Guide for Writing a Non-Fiction Book Proposal


book proposalBefore you begin writing, it’s a good idea to take a look at a few different examples of successful proposals, such as those published in Jeff Herman’s book “Write the Perfect Book Proposal.” The better a writer understands how to create a proposal, the more likely that writer is to succeed at getting a book published.

Here, then, are guidelines for writing a non-fiction book proposal, section by section.

The Non-Fiction Book Proposal

  • Title Page: This page contains the work title, as well as the author’s name, phone number and email address.
  • Short Summary: This catchy hook summarizes what the work is about in one sentence.
  • Overview: This plot summary should capture the reader’s attention and inspire interest in the work in three to four paragraphs. It explains to publishers what the work is about and who is meant to read it.
  • Felt Need: Here a writer explains what needs their book fulfills for its audience. These are needs that the audience members will be aware of as they begin reading – for example, the felt need could be answers to specific questions they are asking. What does the book propose to do for its readership?
  • About the Author(s): A half-page description of each author should help a publisher understand why a writer is qualified to complete this book. A writer should list any other published works along with sales figures or readership numbers. Much like a cover letter sent by job applicants, this portion of the proposal makes the best possible case for a writer’s qualifications. Writers can place a small photo of themselves beside the description.


  • Readership: What demographic will be inspired to read this book? Why would someone want to read this book at all? How does the book reach out to its potential readers? Describe the kind of books, periodicals, radio and television programs that the target demographic is interested in. Show a publisher that you know your audience and understand why they will purchase your book.
  • The Author’s Marketing Platform: Describe the marketing platform you’ve already established, not the one you plan to create after publication. That is, talk about contacts you’ve made or plans you have to spread the word about your fantastic book. Demonstrate that you’ve established a list of speaking engagements concerning your material or have appeared on syndicated programs in the past. If you’ve contributed to highly-trafficked blogs, include their names and readership statistics in this section. If you have one, tout your huge social media following.
  • Competitors: It’s unlikely that a book won’t already have competition waiting for it on bookstore shelves. This section lets a publisher know what else is out there, and how the proposed book competes with similar works. Gloss over the general state of similar books in the current marketplace, then list the title, author and publication date of four to eight books that would represent the main competition. These books should have been published in the last five years. Summarize each book and explain why yours complements it or simply outshines it.
  • Book Details: This section explains how many words the book contains. If you haven’t finished the book, explain how long it would take you to complete it upon contract signing.
  • Outline, by Chapter: Show that your book is already well-organized with an outline of chapter titles, along with a line or two explaining what each one is about.
  • Sample Chapters: This part of the proposal is especially important for unpublished writers. Show your stuff by polishing the book’s introduction and first two or three chapters for interested publishers.

If you need more help, you should check out what is considered to be “THE resource for getting your work published”: Michael Larsen’s book titled “How to Write a Book Proposal”.

Filed in: Getting Published

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