How Do You Create a Winning Book Proposal?

[This is a guest post from John Fayad, aka The Literary Coach.]

There are many executives, professionals, and creative individuals who would love to have their book idea published but have little to no knowledge of the publishing industry. Many have no idea how to develop a marketable book concept or how to present themselves or their book projects to literary agents and publishers. And many will waste months or years trying to produce a full manuscript believing that is what publishers expect.

If you have a great idea for a nonfiction book, your first step is not to write the entire book, your first effort is to develop a book proposal.

Elements of a Winning Book Proposal

These are the three elements of a winning book proposal and the sub-elements of greatest interest to a literary agent or acquisitions editor:

1. Book Concept

Book Concept Summary – a concise, compelling statement of the premise of your book and the benefit(s) your target audience will derive from reading it. It must convincingly describe why your work is unique or superior to other books on the topic and why you are the one person most qualified to write it.

Book Outline – your book’s structure at a glance offering a comprehensive idea of the scope and direction of your work.

Sample Chapter – a complete chapter that best represents your writing style and conveys a foundational aspect of your book.

Chapter Abstracts – a ~300-word summary of each chapter. Show that you truly have a command of the subject and are prepared to write the book when commissioned to do so.

2. Author Platform

Biography – Platform is the term agents and publishers uses to describe an author’s marketability, relevance to a target audience, recurrent public visibility, and the aptitude and willingness for self-promotion. Your bio is as important as your book concept.

3. Marketing & Promotion

Competition – compare and contrast at least six competitive books. Provide a ~200-word summary of each competitive title followed by a summary of your book addressing a specific shortcoming of the competitive title. In this fashion, each competitive title will showcase a specific strength of your book.

Positioning Statement – two to three well-crafted sentences that speak to your book’s uniqueness in relation to your competition, your credibility as an author, and the benefit to your readers.

Target Audience – show that you know your target audience(s), how each segment can be reached, and what motivates them.

Reader Benefits – an extended definition of your target audience that describes their problems, issues, needs, wants, or desires. Explain how your book will resolve those problems or needs.

Features of the Book – the tools in your book that will help deliver those benefits.

Endorsements – praise from public figures, thought leaders, or professionals with position power will significantly elevate you and help promote your book. Provide the names and titles of willing endorsers so the agent and editor will have a feel for your network.

Foreword – If you are an aspiring author with insufficient platform, I strongly recommend you secure a foreword contributor for your book. Your target audience will associate you with the top endorser, accelerating the development of your own platform. Provide half-page bios of willing foreword contributors.

Promotional Activities – The agent, editor, and ultimately the editorial board will be looking for target audience reach and frequency. List the activities and tools at your disposal that will generate and sustain consumer awareness.

A well-crafted book proposal will add dimension to the premise of your book, help you present your platform as an author, and lend discipline to the development of a book marketing plan. Moreover, it will help clarify and organize your thoughts before you become too involved in the writing process.

Visit the TLC Library to access the full seven to eight page text and 15-minute audio essay on this and other TLC topics.

Visit for more information and support on developing your book concept, preparing your book proposal, and achieving your goal of becoming a published author.

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