Book proposals

How do you write a book proposal?

 There are many parts to this question, but two must be answered positively. Do you need to do a book proposal? And, what is the purpose of a book proposal? We will take a look at both of these questions and their importance. 

Do you need to do a book proposal? The simple answer is no, if you self-publish or go the Indie-press route. However, doing the book proposal exercise has a great many benefits for the author. It helps you focus on some key questions, not only as you write, but as you begin the promotion of what you have written. If it is an article or series of articles, you will use a modified proposal approach by answering some focal questions as in target audience and intent. A book proposal helps you pull together much information that will be helpful as you write and as you prepare for promoting what you have written once it is published. If you want to go with a traditional publisher, get an agent or pre-publication publicity, you must have a book proposal. 

What is the purpose of a book proposal? To properly answer this, let me quote Terry Whalin: “Editors read book proposals, not manuscripts.” That said, any editor (worth his salt) will agree with this statement. It is the way the way traditional publishers wade through thousands of request that reach their desks. It is the mechanism that publishers use to sift out the mundane and ill-conceived manuscript ideas. If you want a traditional publishing company or agent to consider the topic and how you want to write it, you must do a book proposal. Certain questions must be answered for them. Why? Jobs, money and the business climate today demand it. They want to stay in business. To do so, they must be competitive and produce the products that buyers want. They know the business. They know what sells. 

Let me give you the basics of what my friend, Terry Whalin, says about proposal mechanics. Most will range from 15 to 30 pages. (Yikes! That’s work.) The proposal should have at least the following parts: overview, chapter summaries, sample chapter, about the author, info on the competition, manuscript delivery and length, and what you are going to do to promote it. [For Terry’s complete outline and info go to: It’s a free teleseminar on proposals] Without a complete book proposal, traditional publishing will not give consideration to what you are writing and why. Do the research.

 One last word: the exercise of doing a book proposal will sharpen your skills and make you a better communicator. That is what writing is about. The time you spend will make you better at your craft.

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