Non Fiction Proposal Guidelines


Writing a great book proposal is the beginning of the publishing process and the only way to get a publisher to look at your material. And the process of writing a good book proposal is a great exercise, because you become focused on what you want to write. It helps you remember the main message of your material and it helps you envision the reader out there who needs your message. Later the proposal will help you write the book.

A proposal is actually a sales tool. Agents, editors, committees of production and sales teams will go through your proposal to determine if it is a marketable product.

A Book Proposal Tells

  • What is the book about? The answer to this question is where the book will be shelved in a bookstore or what words would be used to search for the book on a search engine.
  • Why anyone would want to read it?
  • Who has written other books like it and how your book is different from those?
  • What qualifies you to write the book?
  • What will you do to promote and market the book?
  • What is the benefit (or "take-away") message of the book?


The proposal convinces the publisher you have a message and that a certain audience needs and wants to hear the message.

The publisher wants to know you know what you are writing about and whether they can sell it. The publisher may invest as much as $40,000 in your book. Because publishing is a business, you must convince them the book is needed, wanted, and can sell.

Then you persuade them you can write it.


Format the Proposal Professionally

·      Use no fancy fonts or clip art or colors.

·      Use Times New Roman, Courier, Garamond, or Ariel, 12 point.

·      Use 1-inch margins.

·      Front matter can be single-spaced.

·      Sample chapters must be double-spaced.

·      Start each sample chapter halfway down the page.

·      Do not bind or staple the proposal; send loose, not in a three-ring binder or other fancy binding.

·      Most publishers prefer the proposal to be transferred digitally only after sending you a specific request.

·      Read the publisher’s guidelines carefully.


For Non-Fiction --  Major Parts Of The Proposal

 Title page:

On this page type the title and subtitle

The best titles and subtitles are high-concept titles which tell clearly what the book is about.

Also list the author name, address, phone numbers, and email address.

If you have an agent, list the agent’s name, agency, and contact information.

Overview Page

 On this page tell what category the book is in (see genre list).

Give the length of the book in number of words (not pages).

What is the status of the book? Have you written parts of it?

Is it in draft form?

How long will it take you to finish the manuscript?

Who is the audience for this book?

What is the age range, the gender, and the economic or social status of the reader?

What does your book offer the reader?

What is the reader’s need and how will your book help the reader. (Here is a great spot for statistics or quotes that prove your book is needed.)

Will your book cover a specific desire?

For example:

 In my book about prayer, readers will discover how to use the prayers of ancient Christians?

Be specific and show how you will meet the needs of the audience.

Write one to four synopsis paragraphs describing the contents of your book.

These overview paragraphs are one of the most important features of your proposal.

The publisher will stop reading the proposal at this spot if you don't do a good job on these paragraphs.

Show the publisher what your book is about and describe it in such a compelling way that he or she wants to read the book.

As you write, answer the question “So what?”  Why would anyone want to read your book? Be specific and identify your reader. Narrow the target audience down to a specific group such as moms of teens or senior citizens who don’t retire.

Bullet points are effective if used well in the synopsis.

Go to the bookstore and read dozens of back covers to understand how important these overview paragraphs can be.

Grab the publisher’s attention with a great synopsis overview.

Do your best work.

Write these paragraphs using tight sentences, strong verbs, and powerful descriptions.

Make the synopsis compelling enough to cause the publisher to read the book.

Market Analysis

Search bookstores,, and other online sites for books related to your topic.

These books are your competition.

·       Read the reviews.

·       Read the books.

·       Read the descriptions.

Prepare a list of five to ten books already published on your subject. In general, only choose books published within the last five years. Never say, “No one has ever written a book like mine before.”

Write a paragraph on each book stating the name of the book, publisher, author, date of publication, the ISBN#, and what the book is about.

Then write a sentence about how your book is different.

Don’t assume the publisher knows about books similar to yours and don’t assume he or she doesn’t know. Do good research here and write strong opinions about your book, but don’t write unrealistic ideas such as “I know this book will sell a million copies” or “Every woman on earth will want my book.”

Marketing and Promotion

Why would someone want to buy your book?

What will you do to help sell the book?

Do you really understand your target market?

How will you reach your market?

Will you arrange book signings? Where? Will you submit articles to magazines? Which magazines? Will you make media appearances? Which media?

What is your platform? Your sphere of influence?

What contacts do you have that will help sell the book?

Do you have speaking engagements lined up? If so, list each one and the size of the audiences.

Do you have a blog? If so, how many readers do you have?

Do you have a newsletter? How often do you send it out? How many names are on your mailing list?

How much money will you invest in the marketing of your book?

Will you connect with influencers and send out free books?

Will you hold a launch party?

Have you ever gone on a blog tour? Will you arrange one for this book?

This page is not the place to say you are willing to do whatever the publisher wants you to do; it is the place for you to give concrete ideas for selling your book. Give real numbers of database contacts, audience sizes, and unique hits on your blog.

This page is not the place to say you will try; it is the place to show your plan.

Your platform is your most important asset. Reach out to potential readers starting today (Don’t wait for your book to be published.) so you will have a potential audience for your publisher to see. Begin now to engage people on your topic via social media. Start a blog and get followers now.

Bio Page

Two critical questions must be answered in your bio.

What is your experience?

What is your expertise?

Write a half page bio. (Maximum 1 full page)

This résumé is not to tell everything you've ever done. Instead cover the important parts of your life and include anything qualifying you to write this book such as education and experience or if you have used this material in a teaching/speaking situation.

Start the bio where you are today and work backward. (Don’t start, “I was born in a hospital in Chicago.” unless the place of your birth has some super significance in your book.)

Writing the bio in third person can help you get over any self-conscious barriers.

Include something personal.

Why are your qualified to write this book?

For example:

Have you traveled to Eastern Europe to give the seminar based on this book, etc?

What else have you published—books or articles?

Have you appeared on TV or radio?

What else gives you the unique position to write a book on your topic?

Chapter Summaries

Give each chapter a title, and then write a short descriptive paragraph for each chapter.

Your paragraphs should have three parts:

·      a hook to entice the reader to read the chapter,

·      a description of the chapter, and

·      a sentence to describe the benefit to the reader.


Suggestion: Try to write the chapter in three sentences. (Writing three well-crafted, power-packed sentences in the chapter summary will tell the publisher you have a full grasp of what you are writing.)

If you’ve written three strong sentences, the publisher will be intrigued enough to ask for more and may come back to you later asking you to write a full page on each chapter to flesh the idea out.




A Short List of Genre/Categories


Christian Living


Bible Study


Women’s Non-Fiction

Narrative Non-Fiction

Health and Wellness (Mind and Body)


Teens or Tweens











Learn the craft of writing and how to self edit. Study passive voice and how to avoid it. Study punctuation and how to use it. Avoid clichés and Christianese. Avoid exclamation points. Use bold or italics or all caps rarely.

Words to Avoid

·       Really

·       You (too much “you” sounds preachy)

·       Feel

·       Think

·       Things

·       As

·       A lot, lots

·       Sort of/kind of

·       Like

·       Just

·       Used to

·       And also

·       And/or

·       As to whether

·       Basically, essentially, totally

·       Being that or being as

·       Considered to be

·       Due to the fact

·       Each and every

·       Equally

·       He/she

·       Firstly, secondly, thirdly

·       Got to

·       Had ought or hadn’t ought

·       Interesting

·       In terms of

·       Irregardless

·       Literally

·       Many, most

·       On account of

·       Per

·       Plus (as a conjunction)

·       Try and

·       Thusly

·       Very, quite