When you are ready to write a non-fiction proposal, then it’s time to take a step back from your work and look at it from an editor’s and a publisher’s point of view. This is not easy, but don’t despair. The Basic Non-Fiction Proposal Outline you see here is one that I use in my work with authors. I share this with you to help you get started on your proposal. ~ Cindie Geddes
The Concept is one paragraph that summarizes every reason we have for someone to represent or buy this book. It is usually found by boiling down the Synopsis into its most salient and unique points.
What do you think are the most important points of your proposal?
This Table of Contents is the outline of the Proposal itself
The synopsis is the overview. It is a summary of the rest of the proposal and what will be cut down into a one-paragraph Concept Statement for the first page of the proposal. It is designed to sell the following to an agent or editor:
The bio is meant to show why and how you are the only person who can write and promote this book.
How can we prove your expertise?
A photo can be helpful to show you are media-ready. Do you have a good, professional, accessible black and white, high resolution photo we can use? If not, get one. If you want to know how you should look, tune into Oprah and study how her author guests dress, etc.
This is also the section where we mention your other book ideas. What book ideas do you want to include?
The Market is where we define your readers. We want to show that we understand your target market, market size and how to reach that market.
The Competition section is to show editors/agents that you know the competition your book will have and to show why your book can beat that competition. It’s all about comparing and contrasting. If there are a ton of books that are similar to yours, we will want to give categories of shortcomings with one representative title for each category. If there are only a few other books that compare to yours, we will want to compare yours to each.
6-12 books, biblio info (author, title, publisher, city and state published, most recent pub date, number pages, retail cost), one paragraph summary of contents and slant, compare and contrast with yours (no more than three short paragraphs each).
We don’t want to compare your book to small press books unless you see this as a small press book. Nor do we want to compare it to books more than five years old.
This is where we lay out what we want the book to look like and give some details on subjects like front matter and back matter. Common details include:
This section shows your plan for promoting your book. It is about what you will do, not what your publisher will do. This is the almighty Platform we hear so much about. It shows your ability to garner publicity for your book and thereby sell copies. It should be realistic and credible.
How will you promote your book? Here is some language I typically use to start and then I flesh out each in its own separate paragraph:
AUTHOR is eager to work closely with the sales and publicity team of the publisher of BOOK TITLE to promote the book and drive sales. He/She sees five primary ways to do this: 1) presenting lectures and workshops, 2) media appearances, 3) arranging for book reviews and peer reviews, 4) direct mail and 5) the Internet.
When I create book proposals, I end it with something like:
AUTHOR is an empathetic and enthusiastic speaker and writer. He/She believes in BOOK TITLE’s ability to ???. She hopes that her own efforts in conjunction with those of her publisher’s sales and publicity team will get the word out to the millions of people who will benefit from the book.
This Table of Contents is basically the outline of your proposed book.
Now, this is the meat of your proposal. This is where an interested buyer or representative decides whether or not to make the leap and take you on. Here is where you prove you have a real book.
Chapter summaries are just that – summaries of your chapters. Each summary should run no more than a page and give readers a strong idea of what to expect.
The first sentence of each chapter summary should give an overview of the chapter. After that, you should have no more than one sentence (a one-line sentence) to represent each page you will include in the chapter.
Beginning each chapter summary with an anecdote makes the proposal more enjoyable to read.
Remember, a chapter will have a structure – beginning, middle and end. So too should your summaries have a structure – ideally the same structure you will incorporate in the chapters themselves.
We will need summaries for sample chapters as well. We don’t get to skip those.
This is where you prove you can write. The standard is two or three sample chapters, around 40 to 50 pages.
We want chapters that really show your skills and the uniqueness of your vision.
This is where we put bits and pieces that can sell you and your expertise and your idea. It is a collection of publicity exhibits for you and your subject. We include anything that lends credibility to you and your ideas. We also include anything that can back up the importance and timeliness of your book.