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  • Writer's pictureby Henry Butman

What is a book proposal?

You think you should write a book–or a long-time colleague, a close friend, or partner thinks you should write a book. Maybe you should, but why? Why write that book or this book or any other book? And why should you be the one to write it?

While important questions to ask yourself as an author, the answers are essential for prospective agents and editors, the gatekeepers of the publishing industry, as they deliberate a book's necessity and, too, its market appeal. So how do you, the author, convey to these gatekeepers that your book is urgently needed, and that you are the right person to deliver its stories and messages to the general public?

A book proposal.

Part pitch, part argument, part summary, a successful book proposal demonstrates several key aspects of the intended manuscript:

  • The author's subject-matter expertise and influence in a market segment

  • The market's general and particular receptiveness to the topic-at-hand

  • The book's distinctiveness within the market, and why that distinction will sell

Together, these address the three questions that routinely determine whether or not a book is published:

  • Is it the right subject-matter?

  • Is it the right time?

  • Is it the right author?

Often overlooked by debut authors of non-fiction, the book proposal is an essential document when seeking representation and publication by leading houses. As a document that concisely lays out the manuscript-in-miniature, we believe it is also a vital part of idea-development, and one that ultimately makes writing the manuscript a straight-forward affair.


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