Lesson 8: Recap
This is part of our free non-fiction book proposal course written by Lydia, Senior Editor at Penguin Random House. To see all posts in this series, please click here.
Over the last seven lessons, we’ve looked at how to create a winning book proposal in great detail. This last lesson brings together everything you’ve learnt into one handy summary you can refer back to whenever you need it.
Why is a book proposal important?
If you want to get your book published, you have to write a book proposal to show a publisher exactly what your book will be about and why there is a real need for it. Writing a fantastic book proposal is the best chance you have at landing a book deal.
Your proposal should include information on the following areas:
- Positioning Statement
- Summary and Blurb
- Target Market
- Chapter Breakdown
- Competing Books
- Author Biography
- Marketing and Publicity Ideas
- Sample Writing
A positioning statement is a one sentence summary of your book. It should be a compelling, snappy and accurate description of what your book will be.
A book summary expands upon the positioning statement to give a publisher more detail about what your book is about and how you are going to approach the subject. Make sure the summary highlights the ‘unique selling point’ so a publisher will instantly know how your book is different from others.
As well as writing a book summary you might want to write a book blurb that is addressed to the reader. This will show the publisher that you can write copy that appeals to the emotions and needs of your target audience.
In order to write a good book that sells well, you must think carefully about who your target market is. You will need to identify realistic target audiences and keep them in mind while writing your book.
Remember, don’t try to be all things to all people. Be clear about who your book will appeal to and why. And provide as much information about your audience as possible, explaining why they need your book. Be sure to illustrate the need for your book in the market.
Chapter summaries give publishers the best sense of what your book will address. A publisher will be looking to see that you have a well-thought-through structure and plan.
Spend ample time thinking about how best to structure your book chapters and explain clearly what each chapter will cover. Remember that detail is your friend in this section.
It’s important to help a publisher understand where you think your book will sit in the market. Pick at least three books to compare your book to and make sure you explain how your book is different from a selected title, as well as explaining how it is similar to it, so it is clear that your book is offering something new to the market.
It’s important to illustrate that you are the most qualified person to write this particular book. This section should explain who you are, what you do, why writing this book is important to you, and how you will support publication.
You should provide information on your achievements, experience, knowledge and expertise. Share details about how you have engaged with the book’s subject privately and publicly, providing information on the communities you have built and are part of.
Marketing and Publicity Ideas
It can be helpful to give the publishers an idea of how you envisage marketing this book and the types of publicity it might receive. If you have any ideas about how to get word out about your book to the target audience, share them in your proposal.
If you have a large social media following, host a podcast or are on the board of a charity, think about how this might help you sell books.
Provide information on how long your book will be, whether you plan to include any illustrative elements alongside the text and when you can deliver a first draft ready for editing. This information will help a publisher assess the potential cost of your book and work out when the book could be published.
Sample writing gives a publisher a clear idea of how well you write. You don’t necessarily need to start with Chapter 1, but make sure that the sections you include as samples are as strong as they can be.
The proposal is your biggest, and possibly your only, selling tool for your book. Therefore it is vital you make it as good as it can be.
Your proposal should capture a publisher’s attention from the opening sentence and try to keep their attention until the very last sentence. The publisher may very well be distracted while reading your proposal – drinking a latte while commuting on a busy train and looking out for their stop, or pulled into an unexpected zoom meeting when they are only on page three, so it’s your job to make sure they cannot wait to return to your proposal.
Publishers receive high volumes of proposals and as such they are used to saying ‘no’ and turning a book down more often than they say ‘yes’ and make an offer to commission a book. Your job then is to make it as hard as possible for a publisher to say no to you.
A great proposal is professional, it shows you have thought about the market, that you understand your subject like no one else and it shows you can write brilliantly.
Congratulations on completing Novlr’s non-fiction course. We hope this course has helped you to create such a proposal and wish you the best of luck on your journey to becoming a published author.