Proposals are written to sell nonfiction books to publishing houses. You don’t need to write the entire book—instead, you write a 40- to 80-page proposal that gives editors a sense of the book’s premise, scope, and market. The proposal includes a sample chapter or two that proves the author (and collaborator) can write. The typical proposal consists of:
An overview (essentially a 6-10 page pitch letter)
A review of similar books (comparable titles) that are currently available
Marketing and publicity strategies
Chapter summaries (1-3 pages each)
In the proposal’s overview, you must convince editors that you have a dazzling idea and the credentials to back it up. It may not be a new idea, but it is your unique version of an idea, and you have a voice so fresh that readers will be lining up to pay for it. The good news is that editors want to be convinced of this. They want to buy manuscripts. And most people do have a unique voice, they just need the right person to help bring it out.
After you have snagged the editor’s attention in the first few pages of your proposal, he or she will be on the lookout for signs that the book will be a winner:
Chapter summaries and a section on"Comparable Titles" must answer these questions.
Your proposal must sell not only the book, but also its author. You need to convince editors that you are the only one who can tell this story and that you're 110% committed to promoting the book once it is published. You will need to analyze your resources, capitalize on your background, and think like a publicist in order to develop a marketing strategy your editor can dangle in front of the sales team. Merely loving your concept isn’t enough; your editor needs ammunition for the bottom-line guys. For this reason, the “About the Author” and “Marketing and Publicity” sections of the proposal are just as important as the chapter summaries and sample chapters.
You will need to include at least one sample chapter with the proposal. Here is where the editor will get a sense of whether you have what it takes to capture a reader’s interest and deliver a complete and polished manuscript. The quality of the sample chapter may have a great impact on the advance you will be offered for your book.
Together, we can create a proposal that meets these high standards. When we're done, you will hold in your hand not only the means of selling your book but also a blueprint for writing the manuscript itself.