Writing a book proposal

September 3, 2018



Before you take time to write a full-length book of fiction or nonfiction, you can save yourself time and worry by writing a book proposal. This will help you to think through your book, keep your writing on track, then propose your book in a professional manner to the editor of a traditional or indie book publishing company.


A previous article “Basic Steps for Writing & Marketing” will give you an idea of what to expect as you aim for traditional publishing markets, which the e-book, Christian Writer’s Guide discusses too, along with everything else you need to get started as a freelance or assignment writer. Also, see “Outline or Synopsis” for information on preparing an outline for your nonfiction book or a synopsis for your novel.


In addition to an outline or synopsis, your book proposal package will include one to three chapters of your book, depending on the publisher’s preference as shown in their writers’ guidelines. You’ll also need to include a one-page cover letter and a book proposal sheet with headings relevant to your manuscript as shown below:

[Place your name and contact information across the top of each page as you would for a letterhead.]


Book Proposal for (name of the company that your research shows might be interested)


Title: (Check online bookstores to see if anyone else has used the title you want. Then place your catchy but relevant title here.)


Author: (Type your full name as you want it to appear on the manuscript.)

Theme: (For Christian writers, a favorite Bible verse such as Romans 8:28 can provide an excellent theme. Regardless of your choice, a theme and purpose will help you to keep your writing focused from beginning to end.)


Purpose: (An incomplete sentence or phrase with no punctuation usually works well here, for example, “to strengthen faith” or “to promote unity among Christians.”)


Genre: (Fiction, Nonfiction, or Poetry, but if fiction, add another heading entitled Setting.)


Book Summary (for nonfiction book or Story Line for fiction: Summarize the book in a sentence or two or a brief paragraph written to encourage an editor to read more.)


Audience (or Readership): (State here what group or age of readers you aim to reach. For instance, a nonfiction book might be aimed at pastors, youth workers, or general laity, whereas a children’s book might appeal to a 2 to 4-year span among toddlers, preschoolers, or school children, for example, 6 to 8 or 8 to 12.)

Length: (Put the expected number of double-spaced pages or the expected word count.)


Marketability (or Comparative Analysis): (Base this brief information on what you find as you research your topic and title in Internet bookstores. Provide any similar or competitive titles and publication dates. If you believe your idea will fill a unique need, say why.)


Platform (or Ideas for Promotion): (If you already have a following or have established an online presence in a blog, website, or profile page on the major social networks, include that information here.)


Author Bio (or About the Author): (Group prior publishing experiences by genre and/or age group. Briefly provide relevant information such as your education, research, teaching experience, or workshops you have led on your topic.)

© 2015, Mary Harwell Sayler, all rights reserved



Mary Harwell Sayler has placed 35 traditionally published books with Christian, indie, and educational publishers such as Zondervan, Broadman, Concordia, Facts on File, Chelsea House, and others. She’s also placed over 2,500 nonfiction articles, Bible stories, devotionals, children’s stories, and poems for journals, anthologies, blogs, and e-zines.


In 2012, the environmental publisher, Hiraeth Press, published her first poetry book, Living in the Nature Poem and in 2014 released an e-book version. Also in 2014 Kelsay Books published Mary’s Bible-based poetry, Outside Eden and her book of nature poems for children, Beach Songs & Wood Chimes. On March 30, 2017, Cladach Publishing released her book of contemporary psalms and free verse poems, PRAISE! 


The same year, Mary self-published her book of poems, Lost in Faith, and the nonfiction book that arose from her blog by the same name, What the Bible Says About Love. Lord willing, that will begin a series of prayerfully paraphrased (prayer-a-phrased) scriptures on Bible topics that most of us would like to see collected in a book.


After working with other poets and writers for many years through critiques, study courses, and blog resources, Mary also published her Kindle e-books for poets and writers: the Christian Writer’s Guide e-book, Christian Poet’s Guide to Writing Poetry, and what might be the first ever Poetry Dictionary For Children and For Fun – an A to Z guide to poetry forms and techniques for classrooms and kids of all ages.


If you would like Mary’s feedback on your book proposal package before you send it to a traditional or indie book publishing company, visit the Contact & Critiques page of her website.

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