Why You Should Write a Book Proposal
(Even If You Plan to Self-Publish)
by Diane Eble
If you dream of
writing a book—and getting it successfully published—here's a surprising tip that will save you tons of time,
effort and probably even money:
Don't write your book first!
You read that right. Don't write your book first.
Instead, focus first on writing what's called a book proposal.
That's what professional authors do. Rather than spending all the time and effort
to write the book, they focus on writing a stellar book proposal. Then they approach a literary agent, who presents
the proposal to several publishers. If an editor likes the proposal, he or she will become the champion for your
book, attempting to convince the rest of the publishing house (such as the sales people, the marketing people, and
those who crunch numbers) why they will make money if they publish your book.
In order for the agent or editor to "sell" your book, you need a great book
I would argue that even if you plan to self-publish your book, you still need a
Why? Because, as with any large undertaking, you need to plan carefully before you
actually start. Even if you're not much of a planner by nature (I'm not), you will still save yourself much time
and energy by doing a book proposal.
You wouldn't build a house without a blueprint, would you? Writing a book is a
huge investment of time and energy, sometimes money as well. Just as you would not build a house without a
blueprint, neither should you start writing a book without a plan.
What Your Proposal Should Cover
Your book proposal will cover what your book is about, who your audience is, how
you plan to market it, what other books are out there like it and how yours is different. It will include a
chapter-by-chapter outline as well.
I liken writing a book to painting a room. When painting a room, the most time and
energy goes into the preparation. You wash the walls, you put masking tape around the trim, you fill in the dings
and sand it smooth. Then you cut in the trim.
The quality of the paint job depends largely on doing these preparatory steps
Once you do all that, you're ready to roll on the paint with your roller. That's
the easy and quick part.
Writing the book proposal is like preparing the room. That's 90 percent of your
work. Once you've done the proposal, actually writing the book will feel like rolling the paint onto the
As mentioned, a great book proposal is absolutely necessary if you want a
traditional publisher (also called a commercial publisher) to publish your book. They will not even look at a
manuscript unless they've seen a proposal and offered a contract. (Same is true with finding a literary agent. They
will want a book proposal, not the manuscript. Having a great proposal shows agents and publishers you know how to
play the game.)
Even if you plan to self-publish, I still strongly suggest you write your book
proposal first. Because it will force you to think through your book, you will end up writing a better book. You
will have asked--and answered--all the key questions that underlie a successful book.
Your Next Steps ...
For more help on asking--and answering--those key questions,
thus making it even easier to write your proposal, check
out my instantly downloadable coaching session,"Write Your Book Right: 12 Questions Successful Authors Always
Take Terry Whalin's excellent course, "Write a Book Proposal." This experienced publishing veteran (Terry authored more
than 60 books, was an acquisitions editor for several major publishers, and a literary agent as well) will
teach you all you need to know to write a stellar book proposal. Can't recommend it highly