Nonfiction Book Proposal Outline

Here is a basic template for a book proposal, which many of our clients have used successfully. You are also welcome to listen to free audio recordings of Ted’s “Book Proposal Bootcamp” and other workshops and media appearances.

I. Overview

Describe your book in two or three paragraphs (500 words or less). What is the title and subtitle? Who is the target audience and what makes your book unique and worthwhile for them? Think of this as the copy that would go on the back cover of your book or in the publisher’s catalog, or as the brief review that you hope to see in Publishers Weekly or the NY Times Book Review.

II. Target Audiences

Who is your core audience, the most likely purchasers of this book? How big is that market, and how can they best be reached? What other groups and types of readers will also be interested?

III. About the Author

Your credentials and experience. What makes you uniquely qualified to write and promote this book? What other media outlets do you regularly appear in?

IV. Comparable Titles

List and summarize the major comparable titles and explain why yours is different from each. You are trying to accomplish two things with this section: prove there is an audience who would find your book interesting, as demonstrated by earlier, successful books, while making clear how yours is different enough to compel those readers – and others – to buy it.

V. Marketing and Promotion

What is your comprehensive plan to actively promote the book? Where should publicity be focused? What are the magazines and other media outlets that your target audience pays attention to? Where should you and your publisher work especially hard to get the book reviewed?

Blurbs: What “name” people would be willing to contribute a blurb? Can you get their commitment before the manuscript is completed?

Media and Speaking Appearances: Does this book or your prior experience give you credentials to speak on any current topics in the media? What are the topics and target outlets? Beyond book stores, what other types of groups and organizations would be interested in having you speak to them?

Serialization: What parts of your book lend themselves to excerpting in magazines and journals? List the appropriate excerpts and the 5 or 10 most important publications in which they could appear?

Describe additional promotional opportunities you will pursue: Retaining a speakers bureau to book speaking opportunities. Retaining an independent publicist. Organizational connections? Mailing lists? Workshops? Tours? Does the book have series potential? Opportunities for regular updating? Other “legs”? Think creatively, think big.

VI. Detailed Table of Contents

Include the full Table of Contents, with detailed summaries of each chapter. This section could be anywhere from three to 20 pages – it needs to give a comprehensive, detailed map of what the book will contain.

VII. Sample Chapters

Include the first one or two chapters – not the introduction, but sample chapters that offer an accurate sense of the style, substance and structure of the book.