Writing Book Proposals That Publishers Read

You’ll find lots of books on the bookstore shelf about how to write book proposals for traditional publishers. They’re often written by agents who sell to acquisition editors. But what advice would those editors give about writing a winning book proposal?

Says Matt Holt, Executive Editor at John Wiley & Sons, “Remember, the decision to publish a book isn’t often made by an acquisition editor alone; it’s made by a committee of people who represent marketing, publicity, and sales. Knowing this alone should give you insight into crafting a proposal that is compelling to these different parties.

“Publishing is a business. As such, your project ultimately has to make sound financial sense. Editors can like you personally, but if they can’t make the business case for publishing your book, in all likelihood a major house won’t publish it.”

What Goes Into a Proposal?

Below are the standard sections of a proposal as Holt suggests them (although the order frequently varies). Keep the publisher’s business purpose in mind as you write each one of them:

Author’s Biography or About the Author

Book Description or Overview

Sales “Handle”

Competitive Books

Marketing and Promotion

Table of Contents and Sample Chapter

Author’s Biography or About the Author

This section explains why you, the author, are qualified to write this particular book.
You want to include the background, accomplishments, and education that are relevant to the subject of the book, and leave out details that aren’t. In this section, you answer this question: Why are you the one qualified to write this book?

Book Description or Overview

In the Overview section, focus on what’s remarkable about your topic and define why people would want to know more. It answers the question: What is your book about? It also grabs the editors’ attention and answers a second question: Why should readers care about that?

Sales “Handle”

Also called an “elevator speech,” this pithy sales synopsis elicits interest in the short time span of an elevator ride. Ideally, it puts strong, short statements into the mouths of the publisher’s sales reps who only have 10 to 30 seconds to interest their buyers in your book. The book’s sales handle answers the question: Why would this book sell and who would buy it?

Competitive Books

This section shows that you’ve done enough research to say, “Similar books on this topic have value, but mine provides ____ (more, better, different, new). Summarizing three to five similar books gives decision-makers something to compare your book against while explaining its uniqueness and reinforcing your sales handle. It answers the question: Given all the books on this topic already circulating, why do we need yours? Caution: Never indicate that no other book like yours exists. As Matt points out, “There are two responses to this claim: 1) There is–you just didn’t look hard enough, and 2) You’re right–the idea doesn’t warrant a book.”

Marketing and Promotion

You’ve likely heard the word “platform,” a term that describes what you’ve already set up that will help you promote and market your own book. Publishers jump through high hoops to attract self-published authors and seminar leaders whose impressive reach into a targeted audience means a guaranteed volume of sales.

They seek media-savvy authors who speak well and actively pursue publicity. This section answers the question: How can you get the word out about this book so we’ll make money selling it?

Says Matt, “You, the author, are the most effective person in driving sales. You speak in front of groups, you have clients, and you have contacts in the media. That’s why you need to create the pull-through for the sales of your book.”

Therefore, list everything you can do to support sales. Make this section highly persuasive; it counts for a lot!

Table of Contents and Sample Chapter

As the nuts and bolts of any proposal, this section shows you have carefully thought through the book’s content and you can craft your ideas into a well-written sample chapter. It answers the question: Can the author communicate concepts clearly and persuasively? Cautions Matt, “Remember, submitting a strong writing sample doesn’t get you off of the hook when it comes to creating a first-class proposal. You need to make your proposal the best it can be!”

Selling Your Book

You’ve finished writing your book…published it…and now hold a copy of it in your hands. Gazing down at the book bearing your name, an overwhelming urge to pinch yourself emerges from deep within. You can hardly believe that you’ve done it. You’ve written and published your very own book. What an accomplishment!

You take a deep breath. Now what do you do? How do you let potential buyers know about your book?

Search for websites and stores that will list your book for little or no fee.

Look for: Sites that sell books

Sites with similar topics as your book

Sites for writers and authors

(For sites that don’t state that they will list your book, email them and ask if they will. What can it hurt to ask? All they can do is say no.)

Search the web using: Free ads

List your book

(and similar keywords)

List your book on: craigslist.com


Contact bookstores to see if they’d be interested in shelving your book or letting you hold a book signing. Small local bookstores may be interested in local authors. Small bookstores will be more receptive to your book signing because that will mean free publicity for them. As you advertise your book signing, you will also be advertising their bookstore.

Contact Revelade Publishing (www.revelade.com) to have your book placed in their store. Revelade Publishing offers many services for self-publishing writers/authors.

Contact libraries to see if they’d be interested in purchasing your book. (Libraries also accept requests from people who are interested in books that they don’t currently have on hand.)

If you’ve written an informational or how-to book, you can hold seminars.

There are many ways and places to advertise your book. Keep your eyes and ears open, you never know when you may come across one.

How to Write a Book Easily: Write a Tips Book

Have you ever dreamed of writing a book that would establish you as an expert worthy of attention? Have you seen authors get attention at seminars or on TV and thought, “I wish that was ME”? Writing a book is easier than you think when you know a few insider secrets. One kind of book above all others is the easiest to write.

You probably already know that authors get all the attention. It’s because people innately trust authors. So if you are an expert in your niche, or if you are a business owner (which still makes you an expert) without a book, it’s time to write one. In fact, becoming an author is essential, and it should be moved off the “someday I’ll” list and onto the “Do it now” list.

Anything is easier when you have a system, so that is what I am about to share with you. I’m giving you the “easy button” steps to write a book. And remember, you don’t have to write 300 or even 200 pages to be the author of a “real book.”

You are an expert in something (probably several “somethings”), and no doubt you know some of the insider strategies or shortcuts that people crave. Everyone wants the easy way, right? If you have ways to save someone time, make something simple, or improve results, you have the makings of a tips book.

The easy path is to write a “tips book.” This is simply a whole list of tips with a few paragraphs about each one. I’ll show you how, step by step, right now.

I am going to give you a step by step trail of breadcrumbs to follow, but first, I know you have this question, because just about everybody does…

“How many tips do I need in order to make a book?”

The answer is, “It’s up to you.” There is no Law written somewhere on stone tablets saying “this many pages maketh a book.” One of my books is 152 pages. Another is 32. They’re both books and they both make me officially “an author.”

One author I know loves to write 101 tips. I saw one book with 273 tips. One author converted a weekly tip from their blog into a 52 tips book. The choice is yours. There is no need to overcomplicate it.

See an example in the video at http://screenr.com/6xR

Example: A florist could write a book about 52 ways to make any day a special occasion. Each page would have a tip and a few paragraphs. There could be a special offer, such as a coupon or gift with purchase, in the back of the book. Even if you gave this little book away for free, imagine how it would boost your business because you’re the florist who wrote a book.

Because – You have all the information you need already. There is no research. – It doesn’t take much time. You can write a tips book in a weekend if you wish. – When your book is done (which will happen in a very short amount of time), you will prove to yourself that you can write a book.

Step by Step Guide for Writing a Tips Book

1: Write down a list of tips

You may decide to use your word processor or use more “old timey” methods like a pad of paper or a stack of index cards. Just write each tip, in full or in your own shorthand.

2. Write the book.

Write each tip at the top of a page. Leave a few blank spaces and then write the explanation. You decide the length, but tips are by nature quick. So don’t get carried away.

Insider writing secrets – Write to one person not to “you guys.” Only one person is reading the book. – Make sure you give your reader a reason to visit your website, such as a free downloadable gift. – The end of the book is the beginning of a relationship, so make an irresistible offer to your reader at the end of the book.

Congratulations! You now know how to write a tips book.