10 Tips for a Nonfiction Book Proposal That Lands a Contract

1. Choose a title that identifies your topic and sales potential in 30 characters or less so you can fit into industry-wide databases. A book’s title is its main selling tool. Everyone who hears your title should know precisely what your book is about. With 4 million titles on amazon.com, make your title count.

2. Indicate how your topic relates to your target audience. Who or what are the main actors or concepts in the book and what resonance do they have for your market?

3. Answer, So what for $27.95? In 3 bulleted sentences, list the net worth of your book to the reader-buyer.

4. Identify a gap in the literature on your topic and establish what makes you the best author to write this book. In 2 paragraphs, indicate what each chapter covers and show how the structure of the book is designed to develop its central argument.

5. Who exactly needs to buy your book and why? How many people are there (eg, “350,000 members of the national organization for blind mountain climbers, Group name and URL”)? What does the consumer hope to get from the book? How does your book convey this?

6. State specifically what makes your book better, more salable, more original than each of the top 4 competing print titles (listed with full bibliographic information).

7. Include an annotated table of contents listing all items to be included (illustrations, glossary, table of contents). Use chapter titles that clearly identify the content of the chapters. In 20 words maximum for each, reveal how Chapter 1 leads to its overall theme and how each subsequent chapter builds on the previous ones and links to the ones that follow.

8. What do you bring to the book marketing table? Describe your author’s platform to specifically convey how your authorship adds value to the publisher’s book marketing efforts. Cite the URLs of any website focused on you, on your topic, on your target market and quantify the monthly visits.

9. Compose a compelling 20-30 page essay that will close the sale of your book to an agent or publisher. He cleverly compiles from all of his manuscript or working material a so-called sample chapter that showcases his writing style and presents the range of what his book has to offer. It’s not so much what you write as how you write it that keeps the reader turning pages.

10. Learn the publishing industry’s standard book proposal format and submit a professional-looking document, or pay an expert to do it for you. If you, the author, aren’t willing to invest your time and resources to create a bulletproof book proposal, why would an agent or publisher invest in your book?

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