Crafting an excellent book proposal may be the most significant step in finding a publisher. I recommend investing as much time and energy researching, writing, editing, and proofing your proposal as you do for your book’s first chapter. It’s that important.
Key elements of a good proposal:
1. Title Page
Start with a clean, easy-to-read title page that includes your manuscript’s title and subtitle, as well as your contact information. At this point most editors are not impressed with graphics. So unless design serves a key element in your book, just make sure your title page is clean and error-free.
Give a detailed overview of the book. This typically includes:
● a three- to four-paragraph summary
● an overview of the structure with an annotated table of contents
● a list of the unique features and benefits
● the status of the manuscript (how much is written)
● an estimated completion date (if the manuscript is not yet finished)
3. Market Analysis and Plan
The publisher will make its decision based on whether they believe they can sell enough copies of your book. So make your case that it will have a sufficient market. Your evidence includes:
● a description of your target audience
● your relevant biography and platform
● the competition
● your personal plans for marketing
4. Sample Chapters
The acquisitions editor will want to see at least two completed chapters. Include those you feel represent your best work, regardless where they fall in the outline. While the first three elements are vital, they will get you nowhere if your sample chapters fail to impress.
In coming weeks, I will analyze each section and guide you in more detail about how to write an excellent nonfiction proposal.
Kevin Scott serves as acquisitions editor at Wesleyan Publishing House, where he coaches first-time and experienced authors through the acquisitions and editorial process. Kevin also writes essays about sustainable Christianity at www.kevinscottwrites.com.