What’s a book proposal?

A book proposal is a business document which convinces a publisher to buy your book before you’ve written it. Your proposal says, in effect: “Hey, I’ve got a great idea for a book which lots of people will want to buy. Do you want to publish it?”

Think of it as a combination brochure and outline of your proposed book.

There’s a standard format of material that your book proposal will need to cover. This doesn’t mean that you need to hew completely to this format. It’s just a guideline of topics your proposal must contain.


Your book proposal must contain:


  • A title page, with the title, subtitle, author, word count of the completed book, and estimated time frame for completion. You might state: “75,000 words, completion three months after agreement”.
  • An overview: a description of the book. This can be as short as a paragraph, or several pages long.
  • The background of the author. Your biography, as it relates to your expertise for this book.
  • The competition in the marketplace. This is where you mention the top four or five titles which are your book’s competitors. (Note: if there are dozens of competitors for your book, this is a good thing, because it means that the subject area is popular. Your book will need to take a new slant.)
  • Promotions. This is where you describe how you will promote your book, both before and after publication.
  • A chapter outline.
  • A sample chapter, or two chapters. This is always the first chapter, and if you’re sending two chapters, it’s the Introduction and Chapter One, or if there’s no Introduction, it’s Chapters One and Two.
  • Attachments. Optional. You may want to attach articles you’ve written about the book’s topic, or any relevant supporting material.