As a publisher, we receive a fair number of book proposals, and frankly, most of them are pretty bad. They range from proposals for books that are clearly outside our niche to proposals that look like they were dashed off during a lunch break. Almost all, even proposals for books that we have accepted, miss the most important point about writing a book proposal. A book proposal is a sales document. It is in essence a résumé for the book. If you're writing a sales document for a publisher, the number one selling point needs to be that your book is likely to sell a lot of copies. There are other reasons for publishing, for example, O'Reilly published DocBook 5: The Definitive Guide, even though it was unlikely to sell in large numbers, because they use DocBook, they had published the first edition, and they didn't want to give up the second edition. However, that's rare. Publishers want best sellers, and the best way to get your book published is to convince a publisher (or an agent) that your book will be a best seller in its category.
Structure of a proposalA non-fiction book proposal needs to answer the following questions:
- What is the book about?
- Who is the book for?
- What is the structure of this book?
- Why are you the right person to write this book?
- What is the competition?
- When will the book be ready?
- How good a writer are you?