Tips on writing a book proposal

Publishers and authors need each other: the former is looking for those who could offer a product in demand on the market, and the latter are dreaming of seeing their works on the shelves of bookstores. But not every idea can interest the publisher and become a real book. There are many step-by-step guides on writing a book proposal to help young writers publish their books.

How to choose a publisher

If you are lost in the flow of modern publishers, it’s easiest to imagine the shelf in the bookstore your finished book is standing on and then examine the publishers there. Any publishing house has a website that will contain information about who to send the manuscript to. At this stage, the most important thing is to properly submit your book, that is, to pitch it.

Why do you need a book proposal?

The main function of the proposal is to provide publishers with all necessary information about the work and about the author.

The proposal that is written like “I would like you to offer a novel “White Fog” for publishing. Yours sincerely, David Jones” is no good. It does not reflect the genre nor the professional level of the author, let alone other essential details.

You need to show that the publisher will be able to make money on your book, and you will get a contract. Seduce the editor with an interesting proposal, and he will review it faster.

How to write a book proposal

Writing a book proposal is like working on a bait. This is the first advertisement of your book, created by you. It is important to remember that you do not need to retell your work or give an annotation. Ask yourself the question: “What is attractive in my book?”

There is an old trick that the British journalist and newspaper consultant David Rendall taught in his book “The Universal Journalist”. Imagine that you have witnessed some incredible event, and you need to climb a hill to tell about this to a friend who is standing on the very top. While you were climbing up, you almost lost your breath, and you can make only one sentence. Randall recommended using this trick to those who learn to write news leads, but why not use this trick for your pitch

Such a proposal will be an exciting start. The structure of the proposal usually consists of several parts:
  • The theme of your book – the most intriguing sentence
  • The author’s authority – why is it you who understand this topic the best and can talk about it well?
  • A reference to your text or another author, close in style to the future book
  • A plot – if you offer fiction to the publisher
  • Synopsis – if you offer non-fiction (maximum a page long)
  • Audience – what audience is your book designed for and how can you interest it?

Components of a book proposal

The main components of a book proposal are:
  • Appeal
  • Pitch
  • Author
  • Genre
  • Size
  • The target audience
  • Abstract of a work of art
  • About the author
  • Marketing
  • Contact information


If you know the name of the person to whom you are writing, call him or her by name and last name. If you do not know, limit yourself to a neutral greeting: “To whom it may concern”. Never write anything like “Hello, dear editorial staff!” or “Dear Sirs publishers!” – it reminds of letters to provincial newspapers.


This is the like with one or two written sentences where you need to explain what is interesting about this book.


Here you need to indicate your full name. If you want your book to be published under a pseudonym, put it in brackets.


Study the descriptions of the books recently published by this publisher. Specify which series your novel is suitable for: then the proposal will be immediately given to the desired editor. Describe your genre in terms that are used by the publisher itself.

Be careful with the mainstream word. It is better if you write as follows: “a love story/a historical drama” or “mysticism/ a detective”. But even if you wrote a book at the junction of a dozen genres, do not get carried away with the enumeration: two elements are the maximum, otherwise the editor will have a feeling that you yourself do not know what your book is about. In addition, it will be difficult for the receiving secretary to decide who exactly to give your application to and this always leads to a delay in consideration.


The size of the book is traditionally defined in author’s sheets. 1 author’s sheet is equal to 40.000 characters with spaces. The number of characters with spaces should be rounded to the nearest tenth. The size of poetic works is determined in the number of lines.

The target audience

The target audience of the book should be described based on age, sex, place of residence, income level, education, and special interests of readers. If you find it difficult to determine your target audience, go to the bookstore and ask the sellers who often asks for such books?

Abstract of a work of art

The abstract should not exceed one or three paragraphs. Do not retell the whole story, it’s enough to designate time, place of action, main characters, and the answer to the main question: “What is the book about?”

About the author

Point out only what is relevant: age, education, previous literary experience, etc. There is no need to list all the papers and magazines, in which you printed. It is suffice to mention the publications in the local press. Exceptions are media of the federal level. The same goes for the previous books: be limited to the list of publishers – if these publishers are known. You do not need to specify book titles.


If you have resources to promote your work, be sure to mention them. For example, you are a radio station presenter or have a website with a decent attendance.

Contact information

Always specify a postal code. If you live somewhere far, write the difference in time, otherwise you may get a call at three o’clock in the morning. If you do not have an email, get one. Almost all correspondence between publishers and authors is conducted by e-mail. If you do not have a website – think about how to do it.

What will make your proposal successful?

When writing a book proposal, pay attention to these things that will help you make the proposal successful:
  • Text quality. First, the norms of the language, as well as the principles of the three-part composition, must be observed. All parts of the text should be logically linked because if the text is understandable to the author it doesn’t mean that it will be understandable to the reader as well. The publishing house is your first reader in the world of literature. In the case of non-fiction, the author is expected to provide new information, which the reader has not yet known.
  • The relevance of the topic and its relevance. You can learn in advance how successful the sales of books of your subjects were. It is not necessary to conduct a full-fledged marketing analysis, just select 5–6 examples of similar works and look for information about how successful these books were. It will be even better if you choose the books of the publishing house in which you want to publish your book.
  • Novelty. Writing a book can be compared to editing in a movie. The text should be compiled by you in the order that in your opinion better helps you tell a story. It is better to choose an unusual feed that attracts attention.
  • Info-guide. Perhaps you were inspired for the writing of the book by news, events, film or celebrity. The publishing house will benefit if there is a bright news clue during the advertising of the book. In particular, if the book describes some topical topic, which is often discussed in the media, it will help the advertising of the book.

Identifying the target audience

Publishers always ask the authors to determine the target audience of the work because the author knows better than anyone for whom he wrote the book. It is better to deal with the target audience (TA) before sending a proposal to the publishing house. Describe the core of TA, those readers who constantly acquire literature on your subject matter. Ask yourself a few questions and answer them from the point of view of your potential reader:
  • How useful is this book?
  • How do your interests come into contact with the theme of the book?
  • Is this book for people of your age?
  • What media are you reading?

How to format the proposal

As a rule, several chapters of the manuscript are attached to the proposal, sometimes publishers require the whole manuscript. Fragments of the manuscript should be complete and logically complement each other. If the publisher has special requirements for the design of manuscripts, they are usually described on the website of the publisher itself. But more often the proposal can be created according to this principle:
  • The Times New Roman, Arial or Courier New black font
  • The font size is 12
  • Distance between lines – 1.5
  • A title page as desired
In the upper left corner of the first page, you need to specify:
  • The full name of the author and his pseudonym
  • The name of the work
  • Genre
  • The size of the work
  • Contacts of the author

In the upper right corner, put the numbering, add the name of the work and your name. The title of the chapters can be written in the center of the page or on the left. Send proposal using a clear postal address and name the file with the manuscript with your last name or book title. The book does not need to be sent in an archive, where one chapter contains one file. Thus, you reduce the likelihood that it will be carefully studied. Do not immediately attach your photos because this is not a resume. The distribution of the proposal to the publishing house is similar to the job search, so do not put all the publishers in the copy and write a unique cover letter.

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