Non-Fiction Book Proposal
It’s extremely rare to sell a novel for publication unless it has first been written. The same is not necessarily true for non-fiction. Often, publishers buy non-fiction on the basis of a good book proposal and may even pay an advance to the writer to write the book based on the proposal. So how does one write a non-fiction book proposal? Well, it’s not as hard as you might think – provided you’ve got a good idea and what it takes to actually follow through on writing the book.
Start with a title page, which should include the title (how clever), your name, and contact information. Follow that with a one- to three-page overview of the project. The overview should explain the thesis of the book and how you will prove your thesis. Follow that with a biographical section, explaining who you are and what your credentials are for writing the book. Include past writing, past publishing experience, honors and awards – this is where you sell yourself as the writer. Be truthful about yourself, but this is not the place for modesty.
Now that you’ve marketed yourself, the next section deals with marketing the book. Include a marketing analysis for your work. What is the target audience and why will people buy this book? Convince the publisher, who is in the business to turn a profit, that he can make money with your book. If you can convince him, the deal is as good as done.
Follow the market analysis with a “competition” section. Here, you’ll list other works that are comparable to yours, at least in tone or subject matter. Publishers say they want something new and different, but they also want the security blanket of knowing that your “new and different” book will sell – and they get this by seeing how other similar projects have succeeded. But then you must take the next step and show how your book is different, better, or bigger than the competition. This can be tricky, I know, but you’re a writer. Use your creativity. After all, if it’s not different, better, or bigger, why are you writing it in the first place?
Next comes a chapter-by-chapter outline of the book. This is the real heart of the proposal. Let the publisher know exactly what you’re going to include in concise, succinct summaries of each chapter. Even if you haven’t written the book yet, you do have to know what you’re going to write. Essentially, this becomes your working outline for actually writing the book.
Finally, you should attach sample chapters. Although sample chapters are optional for some publishers, we believe they should be included. After all, this is your best writing sample in the whole proposal. Let the publisher know you can actually write the book – not just talk about it.