A successful book proposal contains these sections:
A cover sheet. The book’s title and the name of the author are centered in the middle of the page. In the upper left corner, type Book Proposal. In the bottom right, type your name, address and phone number (or, if you have one, your agent’s).
Summarize what your book is about: the topic, who will read it, why its important or interesting to your intended audience, and what makes your book different from others in the field.
Specify approximate word length, number of chapters, types of illustrations or graphics to be included, and any unique organizational schemes or formats (for example, is your book divided into major sections or do you use sidebars?)
Tell the editor who will buy your book, how many of these people exist, and why they need it or will want to read it. Use statistics to dramatize the size of the market. For example, if your book is about infertility, mention that one in six couples in the US is infertile.
Is your book a natural for talk radio or Oprah (be realistic)? Can it be promoted through seminars or speeches to associations and clubs? Give the publisher some of your ideas on how the book can be marketed. (Note: Phrase these as suggestions, not demands. The publisher will be interested in your ideas but probably won’t use most of them.)
List books that compare with yours. Include the title, author, publisher, year of publication, number of pages, price, and format (hardcover, trade paperback or mass market paperback). Describe each book briefly, pointing out weaknesses and areas in which your book is different and superior.
A brief biography listing your writing credentials (books and articles published), qualifications to write about the book’s topic (for instance, for a book on popular psychology, it helps if you’re a therapist), and your media experience (previous appearances on TV and radio).
Table of Contents/Outline
A chapter-by-chapter outline showing the contents of your proposed book. Many editors tell me that a detailed, well thought-out table of contents in a proposal helps sway them in favor of a book.
This article appears courtesy of Bob Bly‘s Direct Response Letter. Learn more and get your free subscription at www.bly.com.