The Dos and Don’ts of a great book proposal
Why a book proposal?
If you’re writing a book and you want it published, the typical route for non-fiction authors is to create a proposal that communicates everything that will be great about your book (without having to write the whole thing).
To sell the idea of your book – and get paid for some of your writing time – before you knuckle down to do the bulk of the work.
It’s like a business proposal, but for your book idea.
But why a template? And why Slice?
Most book proposals follow a pattern – it’s what publishers expect to see when they’re skimming half a dozen in one sitting, searching for something great.
And Slice is a fantastic tool for writing with focus and flow. Like many creatives, you’ll find that keeping your ideas and writing in one place has a flurry of benefits (like speeding up your writing time and simplifying your workflow).
It makes sense to use Slice from the very beginning of your book’s life. Here’s why…
Who are you writing a proposal for?
Mostly? The book publishing gatekeepers – publishers and agents.
Literary agents receive many book proposals every week.
When an agent encounters a great book proposal, they want to represent the person who wrote it. Meaning the agent becomes the person in your corner, your business representative, who takes the book to a publishing house. They’ll choose a specific selection of editors to read your work (agents know editors’ tastes like the back of their hand). The agent then argues the case for a great book deal – i.e. the money you need to fund the writing of your book.
Usually, editors at publishing houses will rely on literary agents to bring them the best proposals.
But while agents might help polish up your proposal, you’re going to need it to make sense and stand out as something special.
Where on earth do you get to ‘something special’ from a blank page?
You don’t. You begin with a structured template with each section broken into its component parts, easy access to your notes, and from there you build your ideas out.
What are the ingredients to a great proposal?
Why don’t we walk through the proposal template in Slice so you can see?
First, create a new project in Slice.
There are some essential sections to your proposal which you can set up as ‘Project Output’ sections:
- Title Page:
This is where you put the working title.
It’s worth including a picture here – something simple that represents your book and creates intrigue. Luckily, Slice supports inserting images in gif, jpeg, and other formats (with a link) or uploading from your local files.
Then add a subtitle: this is a clear value proposition for your book – perhaps something like ‘The Ultimate Guide To Book-Proposal Mastery for Unrecognised Genius Writers’.
This is the first thing anyone sees, so it should have a hook. But don’t just grab attention – make it a true reflection of what’s inside, or you’re just wasting those eyeballs on the second page.
- Short summary
If you were selling a film, this would be your elevator pitch.
In as few words as you can, describe who the book’s for, what it offers the audience, and why you’re the perfect vessel through which this mighty new tome will come into being.
- Longer description
This is where you elaborate on the vision for your book.
It’s not an outline, it’s a place to flesh out the summary. If you’d written the inside-jacket copy already, it would be the same as this copy. Something to intrigue and offer a little taste. You’ve won the reader’s attention, now give them something to remember.
- Chapter Outline
This is where Slice lets you put down roots for your future book. You list the chapters – each needs a name and a (short) summary of what’s included to give a sense of how the book will unfold.
In Slice, create a new section in ‘Project Output’ for each of your chapters.
You can start with titles, vague summaries, or a blank section for a chapter you know nothing about until you’ve done more research.
You can come back later and re-order the chapters and fill in the gaps. Slice’s modular elements make this easy.
And when you’ve won your big book contract, you can create a copy of the project and use these to structure the actual book as you begin to write it. Of course, ideas may change, chapters might come in, move out or be reordered entirely. Don’t worry – Slice is designed to handle editing to make it smooth and easy.
- Sample Chapter(s)
That’s right, it’s not all bullet points and fluff! You’re going to actually have to prove your writing chops with a sample section.
Don’t over-complicate your life. Take the thing you know the most about and pull in research, notes, and stats into Slice’s project notes section. Then use these to start writing in Slice. You’ll have everything you need at your fingertips and it should be the smoothest writing experience of your life (minus all the anguish about wanting to make it the best book the world’s ever known – set that aside for now if you can).
If you’re using your copyrighted work like blog posts or guest articles, use Slice’s web clipper to add them to the notes section of the project.
- About the author
This is where you make the case for yourself as the author of this book.
This is not your life story! It’s the story of why you are the writer for this book. Add anything fun, memorable, silly, and a great photo if you want. But make it relevant to the big idea.
- Facts and Stats
This is where you back that story up with some skimmable numbers and bullet points:
- Your online following
- Your career highlights
- Your PR-readiness
- Your pet’s name
This is also a good spot to add any quotes you might have. If you have early endorsements for your (prospective!) project from influential figures, or testimonials from clients that make it clear you’re the real deal, this is where they go.
It’s a good final reminder to your reader – the agent or publisher – that you know what you’re talking about and you’ll be able to deliver.
The bonus: A book proposal is also for you
Even if you don’t end up going the traditional book publishing route, you can gain a lot from writing a proposal.
Self-published authors should create proposals.
People writing ebooks as lead magnets should start with proposals.
Because, through writing a book proposal, you will:
- Distill the vision for your book.
- Create an outline you can then use when you start writing.
- Set the foundation of your book marketing with clarity on your message when you start to promote it.
A book proposal is your ticket to selling your book.
The better your proposal, the more easily you’ll sell the idea of your book.
You may have a non-fiction book idea that stems from your own personal passions.
Or you might have a book that comes directly from your business – advice you can offer others entering the same arena, or distilling your knowledge for those who can’t work with you 1:1.
In any case, you can get a lot of mileage out of Slice – from planning the proposal to crafting the proposal to writing your bestseller.
Check it out – and sign up for a free account.