Writing A Book Proposal In 20 Steps + A Book Proposal Template

Learning how to create a book proposal can showcase your amazing body of work. Especially if you want to get it in front of the right publishers. The good news is that you are in the right place to learn how because this article covers the key components every book proposal should have. You can also download our book proposal template to guide you!

Book proposal template

Why you need a book proposal

A book proposal allows a publisher to get a quick glimpse of your writing and helps them decide if they want to publish and market your work. If you want to go the route of traditional publishing, your proposal is incredibly important.

Creating one is an opportunity to help publishers understand your ideas and writing. A good publisher can help you reach a wider audience, and sell your book, which in turn can boost your writing career.

I’ve written a book proposal for all of my books (The Clever Girl Finance book series and Choosing To Prosper) and the process helped me clearly articulate my book ideas to my publisher as well as answer any questions they had.

Writing each proposal was also a great exercise for me to go through each time because it helped me fine tune my book idea and vision. And so I highly recommend writing a book proposal whether or not you are submitting it to a publisher or not.

That said, let’s go over exactly what the process of writing a proposal involves.

What writing a book proposal involves

A book proposal is essentially an overview of what your book has to offer. It showcases why anyone would want to read your book and how it can be marketable to your target audience to generate sales.

Additionally, a proposal is much more detailed than a publisher cover letter.

Think of it like a sale pitch, where the product is your book, and the client is the publisher you’d like to take on the publishing and marketing of your work.

In addition to showcasing your work, it’s not uncommon for proposals to include sample chapters.

Ultimately, when writing, you want to share every reason why your book will do well in the market.

However, keep in mind that your book proposal (outside of your sample chapters) should be clear and straight to the point.

Even if you are self-publishing, writing something like this for yourself can help you create a plan and structure for your book.

20 Things to include in your book proposal

Here are 20 key things your book proposal should highlight. I’ve included each of these key things in every proposal I’ve written for my own books. By doing this, I’ve been able to provide a ton of detail to my publishers and answer several questions they might have had as a result.

Be sure to lay it out with headers, sections, and paragraphs so it’s easy to read. You can use the exact headers below or modify or consolidate them. And be sure to check out our book proposal sample, too!

1. Author bio

If someone were to pick up a copy of your book and turn it over to read about you, what would it say? Your author bio is essentially an overview of who you are.

It should also include your name (or pen name), what you’d like your readers to know about you, and your background or experience. For instance, mention achievements, awards, etc., to build credibility and help readers get to know you.

2. Book title and subtitle

Coming up with a catchy or interesting book title helps to make your book memorable. The subtitle should reinforce the main title and provide additional insight into what can be expected from your book.

It’s a good idea to consider titles and subtitles that not only reflect your book’s content but are SEO-friendly and SEO edited as well.

3. Book topic summary

A smart question to ask yourself is, “Why does your book topic matter?” Your book topic summary should explain why this topic is needed or why it would interest your reader.

You also want to highlight how this is a fresh take or unique perspective compared to whatever else might exist in the market.

4. Book details (The star of any book proposal)

Next up is your book details section. In this section of the book proposal, you’ll want to explain your book’s key points, angles, and takeaways. What’s going to make this a “must-read” for your audience?

Additionally, use the tone, voice, and style you would use to draw readers in. Imagine this is the description of your book on retail websites.

This section is essentially a showcase of how amazing your book will be. Don’t forget to keep it SEO-friendly!

5. Market need

The book market need is how many people could potentially have an interest in reading your book. It helps give the publisher an idea of the potential sales scale for your book.

Is your book relevant to a specific demographic or country? Or is it relevant globally? Answer these questions and any others you can think of to explain who might be interested in your writing.

6. Target readers/audience

Your target audience is a specific segment within the market you have identified. Who is your ideal target reader? How old are they? Where do they live? What do they do for work?

Publishers love it when you are specific about who will be buying your book. Even if your book is for a “general” audience or market, you still want to give them an idea of who your readers are.

It helps give the publisher an idea of the potential sales scale for your book. It also helps them understand your reader persona and audience better.

Additionally, if you have dedicated readers for things you’ve written already, include this information.

7. Why anyone should buy this book

What’s the hook for your book? In your book proposal, write out a powerful sentence that will “wow” your publisher (in terms of potential sales) and your reader (in terms of how this book is so amazing!).

So, think about what you are most proud of with your book and why it is relevant, entertaining, or helpful. Consider your readers and publisher and what is valuable to them about your writing.

8. Book vision

In this part of writing a book proposal, you want to share your vision for your book. For instance:

  • How many words do you imagine it will be?
  • Is your preference a paperback or hardcover?
  • Will it have diagrams, illustrations, tables, etc?
  • Is having it printed in color an important factor?
  • Do you want to try recording an audiobook? (Recorded by you or an audiobook narrator)
  • What do you believe is a good price point for it?

This section should clearly articulate what you envision the end product will look like.

9. Competition

Ah yes, in the publishing world, book competition is also considered. So do some research and list the five books most similar to yours in topic and price.

Next, share why your book is different or even better. Share how your book addresses the gaps or weaknesses in the competitor books you’ve named. A great starting point for your research is Amazon.

Additionally, include these books’ titles, the author’s names, subtitle, publisher, dates, ISBN, cost, and how many pages it is.

10. Related titles

Does your publisher already have books in their portfolio that are similar to yours? You can look at their website to see which similar books they have published.

Once you’ve done this, clearly list the differences between those books and yours.

Doing this may also give the publisher a better idea of your audience based on who buys these related titles.

11. Sales pitch (Another key element in any book proposal)

This section is all about highlighting how your book will sell. So, share bullet points or key areas that you think will be the strongest selling platforms and angles for your book.

You should keep this book pitch short, emphasizing the positives of your book and why someone should buy it.

12. Opportunities for bulk sales

Do you have a business or platform outside of being an author where you can pursue bulk sales? Bulk sales can allow large quantities of your book to be sold at once.

For example, a library or bookstore might purchase bulk copies of your book.

This also gives the publisher an idea of how you can personally contribute to the sales of your book.

13. Public speaking experience

By sharing your public speaking experience, you showcase an aspect of your reach to your publisher. Public speaking events are favorable when it comes to selling your book.

If the audience loves you, they’ll be inclined to buy your book. In many instances, bookers will also buy your books for their audience before your speaking event.

So highlight your speaking experience over the last 12 to 24 months. Share what organizations you spoke to, what the audience size was, and how many speaking opportunities you had.

14. Upcoming public speaking engagements

If you have upcoming public speaking engagements, list them in your book proposal. Include details of where, who you will speak to, and how large the audience is estimated to be.

By making your publisher aware of upcoming engagements, you might be able to come up with a sales strategy together.

In addition, having speaking engagements already set up is very promising because it indicates that others are already willing to support your work.

15. Higher education opportunities

If you are writing an academic title, list opportunities to promote your book in the academic circuit.

For example, you may sell your book to your local community college, universities, etc. Perhaps you have already networked with professors and teachers who might be interested in using your book for their classes. Include this information so your publisher knows your book is in demand or has an opportunity.

16. Author platform metrics

It is also really important to highlight any other metrics around your personal or business brand that can support the promotion of your book.

What to include in this example of a book proposal would be things like:

  • Social media metrics, including platforms, followers, their location, and engagement
  • Your author website metrics, e.g., monthly traffic, time on site, top pages, etc.
  • Your personal or business email list reach
  • Any paid products or services you offer and the associated sales metrics
  • Mainstream media appearances

17. Book add-on ideas

Book add-on ideas are any additional component you think can be added to your book to help with its reach.

For example, downloadable worksheets, spreadsheets, a supporting online course, a dedicated book website, supporting videos, etc.

Remember that add-ons cost money and time, so you must prove why they are worth adding.

18. Key endorsements

Now, it’s time to dig into your network to determine what influential/impactful people you have access to that could endorse your book.

For example, it could be mentors, influencers, or other authors – the idea is to leverage their name and reach to provide backing for your book.

19. Book subject codes

Every published book has assigned book subject codes. Publishers can usually get this set up for you, but ideally, you want to ensure your book is categorized correctly. So it’s worth doing your own research.

The globally accepted book subject code standards are the Book Industry Standards And Communications (BISAC) codes.

These codes help describe the subject of your book so they can be categorized properly within the book industry and by booksellers.

For example, if your book is a general self-help book, it would be categorized as SEL000000 SELF-HELP / General.

You can review the comprehensive list of BISAC codes to determine the best subject codes to suit your book.

Finally, to solidify your pitch, it’s a good idea to include a sample table of contents and sample chapters. This will give the publishing team reading your book proposal a taste of how amazing your writing is.

It also helps them fully understand your book’s potential and gives them perspective as to how successful it could be. In addition, a table of contents will help them understand how your book is organized.

Expert tip: Get feedback from people you trust

If you’re still working on your book proposal and you aren’t sure about it, have a few trusted friends or family members read it and get their honest feedback.

When I’m writing something, I often get a second opinion, because it’s easy to miss obvious details when you are the one writing.

Your friends or family may have suggestions for making your proposal easier to read, or perhaps they’ll have questions you didn’t answer in the proposal.

It never hurts to get a second opinion, especially if you want to make sure your work is the best it can be.

A book proposal template sample

CGA Book Proposal Checklist
Click the image to download the PDF checklist

Below is an example of a book proposal template based on the details above. You can simply copy and paste it into a word document to get started on yours or use the PDF checklist version above.

Use this book proposal sample as a reference as you lay out the key points to include while writing your own proposal.

Sample template information to include

When writing a book proposal, there’s a lot to remember. Here is a simplified list of what to include:

  1. Author bio
  2. Book title and subtitle
  3. Book topic summary
  4. Book details
  5. Market need
  6. Target readers/audience
  7. Why anyone should buy this book
  8. Book vision
  9. Competition
  10. Related titles
  11. Sales pitch
  12. Opportunities for bulk sales
  13. Public speaking experience
  14. Upcoming public speaking engagements
  15. Higher education opportunities
  16. Author platform metrics
  17. Book add-on ideas
  18. Key endorsements
  19. Book subject codes
  20. Sample table of contents/sample chapters

Optional: Include a one page book proposal summary or highlight reel

A good idea is to provide a one page summary of your proposal so whoever reviews it can get a quick idea of what to expect in your proposal. Think of it as a highlight reel. Your proposal can then go into more detail, based on this one-page summary.

“Recipes By Jane”: Unique Gluten and Sugar-Free Baking Ideas

What this book is about: Tired of recipes that don’t suit your lifestyle? Recipes By Jane includes hundreds of ideas for desserts, cakes, pies, and cookies that are gluten or sugar-free. Some favorite recipes include lemon lavender cake, chocolate raspberry cookies, and many more!

Who this book is for: Created specifically for people who need to eat gluten or sugar free. These recipes in this book allow them to indulge in desserts even with dietary restrictions! This cookbook solves a problem for people who want to try out different desserts but need to use different ingredients than the typical ones of other cookbooks.

Layout of the book: The book will be approximately 100,000 words and will include colorful images for each recipe, making it easy for the reader to see each finished product.

About the author: Jane Smith is a baker extraordinaire and author. Her website offers many practical solutions for amateur bakers. She has five years of experience as a writer and blogger, not to mention a large following of 500,000 subscribers on her YouTube channel.

Jane’s readers are people in their 20s and 30s looking for fun and easy recipes catering to specific diets.

She frequently does speaking engagements on the topic of her book. And as part of her market plan, she will be doing several speaking engagements at local libraries and bookstore signing and reading events.

As a reminder, you can adjust this example to suit your needs. The whole idea is to write a detailed but straight-to-the-point proposal that potential publishers can’t resist!

Who to give the proposal to and what’s next

When your proposal is complete, and you’ve edited and polished it to perfection, it’s time to give it to the publisher or literary agent you’d like to work with. Make a list of potential publishers and then follow their guidelines for sending the proposal.

After you submit your work, it’s time to wait. You can expect a decision about your proposal within a few months’ time.

But while you wait, you can continue to improve your chances of success. Reach out to any readers you have on an ongoing basis to build excitement about the book. You can also continue to write articles, etc. And be patient if the process takes longer than expected.

How many chapters do you need?

You should include one to three chapters of your book with your proposal. It makes sense that the chapters you choose should showcase the very best writing you have to offer.

Put your book in the best possible light, but be sure to adhere to any specific instructions from publishers about submitting it.

What makes a good book proposal?

A good book proposal will include all the necessary information about why your book should be published.

For instance, the popularity of your idea, why your book will reach readers, and what makes your writing unique.

Overall, explain why the publishers should take the chance to publish your work, how it will benefit them, and how it will benefit readers.

How many pages should it be?

A proposal can be anywhere from 10 to 60 pages long, depending on the type of book and sample chapters. The average proposal length is 15 to 30 pages.

If you include sample chapters, it will be a longer proposal, which is fine and a good idea in many cases. But you don’t want to make it too long, either.

Need more help getting your book published? Check out these related articles.

Leverage this book proposal template to craft your own!

Writing a book proposal is an important aspect of getting your book published if you choose to go the traditional publishing route.

If you choose to pitch your work to publishers, you want to make sure you do it the right way so you can get your hard work noticed!

The example of a book proposal shared in this article is a great starting point. Be sure to get a second pair of eyes on it to proofread it and help you think through your angles. e.g. another writer or even a writing coach!

As you focus on your path to becoming an incredible author, check out our other articles on the best books on writing for new authors and how authors get paid!

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