Writing a Book: Why and How to Write a Book Proposal

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If you intend to sell your book idea to a major publisher, you must write a book proposal. Everybody (or almost everybody) knows that. But whether you intend to sell your book to a publisher or publish it yourself, a book proposal will help sharpen your thinking and write a better and more successful book.

When you write a book proposal, you must pull your ideas about the book out of your head and put them on a page. Here are five questions that will help you write a good proposal, no matter what form the final proposal takes.

Question 1: Who will buy this book?

One answer to this question is statistical. Who are your potential readers and how many of them are there who buy and read books?

That describes the market, but markets don’t buy books. People buy books. A narrative reader persona will help you understand human side of the market. Many marketing writers use the term “persona” to refer to a demographic description. I mean something different

A persona is a narrative description of your reader. It describes why and how he or she will buy a copy of your book. Narrative gets at the emotional part of the buying process and packs a lot of rich data into a small space.

When I work on a writing project with a client, we draft a persona so we’re clear about who we are writing the book to. Check out my post “Writing for One.” It includes a link to a PDF of a persona I drafted when I worked with Stephen Lynch on his award-winning book, Business Execution for Results.

Question 2: Why will they pick it up?

Your persona will help you define the answer to this question. But you need to go beyond the persona and analyze the buying process. So, analyze the problem the reader faces and how he or she buys a book to help solve it.

Figure out how people realize the problem. Often, readers try several things before they buy a book. When they’re ready to buy, your reader will have a choice of several books that look similar. Why will he or she choose yours?

Question 3: How will a reader’s life be different after they read your book?

This question is simple to ask, but hard to get right. If you’re writing a business book, be clear about what they can do that’s different and better than it was before they read your book.

Question 4: Why are you the perfect person to write this book?

You know you’re the right person, and your mother knows you’re the right person, but how will a publisher or a reader know you’re the right person? Describe your credentials and your relevant experience.

Question 5: Do you have a platform?

Platform is the number of people who recognize your name, know your expertise, and are likely to buy your book. They can include readers of previous books, people who’ve heard you speak, and the people who read your blog or articles.

The reason publishers look for a lot of followers is that they know the larger the number of your active followers the more people are likely to buy your book. So, if your platform isn’t what you or a publisher would want it to be, get to work growing it.

Answer the questions to analyze what you need for a book that is both helpful and successful. If you submit a proposal to a publisher, your agent will tell you what your final proposal should include.

A Book Recommendation on Writing A Book Proposal

The book I recommend you pick up and study is not the “best” book on writing a book proposal. There are lots of opinions on that. I recommend the following book because it’s written by an experienced agent and because it shows you different proposal formats, all of which worked. By looking at different ways that authors have sold books with a proposal, you will get ideas about things you can do.

The book is: Write the Perfect Book Proposal: 10 That Sold and Why by Jeff Herman and Deborah Levine-Herman.

Bottom Line

Writing a book proposal will help you write a better and more successful book, whether you sell the idea to a publisher or publish the book yourself. It’s hard work, and it’s sometimes frustrating, but it’s worth it

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