The Book Proposal Outline

“I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world.”

- Mother Teresa


There’s no perfect template for a brilliant book proposal - but this one’s pretty close. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t (or don’t want to) include all of these headers and sub headers in your proposal...most people don’t, and most people don’t need to! But play with these categories. Understand the strategy behind them. See what sparks ideas you hadn’t considered before, or didn’t dare think were possible for you. Honour the system. Then break out, in whatever way you’re so moved. Do your own thing. Be genuine. And above all, aim to be memorable.

   The Cover Page

   Hook Page

   Proposal Table of Contents


   About the Author / the Co-Author / Ghostwriter / Featured Contributors

   Chapter Summaries / Abstract

   Market: Primary Audience, Secondary Audience, Special Sales

   Competition / Peers

   PR + Media: Strategy, TV & Radio, Print Media: Newspapers / Magazines, Media Contacts, Media Angles / Hooks, Multi-Media, Email Lists / Alliances, Personal Book Orders, Publicist

   Testimonials / Endorsements / Advance Praise: Client Quotes, Speaking Letters of Recommendation, Celebrity of Expert-in-Your-Field Raves, Bookstore / Special Venue Support

   Online Presence / Website: Domain names, Blog, vlog + podcast components, Services Offered, Monthly Traffic Stats, Reader Profile Stats, / Newsletters /E-Magazines, Retail Goods

   Book Specifics: Title, Cover, Design, Format

   Spin-Off Books & Products

   Delivery of the Manuscript

   Appendices / Attachments:

   Sample Chapters

   Press Clippings

   Speaking Schedules, Brochures, Promotions

   Media Reel


This is simple, not much different than that of your Primary School English essays (except it’s way more exciting).

It includes:

   Your book title + subtitle

   Non-Fiction/Fiction Book Proposal by: your name

   Your website address (optional)


   Telephone number

   Email address


After your cover page and before your Table of Contents, you might want to create a “hook page.”

This is a place for you to make a bold statement, wave your originality flag, or create some intrigue that pulls ‘em in. Editors typically do not expect a hook page, but it can be a compelling way to set the tone and grab their attention from the start. This is always one of my favourite sections of a book proposal. Even if you think you don’t want or need one, give it a try. The process of trying to create a hook page always uncorks some insight about your offering. And, if you don’t end up using your hook on its own designated page, what you come up with may be perfect to include in your Overview section.

There’s no such thing as wasted time when you’re honing your craft.

Your hook page could be:

   A gripping paragraph that sets up the problem your book is going to help people solve

   A poetic intro

   A list of stunning statistics

   A glowing testimonial page

   An endorsement letter that makes you look like a rock star

   A journalistic photo that says it all

   A provocative statement that turns a commonly-held belief on its ear

   A “this is the book we’ve all been waiting for” sound bite statement from a noted expert on your topic.


       This is the Table of Contents for your actual book proposal - not your book. It’s a simple road map to help the publisher you’re querying navigate through your plan.

       This is easy breezy. Include all of your sections with page numbers so that it’s simple to find different sections quickly. Do not list your cover page, proposal table of contents, or the hook page (if you write one) in your Table of Contents, since this page will follow those.


Book overviews can vary wildly in their style and scope. These are the key elements that every overview needs to address:

   What’s your book about?The theme, the thesis, the heart of the content.

   Why should your book be written?Its benefits. Why it’s timely, needed, on-purpose.

   Why are you the best person for the job?Your passion; your qualifications; your gift and natural talent; your unique life experience, and the story that’s brought you to this point.

   How do you plan to write it?What format and style will you use? What research will you do/have you done? Will anyone else be involved? How long will it take to create?


       Also known as: Author Bio, About Me, About [author name],  Biography

       There are no hard rules as to where the About The Author section needs to appear in your proposal. It often comes after the Overview to build instant credibility, or introduce how your personal story and journey relates to the content of your book. It can follow Marketing, Competition, and PR, as a way of affirming the platform that you’ve built for your career. Or it can go at the very end as a personal closing.

       Your About the Author section explains why you are uniquely suited to write your book. Rave about yourself... with humility. It can be done. Some writers prefer writing this in the third person. Do whatever feels right for you.

       You are romancing your editor here. If you’re an expert in your field, paint the picture. If you’ve got writing experience, say so articulately. If you’re a marketing whiz, reveal that. If you’re a saint, prove it. And, if you’ve got a co-author or ghostwriter working with you, explain why he or she is also incredibly qualified to co-create this book.

Your About The Author section could include:

1. Your formal qualifications, measurable expertise (“coached 1000+ entrepreneurs over the past 10 years”), qualify-able street cred (“regular contributor to Her World Magazine) special awards, accreditations, honours and accolades.

   Your academic degrees and book-learnedness. (Yes, “learnedness” is a real word.)

   Notable research or achievements in your industry.

   Media buzz, radio spotlights, interviews and print coverage mentions.

   Life wisdom, family DNA, extraordinary travel, challenges overcome, money raised, philanthropic miracles, the things your friends brag about on your behalf.

   Previously published titles (self-published or traditional).

   If they’re significant, include online writing, web traffic statistics and numbers for your social media audience.

                A notation to see appendices (a separate Word or scanned PDF file, or real-life clipped-together papers, if you’re submitting by snail mail) that could include: resumes, published writing samples, PR about yourself (including reviews/press for previous books) and anything else that reveals your worldly expertise (corporate brochures profiling you, speaking handouts, impressive letters of recommendation, etc.). Not necessary. Only if you’ve got it, and it feels right to include.


·      Also known as: Marketing, Who Will Buy This Book

   Your Readers

   The Audience

   Possible subsections:

   Primary Audience

   Secondary Audience

Tips on how to paint the picture of your ideal, most likely, book buyer:

   Where do they shop?

   What else do they read?

   What’s their age range?

   What do they believe in?

   What do they struggle with?

   What motivates them?

   What do they do for a living?

   Are they on Facebook? Twitter? MySpace?

   Do they drive SUVs, take the bus, or ride a bicycle?

   How do they celebrate?

   What do they think is cool, repulsive, progressive, backwards?

   What scares the bejesus out of them?

   Who are they aspiring to be like?

   What are they secretly (or not-so-secretly) praying your book will provide an answer to?

   Will they willingly buy your book for themselves, or will it be a loving gift, from someone who cares?

As for your secondary audience:

   Who will buy your book after a few friends have told them about it?

   Who are the smaller interest groups likely to pick up on your message?

   Who are the fringe folks who hang out at your lectures and subscribe to your site?

   Special Groups: Are there associations or special interest groups that might purchase your book in bulk?

A few ideas to give your Market section high value:

   Include interesting facts and research findings/figures to justify the need for your book.

   Back up your claims with statistics. For your magnum opus on eco-farming, cite the number of diseases caused by eating pesticides, etc.

   Create lists and bullet points. Concise, digestible, to the point. “Ladies, how many times have you looked in the mirror - or down at the scale - and felt: Fat. Unlovable. Like a failure.” What if you could feel: Gorgeous. Powerful. Worthy of greatness.”

   Highlight the most fascinating, but little-known thing about your topic. “The fact is, XX percent of newmothers have no idea how to nurse their infants, without professional guidance.”

   Visualise your thesis. Hire an illustrator.

   Include graphics, charts, or diagrams to indicate the number of people suffering from the ailment your book provides a possible cure for.

   List any organisations, associations, schools, colleges, societies, etc. who might find your book a “must read.”  

   Outline your primary and secondary markets - the people most likely to buy your book... and then other people (subgroups) - including ideas you have for helping them find it!

   If this book is ONLY for a particular demographic—women, or teenagers, or people with IQs over 150, say so.

4 Marketing-related Ideas + Proof of Your PR Prowess That You Could Include in Your Book Proposal

   Write your media release in advance.

   Suggested radio and TV interview questions that would go into your future press kit.

   Profile of who’s on your PR team: an in-house or freelance publicist, crackerjack copywriter, social media consultant, Facebook Ad specialist.

   List of print media - magazines and newspapers who you think would be ideal to pitch your book to.

   A one-sheet of media hooks and angles.

   List of media contacts that you have in place. This can include friends (or friends of friends) you’ll contact who have already promised you support, or fellow bloggers who are sure to interview you.

   Email list alliances - the bigger the numbers, the better. Who will share their list with you, or send a blast to their subscribers announcing your book?

   Ideas for special sales to special interest groups and associations, charities, specialty retail stores (on and offline).

   Theme schedule of blog posts that you’ll be posting to your site leading up to the book launch.

   Details of your Twitter, Facebook, (and LinkedIn, Google+...all social media platforms that fit with you and your audience), campaign and growth strategy.

   Corporate sponsorship targets

   Contest ideas to sell your title.

   List of secured and ideal book endorsers.


Also known as: Advance Praise, Praise, Raves, Accolades, Endorsements

You could include:

   Client Quotes

   Speaking Letters of Recommendation

   Celebrity of Expert-in-Your-Field Raves

Testimonials are a quick way to grab your editor’s attention - insta’ credibility!

Tried-n-True Methods for Getting Endorsements

       Start in your backyard - with friends and family. We often overlook those closest to us when thinking of gaining support for our dreams. It’s true that business and friendship can get tricky, and you don’t want to share your precious dreams with negative Nancy the Naysayer. But praise from family and friends can go a long way in terms of motivation and straight-up endorsements to use in your promo copy. Open your address book. Who do you have access to? Who do they have access to? Who wants to see you succeed? Decide on five people you’re going to contact for words of praise. Send theman email or just pick up the phone and ask! Let them know how you’re going to be using their quotes (in your book proposal only, on your website). If they say “Yes!” on the spot, and start rambling off ideas, scribble down every word you can. Send them an email right away to ask for confirmation that you’ve quoted them correctly (which gives you written proof so there’s no confusion later). Keep track of your requests or it can get confusing.

       Make your testimonial “wish list.” If you could have access to anyone, who would those people be? Who knows them, or knows someone who knows them? Often, your publisher can help you get to higher profile people. Start local. Reach out to local journalists and newspapers and magazines and organisations in your area. It’s far easier to make a name for yourself and align with people who can help spread your message where you already live and have relationships. Then, once you’re covered in the local press, you can pull quotes from those clips and use them on your website and in your press materials.

       Write the blurbs ahead of time. Most likely, the people you want to get to (VIPs in your field or to the world) are busy, busy, busy. Let them know, even in your first email, that you’d be more than happy to ink a few quotes in their voice for them to choose from. Have four or five samples ready to show at a moment’s notice and make it easy for someone to say yes to you.

       Go to book signings. Is your favorite author coming to a bookstore near you? No matter how successful an author is, they still appreciate when you show up in person and buy their books. Wait in line - preferably at the end of the line, with multiple copies - and make your pitch. Ask them if you can send them your book in the hopes that they’ll love it enough to endorse you. Get the contact details for their assistant and make it happen.

       Send something charming or fun that captures people’s attention. Write creative emails. Virtually everyone’s reachable by email. Call the business number, if you can find it. Ask the assistant if you can send him/her an email to forward onto their boss. Keep it short and sweet. And, if your pitch is powerful, you just might hear back.

       When someone compliments you or your work directly, ask if it’s okay to quote them in the moment! The biggest mistake we see people make with quote gathering is that they don’t want to appear pushy, so they get shy or stall the asking. Seize the moment. If a client tells you they love something you’ve done, say: “Thank you so much. I really appreciate your feedback. Would it be okay if I quote you on that?” If someone reads your book and says, “I love what you’ve written here,” say: “It would help me so much if I could quote you on that. Would that be okay?” In-the-moment quotes are so simple to give, but you have to ask before you both forget what was said. Nail it.

       Be specific! Never, ever expect someone to figure out how they can best help your career. Make it easy on them by making specific requests. You’ll get better results.


Also known as: Website, Social media, Online products

This is where you invite editors and publishers into your online universe, and give them a tour. Your own marketing plan, and the publicity campaign that the publisher carries out for your book, will be tied in to your online presence. You and your publisher will want to harness the immense power of digital and social media. That begins long before your book is off the press. Ideally, it begins before you start looking for a book deal.

If you’re really truly rocking the World Wide Web, then pour on the statistics of proof and popularity. If you’re just emerging as a blogger or an online writer, then map out the plan for how you intend to grow your web-based audience. If you have no idea what a domain name is, then take some time to get up to speed and hash out a plan for how you’ll be playing on-line. Hire someone to help you with, it if need be. And be honest about your online ambitions in your proposal. If you have no intention of blogging regularly, that’s cool. But be clear and direct about how you will be growing your audience via the Internet.

Data points + plans you can include in your book proposal:

• Your website:

   Screen shot of the home page and or masthead/logo

   Traffic stats:

-       How many people are on your list? Number of email subscribers + RSS subscribers. You could also mention your unsubscribe rate, if it’s low.

-       Visitors per month + per year (if applicable). You can get most of this data through Google Analytics or through your web hosting company.

-       Reader profile stats: you could conduct a survey to profile your web-based readers. Or, even if it’s anecdotal information, describe who’s showing up in your online space to subscribe, comment, ask questions and make requests of you.

   List the titles of your most popular posts, especially if they relate to the topic of your book. You may want to include full versions of your most book-appropriate posts in the Appendix/Attachments section of the book proposal.

   Screen shots of your best vlog entries, with a description of what you talked about.

   Design + function: are there new functionalities, bells and whistles that you’ll be adding to your website?

   Awards: has your site been nominated for, or won, any awards?

   Social Media stats: Twitter followers, how many times are you “listed” on Twitter (Twitter Lists), Facebook Friends + Fans, Linked In, Google +. If they’re creative and on-brand, you could include screenshots of your Facebook Fan page or your Twitter wall.

   Online events and appearances:

-       Have you conducted, or do you plan to do teleseminar events?

-       Where have you guest-posted or been interviewed?

   Retail goods: list what you’re selling on your site, and include sales data if it’s solid.

   Guest bloggers + interviews:

-       Who else contributes to your site?

-       Have you interviewed any notable people for your blog or newsletter?

-       Who do you have access to interviewing in the future?

   Your team:

-       Have you got a crackerjack social media strategist on retainer?

-       Are you going to be working with a Google Ad Sense or SEO consultant to drive traffic to your site?

-       Is your VA a Facebook ninja?

Not having an online presence and wanting to play in the publishing world is like showing up at a networking event without a business card. Suit up and show up.


Also known as: Comparative Analysis, Peers

This is where you scan your genre for similar ideas, audience, and most importantly, outstanding success. Editors and publishers need to know what other books are similar to what you’re writing, and flat out don’t have the time to do the initial research. That’s your job. This is one occasion where comparison is a good thing. It helps establish a market for your book, and gives you deeper insight as to how to make your information fresh and distinctive.

Again, there are no rules regarding the actual order placement of this section in your proposal, but this is one of those sections that’s almost always included. The rare times it might be omitted would be in the case of well-known personalities in a league of their own (with popularity that nearly guarantees sales), or bestselling authors likely to get a big deal based on stellar track records. Even so, they’ll often reference similar books in their Overview sections.

Although it’s an editor’s worst nightmare to spend money on a title, only to find out that it’s been done before (and bombed), this isn’t so much about pointing out literal “competition,” as it is about defining your niche, your market. This is where you help them help you. By outlining what’s already out there - preferably titles that rocked the charts, from large publishers - you plant the seeds for your editor to come up with creative comparison metaphors from which they can better pitch your book. Like: “This is, Eat Pray Love meets Bridget Jones Diary”. “He’s Tony Robbins meets Deepak Chopra.” You get the idea.

Profile four to six of the most popular and credible titles in your genre. A good place to start your research is to think: if my book were never written, what already-published books are serving my readers? What titles can I get lost in to immerse myself in my topic? Being seeped in your industry and long-time passionate about your message, it’s most likely that you’re already familiar with the leading authors in your field. Even so, visit bookstores and trawl through Amazon to ferret out similar books (Psssst, here’s a cheat tip: Treasure hunt via search categories on and read the Customer Review comments where a surprising number of thoughtful, intelligent folks take time out of their lives to write lengthy, detailed reviews of many books).

Include the following information for each book you profile:

       The title and subtitle

       Author’s name(s)

       Publisher and year of publication

       Hard cover or paper back

       Page numbers

       Retail list price (often included)

       Bestseller rankings and awards (if you know of them)

Important: When you describe your “competition,” do so without trashing them. Don’t talk about why your book is like, so much better than theirs. For starters, it’s bad karma. The best tactic is to talk about how your book is similar to the most successful aspects of the book you’re comparing it to, and where perhaps yours delves more deeply into the topic, or carries on from the other books’ premise. What you want to convey is how your book adds to the conversation, even if that means respectfully refuting outdated ideas. As you explain what worked with the other titles why they were popular, critically sound, innovative - and what your book brings to the genre, you further establish your market, and sing your praises as you praise others. But when it’s time to sell your work, you need to know what’s happening with your peers and contemporaries. Not understanding what’s current and successful in your category could sabotage your big, beautiful book plan. Get informed.


Also known as: Follow-Up Books, Related Products, Series

Most proposals don’t include a Spin-Offs section, simply because related products aren’t obvious for most books. Publishers will want to secure the success of one title, and it’s rare that they’ll want to risk producing ancillary products to accompany the book publication. This section can go anywhere in the book proposal, or can just be mentioned in your media section.

Have you got a spin-off in you?

Like a…

-       Another title in your genre

-       Prequel, sequel, trilogy or series

-       Documentary film

-       Stationery

-       Speaking series

-       Web TV series

-       Live events

-       Movie rights or screenplay

-       Board game

-       Advice column

-       Call-in radio show

-       Smartphone apps


-       These sections are not imperative, and some people choose to include these details in the body of the proposal, usually as a sentence or two about delivery timing, or word count, or format in the Overview.

-       As for delivery of your manuscript... the publisher will want to know how long it will take you to finish the manuscript from the date of signing the contract... six months, or two years? Don’t underestimate the time you need to complete the book, and keep in mind that your publisher will be gauging your delivery commitment with the best season to launch your title, with an eye on the market and on where they see you fit with others already in their line-up. dates change all of the time in this industry. Your book may get rushed to press because it’s in sync with current events, or it could get bumped a year because the publisher deems another author’s book more fitting for their publishing calendar.

Lights. Camera. Autographs...


This section can also be called Attachments.

It could include:

-       Your résumé or CV

-       Published Writing Samples

-       Reviews, media clippings, buzz about previous work or published books

-       Brochures

-       Speaking Schedules

-       Letters of Recommendation 

Checklist: Top 8 Must-dos For Aspiring Authors

1. Write a great book (duh!).

2. Be passionate (and knowledgeable) about your topic.

3. Have a growing platform on social media or on your blog.

4. Possess star quality – take a Toastmasters course if you have to!

5. Be clear about your goal and plan, plan, plan!

6. Ask influential people for testimonials.

7. Have a winning title, it’s the first thing that sells your book!

8. A mission and clear purpose – which will translate into desire, energy and resources.