7 Steps to Writing a Great Book Proposal
So you wrote a book — now what?
Writing a manuscript is a huge accomplishment, of which you should be proud. However, now that your manuscript is finished, your next hurdle is to get it published. The good news is that a publishing company can help with that. But to do so through a publishing company, you will need to prepare a book proposal.
Getting the attention of a publishing company can be daunting, but it’s certainly not impossible. With a great book proposal in hand, you’ll have the best chance of getting your book published.
This article will walk you through seven steps to writing an effective book proposal and getting it seen by the right people.
What Is a Book Proposal?
A book proposal is a pitch you send to publishing companies to convince them that your book would be a profitable investment for them.
Consider it your book’s resume. Just like a resume, it should include information about the book, its intended audience, and your background as an author. The book proposal should also include details about how you plan to market and promote your book.
Most book proposals are 20 to 50 pages, not including the sample chapters. Therefore, finding the perfect balance between providing enough detail to interest publishers and not overwhelming them with too much information is essential.
How Do You Propose a Book to a Publisher?
Every publishing company has a policy for submitting a book proposal. Larger publishing companies usually work only with literary agents. Many well-known literary agencies will also require a book proposal. On the other hand, some smaller agencies will accept them from the author. Some companies and agents are specific about what needs to be in the book proposal.
It is, therefore, essential that you do your research and learn the policies of any company you are submitting a book proposal to.
Here are some tips for how to write a good book proposal.
1. Write an overview
The overview should be a brief summary of your book. The key word is “brief,” because you want to quickly hook the publisher’s interest. Think of it as a 20-second sales pitch or the introduction to a resume.
Your objective here is to explain why your book is unique and why it will appeal to a wide audience. Therefore, your book’s overview section should generally include the book’s topic, a summary of the book’s plot or argument, and information about who you are as an author.
You can open with a brief story that explains why you chose to write the book. This can be an anecdote from your own experience, or one illustrating the book’s theme. Alternatively, you can open with an interesting fact or anecdote that’s relevant to the book’s subject.
Keep in mind that publishing companies are most interested in how and why your book would be profitable. They won’t want to spend a lot of time reading a book overview. However, you will have the opportunity to go into more detail later in the proposal.
To write an effective book review, use the following questions as a guide:
- What is the book about?
- What inspired you to write the book?
- How were you feeling when you wrote it?
- What is the book’s message?
- Why should someone read your book?
2. Define your target audience
Your book is not for everyone, and to make that claim would result in your book proposal being thrown out. Publishers want to know who would potentially buy your book. As a new author, part of your due diligence is identifying and defining your target audience.
There are several ways to define your book’s target audience, so let’s look at them in detail:
- Demographics: The first step to defining your book’s audience is to identify demographic information such as age, gender, occupation, education, location, and more.
- Interests: After you know the basics, you must then identify your target readers’ interests. What types of books do they read? What movies or TV shows do they watch?
- Psychographics: You must also consider the psychographics, or their attitudes and behaviors. What sets them apart from other book readers? Are they book collectors or book readers? Are they bookworms or book buyers?
- Potential audience size: Lastly, it’s important to estimate the size of your book’s potential audience. This can be difficult to do with accuracy, but it is helpful for a publisher to know the expected readership size.
3. Share your author information
Other than the book itself, the author is often the most important factor in a book’s success. Therefore, you must do your best to sell yourself in the book proposal. Think of this as a resume or CV for book publishers.
Publishers want to know who you are and what your qualifications are. Therefore, your bio should be factual and contain information that’s relevant to the content of your book.
This section of the book proposal should include your bio, your experience in writing and/or publishing, your awards, your credentials, your book-related appearances, your book reviews, and any other book-marketing efforts you have taken on.
Some questions that can help you write your author bio are:
- What is your book writing experience?
- Have you written and/or published any other books?
- What have you written before in the same genre?
- What are your unique selling points?
- Have book reviewers mentioned anything special about your books?
- Have you received book-related awards or press coverage?
- What qualifies you as an expert in this book’s subject matter? Do you have any experience teaching or speaking in the book’s subject area?
- Do you have a platform or following?
- Have you appeared in book-related events?
Although it is important to showcase your author information, be sure not to boast too much or use colorful vernacular. Publishers are looking for professionals. Therefore, think of this book proposal as a business document and use professional language throughout.
4. Plan your marketing
This area is where you want to start adding depth to your proposal. Use the information you obtained from your target audience research to develop a marketing strategy.
This book proposal section should include the marketing efforts you plan to use to promote your book. Think about what channels you can use to reach your book’s target audience. In general, a good marketing plan for a book should include the following elements:
- Digital advertising
- Social media strategy
- Email campaigns
- Book tours
- Press releases
- Book signings and workshops
You should also research the market to identify potential bookstores and book festivals that may be interested in hosting events. This type of information is important to include in your book proposal because it shows the publisher that you have a plan in place to reach book buyers.
Remember to include the following in your marketing plan:
- Your goals and objectives: What do you hope to achieve with your book? How many copies do you want to sell?
- Your timeline: How long will marketing your book take?
- Your estimated costs: It will also help your case if you give a rough estimate of how much the marketing plan will cost. For instance, you should include approximate costs for book tours, book signings, book festivals, and other book-related events.
5. Define the competition
It’s essential that you understand the market and your competition. With so many book topics available, it’s likely that someone has already written a book on your book’s subject.
You must be aware of similar books and be ready to explain why your book will offer something different or better. To do this, you should research the market and identify books that will compete directly with yours.
Find around six books with comparable content, and compare your book to them. Make sure to choose books that aren’t high-profile and explain how your book is different from others on similar topics. Amazon, Goodreads, and other book review sites are great resources for finding similar books. Additionally, brick-and-mortar bookstores can be helpful in this endeavor.
This book proposal section should also include an analysis of each book listed and how it compares to yours. Explain why your book is better or has more potential than the competition. There are various ways to do this. You can discuss the different types of content covered, explain why your book has a unique perspective on the topic, or provide examples of how your book is more comprehensive.
Your research should include not only the titles, but also authors and their qualifications, publishers, book reviews, sales figures (if available), target audiences, and other pertinent information.
6. Outline your chapters
Now that you’ve piqued the publisher’s interest, it’s time to provide a breakdown of each chapter. This section is where you should provide a book outline.
This is the most important part of your book proposal and should take up the bulk of it. A book outline includes a brief description of each chapter in the book. Your book proposal should list the chapters and explain what readers can expect to learn in each.
In the book outline, you don’t have to go into too much detail. You need to provide only an overview of the book’s content. However, it should still be detailed enough to provide an idea of what readers will get out of the book. For instance, if the book is about travel, you should list each destination and explain what readers will learn from visiting each one.
A couple of don’ts to keep in mind when writing a book outline:
- Don’t include too much detail. Just provide an overview of the chapters and what readers can expect from each chapter.
- Don’t include spoilers. You don’t want to give away the plot or ending of the book in the proposal.
7. Include a sample
If you’re an established author, you may need to include only a sample of a few chapters. However, if you’re unpublished, you may need to provide a complete manuscript. This information will be in the guidelines for the publishing company’s submission policy.
The sample chapters should give a publisher an idea of your writing style and the caliber of your book. Pick chapters that best exemplify the book’s content and its selling point. For instance, if you are writing a book about business management, you could include a chapter on budgeting, as it highlights an essential function of business management.
Be sure to proofread the sample chapters for typos and other errors. You get only one chance to make an impression, so it’s essential to ensure your sample chapters are flawless.
Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing
When you submit your book proposal, it’s essential to decide on which route you want to go — self-publishing or traditional publishing. Each route has its advantages and disadvantages, so weigh them before making your final decision.
Self-publishing is when the author pays for all or some costs associated with publishing the book. This includes the book’s cover design, layout, interior formatting, printing, marketing, and distribution costs. A major advantage of self-publishing is that it gives you more control over the book’s design and content. The downside is that it requires a larger financial investment from you.
Traditional publishing involves a publisher paying for the book’s production costs and then distributing the book. In exchange, you receive a royalty fee from each book sold. The advantage of traditional publishing is that you don’t have to foot the production costs. The downside is that you may have less control over the book’s design and content.
How Can Palmetto Publishing Help You?
Now that you know what goes into a book proposal, you may be wondering how to get your book seen by the right people. Fortunately for you, Palmetto Publishing can help.
The editing professionals at Palmetto Publishing can help ensure your manuscript is ready to submit to a publisher. In addition, if you prefer not to use a publisher, we can help you self-publish your book.
We understand that the publishing process can be overwhelming. We strive to make it as easy and stress-free as possible. Our experts are committed to providing you with the best services and resources to get your book published.
Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you on your publishing journey.