Traditional Publishing

Book proposal writing made easy

By William Cane – Saturday November 24, 2007

You want to write a nonfiction blockbuster, and you have a great idea, maybe even a title. Now the only thing you need to know is where to begin. The answer is the book proposal.

A book proposal saves you time and money. It saves you time because it allows you to sell your book idea without having to write the entire book. And it saves you money because it's much less expensive to write a proposal than to write a book. Typically authors spend anywhere from a few months to two years or more on a manuscript. You may have to make trips to the library, hire a researcher, or travel to do extensive research. Some of these costs can be reduced by creative writers who do most of their work from home. But even so, a few months to a few years is going to be an expensive proposition no matter how you look at it, which is why writing a book proposal can save you a substantial amount of money.

Because your investment in time and money is so much less up front, and because editors and literary agents will be more likely to consider your idea if it's in book proposal format, you'll want to learn to write a book proposal as the first step in your journey to becoming a published author.

There are numerous books about the process of writing a book proposal, but when you try to reconcile their often conflicting advice you may become confused about the exact nature of what an editor or literary agent is really looking for in a book proposal. While it's important to get all the sections right – such as the overview, the marketing and promotion sections, the chapter outlines, and the sample chapters – there is a rarely-discussed secret to writing book proposals that gets insufficient attention. This secret is my own discovery and it boils down to one word.

In just a moment I'll share that secret with you, but first let me ask you a question: why do you want to write your book? Is it to make money? To get recognised as an expert? To share your love of a particular subject?

Possibly all these motivations are involved. But the only answer that really matters is the one that reflects your love of the subject. If you can muster enough enthusiasm to write a book, to spend months or years researching and putting it together, then your feeling for your subject and your enthusiasm for the topic are the fuel that will carry you through to the finish line.

That's the real secret to writing a book proposal. Sure, you need the right format, the right sections, and the right sample chapters to get professional consideration. But if you lack the spark of personal enthusiasm for your subject, all that technical know-how isn't going to make much difference. If you love your topic and really want to share your knowledge 
with others, you'll fly through all the rest.

Learning the nuts and bolts of proposal writing can be done by almost anyone. But having the enthusiasm for a particular subject and a burning desire to communicate what you know to others... that is the mark of a writer who can not only churn out words, but who can inspire others to read them.

If you have enthusiasm for your subject, don't get discouraged by the seemingly labyrinthine task of putting together the book proposal. Your love for your subject will guide you to the finish line more surely than anything else. Don't forget to mention somewhere in your proposal that you do love your subject. Of course, if that's true it'll be evident in your work, shining through from the overview all the way to your sample chapters. And it will make writing the proposal not only easy but fun as well.

About the Author

William Cane is the international best-selling author of The Art of Kissing. Want his free how-to advice on book proposals, literary agents, and query letters? Get it before your competition does at: