Book Proposals (Part 1)

It's never too early to start writing a book proposal. Some agents require that a book proposal accompany a query letter. Editors may request a book proposal at a conference. Most of us will need one when we get ready to sell our books to publishing houses.

An abundance of information is available on how to write good proposals. Blogging friend, Krista Phillips mentioned that she used Terry Whalin's Book Proposal's that Sell to write hers. Rachelle Gardner has an informative post about how to write proposals, along with other book recommendations. (Click here to read it.)

Since so much help is available, I won't bore you with how to write a book proposal. Instead I'll share my experience writing one.

As I mentioned in my last post, WordServe Literary has a fill-in-the-blank template. Each section came with specific instructions or suggestions for what to write, which was incredibly helpful!

Title Page: Of course this was the easiest page to write! Rachelle listed the titles of all three of my books in a column in big bold print. At the bottom I listed my personal info. (address, phone, email, etc.); then she listed hers as well.

Content: This next section contained three distinct areas:
  • What's the Hook? This is a tagline, one sentence that creates interest in the book. I included several options. Then Rachelle picked the one she liked best and perfected it. I was utterly amazed at how well she was able to hone in on the important phrases.
  • Brief Overview: This is similar to the back-cover copy of a book. It's a way to create enough interest that a reader will want to buy the book and read it. WordServe suggests about seven sentences. Mine was three very short paragraphs. I tried to set up the conflict in such a way that it would generate a desire to know the rest of the story.
  • Manuscript Details: Another easy section with things like: Format (trade paper), Price (I had no idea!), Manuscript Status (Complete, four chapters attached), Word Count (100,000).

The Market: This section is fairly short and is a bulleted list of the types of audiences that might be interested in the book. It demonstrates that we know exactly who will buy our books and why, i.e. female fiction readers from their 20's to 40's, etc. (This is not Author Marketing or Comparable Books. Both have their respective sections!)

Author Bio: Half to full page that lists our qualifications for writing the book, any previously published books or short stories, awards, degrees, certificates, anything related to writing. Since I don't have a huge list of qualifications, I looked at the back of books of first time authors to help give me an idea of how to write something interesting and yet informative.

Come back on Friday for the second half of what my proposal contained. For now, I'd love to hear your thoughts! Which section would you find the easiest to write and which one the most difficult? (And you can't say Title Page for easiest!)

For Part 2, click here: Book Proposals (Part 2)


  1. Good morning! I would have to say that it all looks hard to me! lol But actually, probably the bio would be difficult. I have no experience, nothing that qualifies me to write. So I guess that would be the most difficult. Who knows? I will find out when I get there! :)

  2. Thanks for the incredible amount of very helpful info on book proposals. When I'm ready to do my book, I'll have all the info I need from you and your links!

  3. Jody--you are doing fantastic! Tell my critique partner hello today when you meet:))
    Thanks for great advice--someday I will need it again.

  4. You're making me cringe just thinking of all this. I've made proposals up before, never to be used, however. It's all time-consuming to me, and tedious. Much rather be working on my sories.

  5. I'm with Sherrinda, the bio is my LEAST favorite part!!I've worked for ten years in payroll and, uh, yeah, that isn't gonna sell any books! ha! Seriously though, what does a newbie author put?!? yes, I should probably figure out how to write for some magazine or other, but my time is SO limited and I am good to get in my book writing time in.

  6. The easiest part would be the things that are already written through my query letter. The bio would be the worst part. I have no experience or qualifications. I just write because I love it. Unfortunately I don't think that's a strong enough selling point ;) Great post, VERY informative.

  7. Jody: i have written two, and the hardest part for me is the Comparitive Market Analysis. All that research- ugh! But, it's good for me to stretch past what i like to do, which is be funny and encourage others. Some people hire others to do the market analysis, but it's a little spendy.

    THE most helpful thing i've done is to borrow a proposal from a published author friend, and follow her format. That was a gift from Heaven! Also, Mike Hyatt has a very helpful post on his blog that I used.

    Blessings on your day!

  8. I got so excited when I saw your post pop up in my dashboard! I'm going to be writing a proposal very soon.... hopefully before the end of the summer. And I'll need all the help I can get.

    The part that scares me the most is also the market analysis/comparables... which isn't quite the same thing as what you listed, is it? I read a lot, but I have no idea which books to compare my own to. It just feels WEIRD!

  9. Favorite to write: The Hook
    Hardest: Bio...I find it difficult to sum myself up in a paragraph. I always like to come up with unique bios for different places I write. It just feels funny to me...hard to explain. Reminds me of the whole picture taking thing.
    ~ Wendy

  10. Jody, I find this so interesting because I've never heard agents talk about the author writing proposals for fiction. Non-fiction, yes, a must. Do you know if this is standard in the industry, or do the agents themselves often prepare these fiction proposals, geared toward the editors they know?

  11. Oooh - I think I would find every section difficult to fill out! Well, I guess I could handle the title page, but the rest of it seems a lot more difficult!

    PS. Just noticed the new pic in your sidebar - it is great!

  12. Sherrinda: The bio is definitely something you can start formulating. Keep reading the backs of books to see what other authors are doing! I think that helped me!

    Donna: Glad it could help!

    Terri: We had an AWESOME meeting! Jill is fantastic! I hope you get to meet her some day!

    Eileen: It is very time-consuming and I hear you--I'd rather be working on my story too!

    Krista: I think we can come up with a generic summary of ourselves as an author that doesn't list anything too specific, other than that we've been writing for years, love our family, and leave it short and simple!

    Marybeth: It was helpful for me to already have some of these things written out before I actually HAD to write them in the REAL proposal!

    Jeanette: I think a market analysis would be super tough for non-fiction especially! I think it's more critical, right up there with platform for selling a non-fiction, do you think?

    Katie: The market analysis is looking at WHO will buy your book. The comparable is looking at WHAT books are like yours. At least that's the difference in the WordServe proposal. Hope that helps!

    Wendy: I agree! I hated having to write in the third person about myself! And trying to put myself in the best light possible!

    Joanne: Very good question! Tess Hilmo, another blogger, mentioned in the comments last time that her agent wrote her fiction proposal for her. So, perhaps there are some agencies that do this. However, I would think an author would want to write most of it, since they would be the one most familiar with the book.

    Kate: It does seem overwhelming, but I don't think it's quite so bad when we break it down into various sections and tackle them one at a time!

  13. Just noticed your new picture - wowee! Very nice!

    I have yet to write a book proposal, but there is a nonfiction book that I'd really like to write - just need to put together a proposal first. Must admit - it's a daunting prospect!

  14. Jody: yes, the Market analysis is very important. The editors want to make sure you have something unique to say. It's very challenging to 'toot your own horn' don't you think? (although I know a couple of writers who seem to enjoy it immensely-- HA! No one on this blog; we are a humble bunch!)
    Thanks for saying that I was an encourager on Rachelle's blog; that was sweet of you!

  15. Just finished a book of devotionals from Proverbs! One of them is posted on Family Fountain if you get a chance to look at it.

  16. Even aside from the obvious purpose of the proposal, I think the point you make about it never being "too early to start writing a book proposal" is true because it's amazing how a proposal can help you distill and refine the idea of the book itself.

  17. I think the Brief Overview would be difficult...of course that is because I have yet to perfect my query letter.

    After that- definitely the Author Bio...I always sound corny or uptight.

  18. It's really fun to see the breakdown! Thanks for sharing ... can't wait for the next post.

  19. I was in the process of writing an ebook and decided at my last writers conference that it would work well as a non-fiction book too. So I think I will tackle that before I go back to ebook (or I might end up with too separate versions?)

    I think a lot of people have trouble with a bio because is seems like bragging. I tell people to write in the third person and imagine they are talking about a friend. Sometimes that helps.

    For me, the easiest will be the hook! I know exactly who I'm writing this for and why I'm writing it.

  20. Jody,

    Thank you for mentioning Krista's use of my Book Proposals That Sell. The revised edition came out last October and I know it has helped many people from the over 130 Five Star reviews for the book. In my signature, I'll include a link where anyone can get a free copy of the Ebook version (no optin).

    author of Book Proposals That $ell, 21 Secrets To Speed Your Success (Revised Edition)


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