Unlock the Secrets of Successful Non-Fiction Book Proposals

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Unlock the Secrets of Successful Non-Fiction Book Proposals

Table of Contents:

  1. Introduction
  2. Overview of Non-Fiction Book Proposal
  3. Step 1: Writing the Overview
  4. Step 2: Identifying the Target Audience
  5. Step 3: Crafting the Author Bio
  6. Step 4: Researching and Selecting Comp Titles
  7. Step 5: Creating a Marketing Plan
  8. Step 6: Outlining the Chapters
  9. Step 7: Providing a Sample Chapter
  10. Step 8: Outlining the Timeline and Special Features
  11. Conclusion


In today's video, we will be discussing how to write a non-fiction book proposal. Unlike fiction manuscripts, non-fiction authors are required to submit a book proposal to publishers instead of a completed manuscript. A book proposal is a document that pitches the idea of the manuscript to prospective publishers, aiming to convince them that the book is worth investing in. It includes an overview of the book, an author bio, sample chapters, marketing ideas, comp titles, and a chapter outline. In this article, we will break down each component of a book proposal and provide guidance on how to write an effective one.

Overview of Non-Fiction Book Proposal

A non-fiction book proposal plays a crucial role in selling your book idea to publishers. It provides a comprehensive overview of your book, highlighting its commercial appeal and unique selling points. The overview should be written in a captivating and concise manner, resembling a book's back jacket copy. It should contain a punchy hook, vivid descriptions, and convey the book's genre. Additionally, it should outline the main themes and topics proposed in the book and highlight the significance and reach of the subject matter.

Step 1: Writing the Overview

The first step in crafting a compelling book proposal is writing the overview. This section should grab the reader's attention with an elevator pitch-style opening sentence. It should quickly introduce the book's topic, themes, and proposed content. While being concise, it should provide enough information to give the reader a strong idea of the book's genre and commercial appeal. To write an effective overview, you can take inspiration from back jackets of similar books that have successfully captured readers' attention.

Step 2: Identifying the Target Audience

Identifying and quantifying your target audience is essential to demonstrate the market potential of your book. Avoid the common mistake of claiming that your book is for everyone. Instead, define a specific target audience and provide detailed insights into their demographics, interests, and reading preferences. Specify the age range and lifestyle of your target audience, and analyze the existing demand for similar books. By presenting concrete numbers and proving the existence of a receptive readership, you will strengthen your argument for the book's marketability.

Step 3: Crafting the Author Bio

Your author bio serves as a vital card to showcase your credibility and expertise in the subject matter. Highlight your qualifications, author platform, previous publications, teaching experience, media appearances, industry connections, and relevant personal media contacts. Include an author photo to add a personal touch. Emphasize what makes you uniquely qualified to write the book and showcase the size of your reach within your field. A compelling author bio adds credibility to your proposal and convinces publishers of your ability to deliver valuable content.

Step 4: Researching and Selecting Comp Titles

To demonstrate that there is a market for your book, research and select comparable titles (comp titles) that have tackled similar topics. Avoid comparing yourself to renowned authors with significantly larger platforms. Instead, focus on smaller titles within your book's niche and analyze how your book challenges, updates, or enhances the information discussed in each title. Highlight the unique positioning of your book in the existing market, offering something that none of the comp titles provide. Maintain a respectful tone when discussing the shortcomings of comp titles.

Step 5: Creating a Marketing Plan

A well-defined marketing plan shows publishers that you are committed to promoting your book and have strategies in place to maximize its visibility. Explain how you will leverage your author platform, connections in the industry, social media presence, and any media appearances to generate interest. Consider obtaining blurbs from contacts in your field, securing additional columns or articles, and utilizing newsletters with a strong subscriber base. Highlight any associations with bookstores or libraries that can aid in book distribution. A solid marketing plan showcases your proactive approach to book promotion.

Step 6: Outlining the Chapters

In this step, you will provide a chapter-by-chapter outline, demonstrating that your manuscript is well-developed and ready to be written. Each chapter's outline should consist of one to two paragraphs, briefly summarizing its content. This section provides publishers with an understanding of your book's structure and flow. While not overly detailed, the chapter outline should give a clear idea of the book's progression and the ideas explored in each chapter.

Step 7: Providing a Sample Chapter

To showcase your writing skills and give publishers a taste of your book's style, include a sample chapter. Select a chapter that best represents the essence of your book and stands strongly on its own. It doesn't necessarily have to be the first chapter; choose the chapter that exemplifies the main selling point of your book. The sample chapter should be engaging, well-written, and leave publishers wanting more.

Step 8: Outlining the Timeline and Special Features

Lastly, outline the logistics of writing your book, including the expected timeline and any special features that may be required. Specify the estimated word count and mention if you will need additional assistance such as photographs, designs, or research support. Indicate if you plan to work with a professional editor or ghostwriter to enhance the quality of your book proposal. Providing a clear timeline and special features shows publishers that you have thoroughly planned the execution of your manuscript.


Writing a successful non-fiction book proposal requires careful attention to each component. By following the steps outlined above, you will enhance your chances of crafting a compelling proposal that captures the attention of publishers. Remember to showcase your expertise, target a specific audience, identify unique selling points, and provide a clear marketing plan. With a well-written book proposal in hand, you will be one step closer to getting your non-fiction book published.


  • Proposal is crucial in non-fiction book publishing
  • Overview, target audience, and author bio are important components
  • Research and select comp titles wisely
  • Solid marketing plan enhances your book's chances
  • Detailed chapter outline showcases your manuscript's readiness
  • Sample chapter highlights your writing skills
  • Timeline and special features showcase meticulous planning


Q: Can I submit a completed manuscript instead of a book proposal? A: In the non-fiction publishing world, it is customary to submit a book proposal rather than a completed manuscript. The proposal allows publishers to assess the market viability and potential of your book idea before committing to publishing it.

Q: How long should the book proposal be? A: A book proposal typically ranges from 15 to 50 pages. While it should provide comprehensive information about your book, it is important to keep it concise and engaging.

Q: Is it necessary to have a large social media following or author platform? A: While a strong author platform can positively influence publishers' perception of your book's marketability, it is not the sole determining factor. Focus on identifying and proving the existing demand for your book within a specific target audience.

Q: Can I compare myself to well-known authors in my comp titles? A: While it is important to research and include comp titles to establish the existing market for your book, avoid directly comparing yourself to renowned authors with significantly larger platforms. Instead, concentrate on smaller titles within your book's niche that provide a more accurate benchmark for comparison.

Q: Do I need to include a sample chapter in my book proposal? A: Including a sample chapter is highly recommended as it allows publishers to assess your writing style and the essence of your book. Choose a chapter that exemplifies the main selling point of your book and showcases your writing skills effectively.

Q: Should I work with a professional editor for my book proposal? A: Working with a professional editor can significantly enhance the quality of your book proposal. They can provide valuable insights and ensure that your proposal contains all the necessary elements for success. However, it is not mandatory and depends on your individual preference and budget.

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