Write A Killer Book Proposal

By Christopher Zoukis

Every non-fiction writer needs to know how to write a killer book proposal, because that’s how you get a publishing contract and a nice advance.  A book proposal is composed of seven sections.  Three of those seven sections make up the ‘killer’ elements of your book proposal, so those three sections must be fabulous.

The seven sections are:  

1.  The introduction, which is a one paragraph summary of your book.  The introduction needs to pique the editor’s interest, so he wants to read more.

2.  Purpose, which some writers call “the book hook.”  This is one of the three ‘killer’ parts of your proposal, so make it dazzling.  The Purpose of your book is a one-sentence summary of your book that hooks the editor like a fish.  For example:  Queen of L.A. examines the extravagant life of Gladys Root, one of the first feminists, and the most successful female attorney in U.S. history.

3.  Next is the Overview.  The Overview summarizes the plot of your book and is usually one to three pages long.  At the end of the Overview is your platform, which is the second of the three killer elements.  Your platform can make or break your book contract, because it tells the editor why your book will sell.  Some examples of great platforms are:  being a famous celebrity, being an acknowledged expert, having unprecedented access to sources of information, being an established author or blogger with a vast following or simply having a story that is so unique, so timely, and so well written that it can’t miss.

4.  This section is called the Competition, and lists the titles, authors and ISBNs of any recent books similar to yours.  This information is available on Amazon.com.  Be sure to tell the editor why your book will be better or different than all the others. 

5.  In this section, you discuss what you are willing to do to help promote and market your book.  For example, you will establish a website to promote your book; you’ll produce a book trailer; you’re willing to do book-signings, a book tour, interviews and readings.  You’ll hire a publicist.  You’ll do a virtual tour of book blogs.  Perhaps you’ll even speak on the dinner-circuit.  Be creative.

6.  The Author section, which is where you get to sell yourself.  This section is also called the Platform.  In other words, will people buy your book simply because of who you are?  Because you’re an expert in your field?  Because you’ve written 10 other books in the same genre, and all 10 were bestsellers?  If you’re shy, don’t be.  Blow your own horn.  Tell the editor about all your writing awards, all your publications, and all your writing related experience.

7.  Annotated Table of Contents.  This last section is the third of the ‘killer’ elements, so make it superb.  Since it is so important, put time and effort into it.  For it is in this section that you show the editor that you have done your research, that you are organized and that you can envision the direction your subject matter needs to take, thus engaging the reader.  Summarize each chapter of your book in one to three paragraphs.  Be sure to include chapter titles and headings.

Along with the above proposal, be sure to send one or two sample chapters of your book.  Your sample chapters demonstrate your writing style and show the editor that your ‘voice’ is pleasing, which means it doesn’t distract from the flow of the text.  Most writers think this is the most important part of their proposal.  It is not.  The most important parts of the proposal are the Purpose or hook, the platform, and the chapter summaries.  Make them so excellent that they glow-in-the-dark.