How to Write an Irresistible Book Proposal

book proposal book writing coaching brad wetzler nonfiction publishing Aug 08, 2020

Do you seek to publish your nonfiction book with a traditional publisher? Then you’ll want to write a compelling book proposal.

To help you get started, I’m offering you this free guide to writing your book proposal.

I am an experienced book-proposal coach. I help people write powerful, irresistible book proposals. If you’d like my expert guidance through this process, please email me at [email protected] to set up your free 30-minute phone consult.  I offer several book-proposal coaching packages on my website: bradwetzler.com/book-proposal-coaching

I hope you find this guide useful.

Understand The Parts of a Proposal

Most proposals range from 35 to 50 pages and have three parts: The OverviewThe Outline, and a Sample Chapter.

The Overview

Your overview must prove that you have a marketable, practical idea and that you are the right person to write about it and promote it. Provide as much ammunition about you and your book as you can muster, including:

  • The opening hook that will most excite editors about your subject.
  • The book hook:

* the title and selling handle, up to fifteen words of selling copy about the book.

* the books or authors you’re using as models for your book.

* the suggested (or actual) length of your manuscript and when you will deliver it.

* the book’s benefits (optional).

* special features (optional).

* information about a self-published edition (optional).

  • Markets: The types of readers and retailers, organizations, or institutions who’ll be interested in your book. The size of each group and other information to show you know your audience and how to write the book for those readers. Other possible markets: schools, businesses, and subsidiary-rights markets such as film and foreign publishers.
  • The Author’s Platform: A list in descending order of importance of whatever will impress editors about your visibility to your readers. Online, this may include the number of unique visitors or subscribers to your blog or website, your contacts on social networks, and online articles you’ve published.

Offline, your platform may include the number of articles you’ve had published in print media as well as the number of talks you give each year, the number of people you give them to, where you give them, and your media exposure. Editors may not expect authors of quote books to have a platform; business authors must. For certain kinds of books, an author’s platform is  important for big and midsize houses.

  • About the Author: Up to a page about yourself with information that isn’t in your platform. Begin with the most important information.
  • Promotion: A plan that begins: “To promote the book, the author will:…” followed by a bulleted list in descending order of impressiveness of what you will do to promote your book, online and off, during its crucial two-week-to-three-month launch window and after. Start each part of the list with a verb and use numbers when possible. Publishers won’t expect big plans from memoirists, and the smaller the house you’ll be happy with, the less important your plan is.
  • Competing Books: A list of the ten or so strongest competitors for your book—not just bestsellers. In addition to basic info about each book (title, author, publisher, year of publication, page count, format, price, ISBN), include two phrases—each starting with a verb—about each competitor’strengths and weaknesses. List the competitors in order of importance.
  • Complementary Books: A list of up to ten books like yours that prove the market for your book.
  • (Optional) Spin-Offs: The titles of up to three related follow-up books
  • (Optional) Foreword: A foreword by someone whose name will give book credibility and salability in fifty states two years from now. Obtain commitments for cover quotes as well, if you can.
  • (Optional) 
    A Mission Statement: One first-person paragraph about your passion or commitment to write and promote your book.

The Outline

A page called “Table of Contents” listing the chapters and the back matter. Then one or two paragraphs in the present tense about every chapter, using outline verbs like describeexplain, and discuss. For an informational book, you can use a self-explanatory bulleted list of the information the chapter provides.

A Sample Chapter

Usually one chapter that will excite editors by proving you will fulfill your book’s promise to readers and make your book as enjoyable to read as it is illuminating. Include about 10 percent of the book, or about 25 pages. Memoirs should be finished, and agents’ and editors’ will request more chapters.

For more information, read How to Write a Book Proposal by Michael Larsen.


A former senior editor and contributing writer at Outside magazine, Brad Wetzler is an author, journalist, travel writer, and book writing coach. His book, Real Mosquitoes Don’t Eat Meat, was published by W.W. Norton. His nonfiction writing has appeared in The New York Times Magazine and Book Review, GQ, Wired, Men’s Journal, National Geographic, George, Travel + Leisure, Thrive Global, and Outside. He coaches up-and-coming authors to write and successfully publish their books. For your free 30-minute phone consult, email Brad at [email protected]


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