Writing a Winning Book Proposal

What does it take to get a nonfiction book deal? A great idea is a good start. But publishers these days look beyond a great idea to how they can promote the book and how the author can be instrumental in the promotion of that book.

That’s where a strong book proposal comes in. A book proposal that provides key, business- and marketing-minded statistics and information can sway a publisher to consider working with even a totally “unknown” author. So authors: You MUST do your homework and craft a thoughtful, detailed nonfiction book proposal to support your great idea.

[Note: I’m writing here solely about nonfiction book proposals based on my experience writing 10 books that have been published by major (and minor) publishers.]

Here’s a book proposal I wrote back in the 1990s.

Webgrrls Handbook proposal – upload

That book proposal turned into a book deal that led to the book Cybergrrl @ Work: Tips and Inspiration for the Professional You with Berkeley Books/Penguin Putnam:


In 2011, this book proposal:


…morphed into THIS book proposal:


That turned into the book Mom, Incorporated that I co-authored with Danielle Smith:


Elements of a Book Proposal

While some publishers provide a form or specific format for book proposals, many do not. Here are the main elements of my book proposals that have received raves from editors and agents alike.

Synopsis – One to two pages briefly, concisely and compelling explaining the book idea.

About the Author(s) – Biographical information that answers the question: “Why should YOU write this book.

Author Social Media Influence (aka The Platform) – How are you going to let people know about your book?

The Market – The statistics, the description of and size of the audience who would buy this book, and comparable books (competitors) and how your book differs from them.

Marketing Opportunities – These are based on what you actually can do (or can figure out how to do).

  • Website
  • Promotional Venues
  • Social Networks
  • Podcasts
  • Blog Tour
  • Bylined Articles
  • Radio
  • Television
  • Speaking Engagements

A few sections that were not included in my past nonfiction book proposals but that will be in the future are:

Influencers – name dropping of influential or high profile friends who would gladly promote my book

Corporate sponsors – names of companies with whom I have relationships that reach the right audience for my book, particularly ones who will buy my book in bulk.

I’m sure you can improve upon my book proposal format, injecting your own style and voice, and highlighting your skills, connections and talents. Think of these resources as a starting point towards getting that nonfiction book deal!

Any questions?


About Aliza

I'm a human being, wife, mother, author, and speaker. Online since 1987. Web pioneer (founded Cybergrrl/Webgrrls in 1995). Author of 12 books. Freelance writer.
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