Writing a Book? 9 Solid Steps for Writing the Perfect Book Proposal

[dc]W[/dc]ondering how to write the perfect book proposal to catch a publisher’s eye? How do you make your book proposal stand out among the pile? How do you jump into the world of publishing? How do you get that first book published?

So, you’re almost finished with that new novel, collection of poetry, inspirational non-fiction book, or personal memoir, but you’re wondering, “Great, but how do I write that dang book proposal?!”

If there’s one set of questions I’ve been asked by aspiring authors, it’s always around this challenge: “How do I write a book proposal? How do I sell my book to a publisher? Where do I start?” I have few ideas that just might help…

Though book proposal requirements vary from publisher to publisher, there are key elements of every book proposal. Do these well and you’re on your way to writing the perfect (or at least, close to perfect) book proposal.

1. Cover Letter: A well-written, one-page cover letter with a strong hook explaining what your book is all about. No typos! Read every word of your proposal out loud. I’ve caught many egregious errors this way.

2. Synopsis: A half-to-one-page synopsis is designed to give the publisher a clear overview of the book. Your reader should be able to say, “I get it!”

3. Annotated Chapter Outline: Whether you have 6 or 20 chapters, your chapter titles should be unique, captivating and compelling. Provide a brief description of each chapter. If you pulled this book off the shelf in a bookstore, would you buy it?

4. Marketing Information
: VERY IMPORTANT! What sets your book apart? What makes it unique? Who is your audience? Why will this appeal to your audience? Are there similar books on the market? What platform do you have for selling a lot of your books? Aside from a unique hook for your book, marketing information is the most important piece in a book proposal. Do the heavy lifting by doing research and developing a strong marketing plan.

5. Autobiographical Information
: Here, you get to shine! Tell the publisher about yourself, your career, your speaking, your blog with 100,000 followers…anything to make them want to publisher your book! (Truthful, of course!) What are your credentials? Other published works in magazines or journals? What makes YOU uniquely qualified? List’em all here!

6. 2-3 Sample Chapters: Deliver your finest work here. You get one shot and your future publisher’s pile is high! Make sure your sample chapters have a professional edit (lot’s of editors here on the Internet). Get feedback from other writers. (For first-time novelists, publishers usually want to see the whole book…sorry!)

7. Buy a Nice Folder
: Don’t judge a book by the cover, but your goal is to get your book published, right? Presentation is everything!

8. Send Overnight Delivery: Who doesn’t like opening something sent overnight? A FEDEX creates a sense of urgency for the publisher to open your proposal first.

9. Be Creative: If you’re writing about body parts, why not include a few? Seriously, if you’re writing a book about party planning, throw in confetti! If you’re  writing a novel with a key flower theme, send flowers! Auto mechanics…offer to fix their car? Be creative and the publisher will be sure to remember you!

Last, buy Writer’s Market. As a young writer, I found Writer’s Market an indispensable tool for learning about the publishing industry. Writer’s Market provides you with everything you need to know about a publisher’s submission requirements by listing just about every publisher in America. Writer’s Market is filled with sample proposals, great ideas and practical tools for getting published. Two thumbs up.

Now it’s time to finish that book. For more tools, you can also read my recent posts 5 Specific Ways to Being a Better Writer Today and My Top 5 Books on Writing: Improve Your Writing Now.

We’ve covered a lot of ground here…I see more book proposal posts on the way for on this important subject. For now, what are your comments and questions?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive, snarky or off-topic.

  • Chiara Hawley

    Thanks for the post, Joey. This is really practical and helpful to anyone who wants to write a book someday! When the boys are a little older, I might just try it! : )

  • http://www.joeyo.org Joey O’Connor

    Thanks Chiara…I’m sure you have lots of stories about raising boys…war stories! Start keeping a journal of your favorite stories…you’d be amazed at how they add up! Blessings to you and thanks for posting!

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