 20- to 30-page essay that will close your book’s sale to an agent or a publisher. Artfully compile from your entire manuscript or working material a so-called sample chapter that showcases your writing style and features the range of what your book has to offer. It is not so much what you write as how you write it that keeps a reader turning pages.

10. Learn the publishing industry’s standard book-proposal format and submit a professional-looking document–or pay an expert to do this. If you, the author, are unwilling to invest your time and resources to create a bulletproof book proposal, why would an agent or a publisher invest in your book?



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