Writing and Publishing

Four Essential Elements of a Successful Book Proposal

To approach an agent or publisher with our book, we start with a query letter and are ready to follow it with a proposal. For me, writing my first proposal was harder than writing the book. Seriously.

To learn about creating proposals, I read blog posts, listened to podcasts, attended webinars, went to lectures, and took classes. Amid the confusion and conflicting information, I realized two things: 1) writing a proposal is as much art as science, and 2) there is no one, right format.

Then I melded all this disparate information together to realize four essential tasks a book proposal must do:

1) Sell Our Idea: In our proposal, we pitch our book. We make it compelling and not give anyone a reason to say “no” or push delete. Our idea must be unique, memorable, and enticing.

2) Show Our Professionalism: Our proposal establishes us as a competent writer who is easy to work with and not flaky, disorganized, or flippant.

3) Exhibit Our Talent: As a writer, our work must always shine and nowhere is this more important than in a proposal. Make every word count. Our writing voice must ring out, true and clear.

4) Demonstrate Our Ability to Sell Books: A publisher will look to us as the primary person to promote, market, and sell our books. Yes, they will provide logistics and support, along with some marketing, but we need to show we have the ability and means to motivate people to buy our books. This means we need a platform, that dreaded word every writer detests. Regardless of its size, it never seems big enough.

Whatever format we follow for our book proposal or if we choose our own path, we must make sure we include these four essentials.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter Lyle DeHaan’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of PublishingGet your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

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