Write A Non-Fiction Book Proposal

How to write a nonfiction book proposal that will put you on top of the slush pile.

A nonfiction writing proposal is like the writer's net, used to catch the editor. Only most nets are incomplete and the editor is gone before you even knew he was there.

When writing a nonfiction book the object is to sell it first. After all, why spend hours and hours of time working on something that no one is going to buy?

An editor would rather see a well done book proposal that will allow him to get to know your book in the planning process. At this stage he can judge if there is a wide enough readership and marketability to warrant publication. The editor can also make suggests on how to improve the incomplete book. Getting this other perspective beforehand may save you, the writer, from a total rewrite.

So what is a book proposal? It is the most relevant information a publisher needs to judge whether your book idea is going to sell. It includes the cover letter, overview, marketing information, author information, and samples. More can be included, but its intention is to be brief enough that the editor will actually read it. Often times in the publishing industry shorter gets read first, no matter when the mail was dropped off.

So let's begin with the cover letter. Address it to a specific editor, be respectful and use last names. All of your information should be included in the right-hand corner. The publishing company comes next on the left, followed by "Dear Ms./Mr." The content of the cover letter should entice the editor to read the proposal. Be catchy and brief. Tell the editor your title, a little about the book and introduce the proposal. This should take no more then two pages and preferably one.

Next you may want to put a title page in with your byline.

Now is the overview. On the first page briefly describe your book. Then describe it in full detail. Try to make it as interesting and sellable as you can, but don't be fake. On the next page begin your outline. Break it down into chapters and tell the editor exactly what each chapter will include. Follow this with the approximate word count.

The next section is for marketing. First consider the audience, how large is it? Is there a need for your book? Who will actually buy it? How do you see the book marketed? What other books will it be sold with? What do you imagine the book looking like? Try to include as much marketing information as possible, because this is what is really going to decide if the publishers buy your book idea or someone else's. In this section you should also include a small section on your research methods, naming people who have agreed to be interviewed.

The next page will deal with the competition. Name the other books out there on this subject, give a short overview and then describe why your book is different from each of these. Point out why yours is better and why it will sell more.

Now, that you have sold the editor on the book idea you have to sell him on you as the writer. Tell him your background relating to the subject. Then tell him your background as a writer.

Next the editor will want to see how you write. This is where really good samples come in. You should include one or two sample chapters. Other things to include are any clips you may have done about the topic.

Remember the competition is fierce, but following these steps will put you ahead of most of the other submissions, and you may just land a contract. Good luck.

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