How to write a book proposal
Now, for different book types and genres, your proposal may vary in terms of content. Memoir will differ slightly from a cookbook, fiction may differ from that of nonfiction, etc. But all will include the same components. Below is the basic formatting, a nearly standard set-up that I employed in writing mine.
Overview– perhaps the most crucial component of a book proposal. This is the section where you present your concept and concisely illustrate the nature, the nuts and bolts of what you aim to cover in the book. It must be clear and ideally, it can stand alone as the single summary of your book. Really sell your idea here while showing the ways it’s relevant, new, and unique.
About the Author– Give the reader an idea of who you are, your background, and why you are perfectly poised to write this book. In a page and a half, I shared my history with food, my passions, and the work I’ve done in the last five years (from film production to food writing). Beyond selling yourself in terms of marketability, this section should reveal personality and depth.
Chapter Outline– This is a detailed table of contents. It’s the list of chapter titles along with summaries of what each chapter will cover. You want to aim for cohesion and smooth transitions, all the while building unique points in each section. Roughly one to two paragraphs of summary per chapter should suffice.
Sample Chapter(s)– This is a fully-written chapter or two of the book you intend to write. It will show the reader your writing style, voice, and tone. I included two sample chapters: one, ten pages in length, about my father and childhood, and another, of similar length, about finding pure love of food while living in Italy. If you include more than one chapter, it’s wise to ensure they are different in that they show your creative and conceptual range, but hold a consistent voice. For me, one was dark and one was bright, but both felt true to my writing style.
Competing Works– All the books published in your genre that are similar. Research the top-selling and most closely related works to what you hope to write, and then provide a one sentence summary of each book followed by a brief compare/contrast (3-5 sentences) of your story concept to that of the particular book you’re relating it to. I focused on seven popular books in the food and weight loss memoir genre. A few of my choices: Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life, Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love, and Jennette Fulda’s Half-Assed.
Marketing and Promotion– This section is where you’ll share how your book will be successful. As a blogger, I was able to share metrics for my blog (monthly average number of page views, monthly average number of unique visitors, Twitter followers, Facebook fans, etc). You will also want to expose relationships you may have with media and other sources of promotion. I pointed to my feature on the cover of Woman’s World magazine in October 2010, Woman’s World’s readership, the growth of my blog in the year I’ve had it, and my work as Social Media Director at Foodista (where I’ve taken their Twitter following from 10k to 150k in one year’s time), and as Event Organizer of the International Food Blogger Conferences. It’s best to show how connected you are to your industry and audience, thus proving how effectively you’ll be able to push and promote your book through various media.
part 4 to come…