Writers Boon Blog


  • How to Write a Book Proposal That Sells
    Part One

    Lee Constantine


    Book Proposal

    Lee is Head of Growth at Publishizer, a NYC-based startup and crowdfunding platform uses proprietary software to query your proposal to a targeted list of acquiring editors from traditional and independent publishers.​ Only for Writers Boon members, Publishizer agreed to drop their 30% fee of total pre-order to 15%.

    Book proposals are used to sell books to publishers.

    Your proposal is an argument to receive investment, or to get acquired. Hence the role of the acquisitions editor. If a publisher is convinced, it contracts you and pays you to write the book.

    Writing a book proposal is both an art and a science because which parts are most important depends on whether it’s non-fiction or a novel, whether you’re querying a traditional or independent publisher, whether you know the acquisitions editor or just submitting cold, and many other factors.


    The correct length of a proposal is not agreed upon, probably because no proposal is exactly alike and no publisher acquires a title for exactly the same reasons.

    Books are attached to authors, and authors are not commodities that can be slid through a process and come out as profit on the other end. No matter how hard the industry tries.

    Some literary agents say a proposal should be around 10 to 25 pages double-spaced. Others say 35 pages minimum. Some have gotten deals with only 5 pages. I have gotten traditional deals with only 2 pages.

    But it’s not about how short can you make the proposal and still get your book acquired. Rather, it’s about how clearly can you articulate the book and it’s potential market to a publisher.


    What goes into the proposal is not entirely fixed either. Some agents say there should be about twenty sections, others say 3. Some editors prefer 10, while others prefer 2. I stick with  5, which I’ll get into down below.

    For those agents who say 35 pages minimum, for instance, about 80 percent of those pages include the sample chapters. Likely for a novel. The other 20 percent includes these various sections describing the book and it’s potential to market.

    Most literary agents who deal with non-fiction proposals don’t require sample chapters, because most publishers don’t see them as relevant to offering a deal. At least not initially.

    It’s all a matter of relevancy to the publishers you want to get in front of. Each usually have their own submission guidelines on their website. And when you start talking to an acquisitions editor they have their own specifications, which may be more or less or completely different than what you thought.

    The stigma with book proposals is that most authors think writing one is a massive task. This is a mistake.

    It doesn’t help that literary agents, mentors, editors and coaches want to earn money on helping you write one. Of course they want you to think it’s something you can’t easily do on your own.

    I’m here to tell you that you can write a book proposal quickly and easily on your own, and use it to get interest from publishers. All it takes is a little due diligence and ensuring you have what publishers really want.

    Let’s get started.

    1. Synopsis

    (about 250 words)

    This is the first thing a publisher is going to read. This is where you sell them on your vision for the book idea. This is where you put your uniqueness on display.

    All publishers are looking for a unique twist on a trendy topic. Broad, general and oversaturated topics lose interest quickly.

    Start by answering these questions:

    • Can you sum up the book in one catchy sentence?

    • What is the market or industry this topic appeals to?

    • What problem or need does this book approach?

    • Why is the message unique?

    • Why did you write it?

    • How will readers use it?

    • Who is the book going to connect with?

    Write as much as you can with each of these answers and then put the paragraphs together.

    Now edit to make the idea unified.

    Here is a great example.

    If this is a fiction book, then this is where you explain the plot.


    Next week's article: How to Write a Book Proposal That Sells - Part Two