How to Write a Book Proposal

book proposal self-publishing traditional publishing May 09, 2023

Are you an aspiring author hoping to get published?

Well, then it’s really important to understand that writing a strong, detailed, and accurate book proposal is paramount to getting a foot in the door. A well-crafted book proposal can make or break your chances of getting a publishing contract with a traditional publisher.

A book proposal is more than just a brief summary of your book. Your book proposal paints a picture of who you are, why your book is unique, and what you are willing to do to launch and market your book into the world. You also don't need to have your entire manuscript complete before you complete and submit your proposal. In fact, it can help you further clarify your audience, help you build confidence in your personal expertise, and help you to create a vision of success.

It’s critical that you create an effective document in order to present yourself as an expert in your field, a book that will resonate with your audience, a compelling marketing plan, and demonstrate why your work should be taken seriously by potential publishers.

The good news is that with some research, commitment, and focused effort, it’s entirely possible to write a complete and effective book proposal. With the help of Juxtabook's Perfect Book Proposal template, it is even easier to know how to write a book proposal.

What should you include in a book proposal?

A book proposal is a clear and succinct document used to pitch your book idea to a potential publisher — usually traditional publishers. Your proposal includes three main sections:

  • About the book section
  • About the author section
  • Launch and marketing plan 

Some, but not all, publishers want a chapter outline and sample chapters included in the book proposal.

Each of these sections must be comprehensive, but short, in order to convince a publisher that it's worth taking a chance on your book.

Below, we've outlined what needs to be included in each section of a book proposal and provide tips on how you can successfully craft a proposal that stands out from the stack of manuscripts on an editor’s desk.

It doesn't matter if you are writing a fiction or nonfiction book, the proposal sections apply to both. Obviously, what you put in each section will be tailored to your book and genre, along with the submission guidelines that may be unique to each publisher.

Note: you don't need a complete manuscript to submit a book proposal.

"About the Book" Section

The "About the Book" section of your book proposal is perhaps the most critical part of the document. It's the section where you'll provide a comprehensive overview of your book, including its title, genre, theme, category, and its relevance to your audience.

Your book's title and subtitle should be clear and concise, and it should effectively capture the essence of your book. It’s well worth your time to do some research on what titles and covers are selling well and are compelling. Do a straw poll amongst friends–don’t assume you know best. It helpful to open the conversation by including a sub-section that includes potential other titles.

Next, provide a summary of your book. Think of this as the elevator pitch of your book. Anyone who reads this section should quickly understand what your book is about and the problem or challenge your book solves — if it's a nonfiction or business book.

You should also use this section to provide details about your target readers. The more specific you can be the better. It's tempting for many authors to say their book is for everyone, which it could be, but it makes it difficult to market to everyone if you don't know the group that is the most likely to benefit from it. This analysis will demonstrate to the publisher that you've done your research and understand the importance of writing to a specific audience.

You'll need to provide an analysis of the unique angle, perspective, or style that your book brings to its genre. This analysis will help to clearly differentiate your book from the tens of thousands of other titles in the same category and convince the publisher that your work is worth their investment because it provides something unique for its readers.

As a result of your analysis, you'll come up with a list of five to ten competitive titles — also known as a competitive title analysis, comps, or comparable titles — that were published in the last five years to show that you are familiar with other books in your category and can clearly dictate what makes your book unique.

Using Amazon you'll want to use comp titles that sell well by looking at the book's Amazon's seller ranking—which is located in the product details section on the Amazon listing page. Generally speaking, if your comp titles consistently show a seller's rank of 40,000 or less that's a decent ranking. The comp titles give an estimation of how many readers could be interested in the book and provide traditional publishing houses a sense of the sales history for potential sales of your book.

Overall, the "About the Book" section should be robust, and engaging, and demonstrate why your book is unique and deserving of a publishing contract. Be sure to go beyond a simple summary and provide a rich and detailed overview of the value proposition of your book.

If you don't already have one, consider the value of a literary agent who has experience with pitching proposals to major publishers.

"About the Author" Section

The "About the Author" section of a book proposal is where you get to showcase your background, expertise, credibility, and relevant experience as it pertains to your book. It's your chance to present yourself as an authority in your niche, build trust with publishers, and demonstrate your unique perspective.

Start off with an author bio, highlighting key elements of your real-world life lessons and educational and professional background. Be sure to focus on any experiences that make you uniquely qualified to write your book. Mention any awards, recognition, or notable mentions from reputable sources, and any previous publications — whether it's relevant articles or previously published books. Also, consider including any relevant personal experiences you may have had that inspired your work. You want an acquisition editor to know that you are the right person to be writing your proposed book.

Beyond just your expertise in the subject matter, publishers are also interested in your reach and recognition with your target audience. Include information about your author branding and author platform, such as any blogs or websites you manage, speaking engagements, podcasts, or interviews you’ve done, and any social media platforms you use.

If you have a substantial following of email subscribers, and followers, or a highly-read blog post highlight that too. Publishers want to see evidence that you have a built-in audience who is interested in your writing and is likely to buy and promote your book when it's released.

Overall, the "About the Author" section of the proposal should be written with confidence and evidence, demonstrating your qualifications and experience as they pertain to your book. With a well-crafted author section, publishers will be more likely to take you and your work seriously and seriously consider your book for publication.

"Launch and Marketing Plan" Section

A strategic book launch and marketing plan is essential to ensuring that your book reaches your target audience and generates sales. In this section, you will define the specific tactics and strategies you plan to use to launch and market your book, along with any confirmed book pre-sales.

A strong book launch is about building buzz around your book and generating early sales. Here are some specific tactics you can include:

Social Media Promotion

It's abundantly clear that social media has an impact on book sales. Your plan is to use social media platforms TikTok, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn to promote your book. Some ideas to enhance your social promotion are to create and then use and overuse a dedicated hashtag for your book and use it across all your social media platforms. Indicate in the proposal if you plan to run a social media giveaway campaign to boost engagement and generate excitement around your book launch.

Email Marketing

If you have an email list outline in this section of the proposal how you will promote your book to your subscribers. Will you send a series of email campaigns to promote your book's launch, pre-orders, and request post-launch reviews? Consider using an email to offer exclusive discounts and promotions to your subscribers since they have been your loyal fans.

Book Reviews

Have a book review strategic plan prepared.  Book buying decisions today are impacted by social influence and how positive or negative reviews are. To gain reviews you can send physical or electronic advanced copies of your book to professional book reviewers and book bloggers or to a curated list. It's tough to get reviews but worth it, even if you feel like a nag.

Online Advertising

If you plan to use online advertising platforms like Google Ads and Facebook Ads to promote your book launch, indicate how that relates back to any offers or bonuses you plan to include.

Confirmed Book Preorders

Confirmed book preorders can help you get some early momentum for your book's launch. Strong preorders will help you earn New Release Badges on Amazon and will create early buzz on the impact of your book before the launch date. Here are some tactics you can use to increase your preorders.

  1. Pre-order Bonuses: Offer exclusive pre-order bonuses to your customers, such as signed copies or bonus content that includes information you weren't able to include in the book. This can incentivize more customers to pre-order your book.
  2. Social Proof: Leverage your pre-sale numbers to generate social proof and momentum around your book. Perception is powerful and when you share pre-sale numbers or best seller ranking on social media platforms it can tip people over the edge to join the crowd of preorder book buyers.
  3. Email Promotion: Use email marketing to promote your preorder offer and exclusive discounts to your subscribers. This provides a feeling of exclusivity for someone who has chosen to pay attention to you and your message.

Your plan should be specific and realistic. By leveraging your author branding, social media presence, and network, you can generate buzz and interest around your book's launch. Confirmed book preorders can provide early momentum to your launch and help generate additional interest and sales. By executing your launch plan effectively, you can reach your target audience and achieve your sales goals.

Book Outline and Sample Chapters

In order to make your book attractive to publishers and readers alike, it is important to include an outline of the book's content as well as sample chapters.

An effective book outline should clearly explain the main points that will be discussed in each chapter and provide an overview of the structure of the entire book. This can be done through a detailed outline or by listing each chapter title and giving a two to three-sentence summary of the chapter along with what the takeaway is for the reader.

The sample chapters should demonstrate your writing style and provide a glimpse into what readers can expect from other chapters in the book. If an editor is this far in your proposal there is a good sign that they are interested in your book.

Do you need a literary agent?

If you are considering submitting your book proposal to traditional publishers, you might wonder if you need a literary agent to pitch it on your behalf. While it is not strictly necessary to have an agent, having one will greatly increase your chances of getting published.

Literary agents have established relationships with publishers and know the ins and outs of the publishing industry. They can help you refine your book proposal and manuscript, increasing its chances of being accepted by a publisher.

Moreover, agents have access to publishing houses that are closed to unsolicited submissions. This means that they can submit your book proposal to publishers that you might not have access to on your own. In this way, having an agent can open doors for you that were previously closed.

If you do decide to work with an agent, it's important to choose one that is the right fit for you and your book. Look for agents that specialize in your genre and have a successful track record of getting authors published. You can also check their reputation through author forums, websites, and social media.

Keep in mind that agents typically receive a 15% commission on book sales, so you'll need to factor this into your budget. However, many authors find that the benefits of having an agent far outweigh the cost. Do your research and choose one that is a good match for you and your book.

Next Steps

Completing your own book proposal will not only help you land a traditional publishing deal but will act as a book publishing and marketing business plan if you choose to do the self-publishing route.

The most important thing to remember when writing your book proposal is clarity. Remember, you have been steeped in writing your book and know the content of your book much deeper than any acquisition editor. The editor needs to be able to quickly grasp what your book is about and to easily be able to convey that to others on their team.

Whether you are writing a fiction or nonfiction book proposal it takes hard work to create an effective book proposal but it is time well spent even if you don't receive a book deal through traditional publishing.

Before you know it you will have created a book proposal and you will have a potential offer from a publishing house or a well-planned self-publishing strategy and you'll be on to the next book for your audience to devour.

Don't forget to download Juxtabook's free book proposal template to make it even easier for you to write your proposal. This book proposal template has been used to create dozens of book proposals that have been pitched to traditional publishers.




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