How to Write a Book Proposal

Person writing a book proposal

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Got an idea for a nonfiction book? Great. Now what? Well, if you want to have your book published via a traditional publisher, you’ll need to create a book proposal. A well-crafted book proposal serves as a roadmap for your book, showcasing its marketability and potential and increasing your chances of securing a traditional publishing deal.

What is a book proposal?

A book proposal is a detailed document that outlines your book idea, provides information about your target market, and demonstrates why your book should be published. Its job is to attract the attention of a literary agent and publisher.

The key objectives of a book proposal are to showcase your writing ability, market understanding, and the potential success of your book. Think of it as a business plan for your book.

What to include in your book proposal

Publishers expect book proposals to include the following elements:


A captivating book overview serves as a concise summary that highlights the unique selling points and main themes of your book while showcasing your book’s hook — that irresistible quality that will cause readers to grab your book off the shelf.

For instance, if you’re writing a book on productivity, your hook might be a groundbreaking productivity system that guarantees increased efficiency and a better work-life balance. By explicitly conveying the hook in your book overview, you will engage agents and publishers and ignite their curiosity.


In the author bio, it is important to introduce yourself as the author and provide a brief personal history that emphasizes your writing credentials, relevant expertise, and any previous publications. This helps establish your credibility and demonstrates to agents or publishers why you are the best person to write this book.

Additionally, discuss your platform, which includes your online presence, speaking engagements, and connections within your target market. For instance, if you’re writing a book on entrepreneurship, you can mention your successful businesses, your active participation in entrepreneurial communities, and your speaking engagements at relevant conferences.

Chapter outlines

A chapter outline plays a crucial role in outlining the structure of your book. It is important to provide a detailed overview of each chapter, including key themes, subtopics, and chapter summaries. This helps publishers and agents understand the flow and organization of your book. By presenting a comprehensive outline, you demonstrate your ability to deliver a well-structured and cohesive piece of work.

Market analysis

Publishers are going to want to know that you have a thorough understanding of the market for your book. To prove this, you’ll need to provide a target market analysis. Identify the demographics, interests, and needs of your potential reader and explain why your book will resonate with them.

For example, if you’re writing a self-help book on personal finance, you might identify your market as young adults who want to improve their financial literacy and make smarter financial decisions.

Marketing and promotion plan

A solid marketing and promotion strategy is crucial for the success of any book. Outline your marketing and promotion campaigns to showcase your ability to contribute to the book’s success. Include ideas for book tours, speaking engagements, social media campaigns, and partnerships with relevant organizations or influencers.

For instance, you can propose partnering with financial wellness organizations for your personal finance book or organizing book signings at local independent bookstores.

Comparable title analysis

six months to publishingHighlight at least five previously published books that cover a topic similar to the one your book is about. Discuss how your book is different and better or explain how your book will appeal to readers who may have been left behind by the other books. This will demonstrate the unique value your book brings to the market.

For example, if you’re writing a cookbook, you can mention how your book offers innovative and accessible recipes for busy families, unlike existing cookbooks that focus primarily on gourmet cuisine.

Sample chapters

Including one or two well-written and polished sample chapters is crucial to giving the potential publisher a taste of your writing style and the overall tone of your book. These chapters should showcase your ability to engage readers, create compelling narratives, or provide valuable information.

How long should my book proposal be?

The length of a book proposal can vary, but it is generally recommended to aim for 10 to 30 pages. While it’s essential to provide enough detail to convince the publishing house of your book’s potential, be mindful of not overwhelming them with unnecessary information. Focus on presenting a concise but complete case for why your book should be published.

5 Tips for writing book proposals

  1. Research the publishing industry. Familiarize yourself with the publishing industry, including current trends, successful books, and reputable literary agents or publishing house specializing in your genre or niche.
  2. Tailor your proposal to each publisher. Customize your book proposal to fit the specific requirements and preferences of each publisher or literary agent you approach. Research their submission guidelines and adapt your proposal accordingly.
  3. Polish your writing. Ensure your proposal is well-written, free of errors, and showcases your writing skills. Pay attention to grammar, punctuation, and overall clarity.
  4. Highlight your unique selling points. Emphasize what sets your book idea apart from others in the market. Identify the unique angles, fresh perspectives, or innovative ideas that make your book stand out.
  5. Seek professional feedback. Consider seeking feedback from writing groups, beta readers, or professional editors to improve your proposal. Fresh perspectives can help you identify areas for improvement and ensure your proposal is compelling.

Of course, if you decide to self-publish your book, BookBaby offers complete self-publishing packages that make it easy for you to get editing, cover design, eBook conversion, printed books, and global distribution. And when your book is published, we even offer a suite of book marketing services so you can ensure your nonfiction title is a success.

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