How To Write a Book Proposal That Sells

Dear Friends,

It’s not hard to write a book proposal. What’s challenging is writing one that actually sells your book. Please note this is an OUTLINE. My final proposal with all the details filled in was 10,000 words and just shy of 40 pages. Yours maybe shorter or longer depending on the type of book. This outline will get you started in a powerful way! The design is based on the proposal for a book that sold for six figures. Enjoy!


A non-fiction book proposal is basically a business plan, and it begins with a great cover letter. Get your cover letter perfect. Your cover letter to a publisher is everything and not unlike the query letter to an agent. We won’t cover that here since we go into great depth in our Insider’s Guide to Securing a Literary Agent. Also available at

In this cover letter you need to be clear, credentialed, passionate, convincing, insightful, and brief. Always be polite and filled with gratitude. Sign off by thanking them for their time and consideration.

Writing a book proposal is a great challenge, yet amazing process and now you have a clear and effective framework to guide you. Just like with a start up business plan your goal is to make it so good, compelling, and engaging, that your bank or seed funder gives you money to launch your business. Same thing with a book proposal, your goal is to convince the agent, publisher or editor what a great, necessary, unique, and sellable idea you have—in addition to why you are the person to write it. It should really follow on the heels of your expert level experience in writing, healthcare, business, sports, entertainment, or whatever it is you truly shine at. A solid non-fiction book proposal is 10,000 words+ or about 30-40 pages. The proposal I recently sold was just over 10,000 words and just shy of 40 pages. It depends a little on the project. This page count will include chapter summaries and sample chapters


This is your initial sales pitch. Important to get right. You can echo and repeat some of what you said in your cover letter, but expand a little and go into greater detail. What is this book about? Why did you write it? Why is it unique in the industry or niche? And who are you to write it. Hype yourself up a little here. List your credentials, professional associations, any notable people you can mention in regards to your writing and experience.

Review and edit repeatedly, have friends and respected colleagues read and edit with you. Tell us the who, what, and why of your book project in three-five short paragraphs. Include some brief notes about your expertise, the market you are targeting, and what makes this book so special and needed right now.

1-2 pages in length is perfect.


This is where you include the Table of Contents, your chapter titles or headings. What is the chapter outline and structure for your book? Be creative and clear. What is the designing principle for this book? Include a couple sentences about what will be included in each chapter with a total word count estimate. Perhaps your book is divided into sections. Include those with a brief summary of why it’s broken down this way.

Include your chapter summaries here as well. A short paragraph for each chapter is sufficient. This could be 10-20 pages depending on your project.


This is where you toot your own horn. Study impressive brief biographies you like on the back of books and on websites for professionals in your field. Be concise and to the point. This is not a time for story telling and being quirky and friendly telling them about how you like kittens and walks on the beach. Focus on the highlights of your career, credentials, any and all publishing credits, any press you have received related to your profession and the book topic. Highlight your expertise, awards, any celebrity or big-name associations. List quotes and testimonials from professionals who know you and your work. Include blurbs from well-known people in your industry or community. If you don’t yet have them, then ask and include them in your biography. If you have a moving life-affirming story about how you came to write the book, include a brief version of it here. 1 page or less.


This section should be thorough and detailed as well. What is your platform around this book, meaning what’s your relationship to your community of readers and how will you reach them? What is your online presence? Perhaps this needs to be built up over time.

How will you get the word out about your book? What kind of connections do you have in your industry or what kind of partnerships can you leverage? Will you put any of your own money into promotions? Do you have any media contacts, connections with reporters? Do you have a speaking platform? What kind of innovative approaches can you take? (Sweepstakes, social media contests, non-profit alliances, speaking, webinars, etc.)

If you have self-published a previous book or pamphlet that has sold well or been distributed widely, mention it here with specific sales data. Include future sales goals based on previous years events and sales with realistic projections.

Include a variety of approaches include any online of social media marketing strategies and opportunities unique to your niche.


Who is your target market, your audience? Who will read your book? Be as specific as you can. Include estimated market numbers. For example how your readers are part of “the $50 million dollar-a-year (and growing) Animal Hospice industry. Or whatever the specific market is around your book. Are there any fan bases that would love your book? Include gender, age range, income bracket, geographic areas, particular cultural communities, etc. Are their any special markets you can tap— hospitals, small businesses, freelance writers, universities, or special associations?


List at least five related titles similar to your book that have done well (you can do research on Amazon for this). Describe briefly their book and then talk about what makes your book different, better, stunningly unique, and fills an unmet need in the marketplace.

Start with an introductory paragraph re-highlighting the strengths and unique approach of your book followed by complimentary mention of the competition, yet with insight on how your approach is not only different but also more complete, more in depth, more innovative.


Include your very best chapter that highlights your best writing. Get this chapter edited by a PROFESSIONAL editor. (Contact me for a high quality referral).

Good luck with your project! If you have any questions or comment, feel free to reach out. And I hope to see you at a future event! Until then, live well, love well, and write well!


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Albert Flynn DeSilver