You did it. You crafted the perfect query letter for your non-fiction a course in miracles and as a result, an editor at a large publishing house has requested a full book proposal. At this point, you have a 50/50 chance of seeing your work on a bookstore shelf. The difference maker will be a strong book proposal that exhibits knowledge of your audience, what that audience needs and wants, and how that audience can be reached on a cost-effective basis.
When an editor makes a request to see your book proposal, he/she will most likely send along a brief overview of the publisher’s book proposal guidelines. You might want to make some subtle adjustments to your proposal in order to meet those guidelines. But under no circumstances should you wait for a book proposal to be requested before actually writing one. A well-written, professional book proposal takes several days, oftentimes several weeks, to compose. It should be the first thing you write – before both the query letter and the manuscript itself. Despite the guidelines, each proposal is unique, and the quality of yours will be THE difference maker in determining whether or not the publisher takes a financial risk with your book. So put your best effort into crafting a blockbuster book proposal. Below, you’ll find a list of the basic elements of a book proposal that, if mastered, will all but guarantee the offer of a book contract.
Element #1: The Title Page/Table of Contents: The first page of a book proposal is the title page. The title page states the working title for the book you are proposing along with your contact information (and that of your agent if you have one). Make sure to center the text. Generally, it isn’t wise to use fancy borders or cutesy graphics. You’re writing a business proposal. Make sure it looks like one. On the second page of your proposal, provide a short table of contents for the book proposal itself. List each of the following sections along with their corresponding page numbers: Summary, About The Author, Audience, Competition, Publicity & Promotional Opportunities, Outline, and Sample Chapters. Some will say the Outline and Sample Chapter sections are optional, but remember, you’re trying to sell a book. Providing the publisher with a sample of your writing, especially if you’re a first-time author, might well mean the difference between acceptance and rejection.
Element #2: Summary: In the Summary section of your proposal, provide a brief overview of the proposed book. Try to envision the blurb that will appear on the back cover of your final product. Make that blurb the opening paragraph. Show the editor you can hook him/her on your proposal from the very first sentence, and you’ll convince them of your ability to hook a potential reader as well. Elaborate on the contents of your query letter by addressing the following subjects: the content, the audience, and the author. What is the premise of your book? What does it promise its reader? Who is the market for the book? How large is that market? And, finally, why are you the best person to write this book at this time.