A book proposal is a document most commonly associated with pitching a nonfiction book. It includes information on the content, the author, the market, and the salability of the project. When it comes to fiction, few agents or editors expect or require book proposals, but it’s an incredibly useful tool. A book proposal helps me learn more about an author than a two-sentence bio. It gives me insight into marketing opportunities. And it provides a snapshot of the project that saves me hours of work when I’m preparing to evaluate a project.
Whether or not you need a book proposal, I recommend going through the exercise. Putting together a proposal will help you hone your pitch and get a feel for being the “brand manager” of your book. A proposal makes you think like an editor, a marketer, and a salesperson all at once.
Ready to give it a try? Here are some elements I love to see in a fiction book proposal (and if you’re writing nonfiction, most of these still apply!):
- Hook and pitch. Much like a query letter, it’s helpful to include the elevator pitch of your book in a proposal. This is the down-and-dirty, grab-your-attention info that leaves a reader wanting more.
- Author info. While a brief and quirky bio is great for the back cover of a book, I like to know as much about an author as I can (especially because that means I don’t have to do tons of internet stalking!). I look for info like:
- Previously published books
- Social media stats
- Website or blog link
- Connections with other authors or important literary figures
- Target audience. This might be a general category, like “young adult readers” or “readers interested in WWII fiction.” But it’s important to recognize who your audience is, especially as you start thinking about the next two bullets…
- Competitive titles. Comp titles are wonderful to include in a book proposal. These are books that are similar to but different than yours, and act as great reference points for both the editor and the sales or marketing team. *Hint: It’s great to use bestselling books as your comps, but make sure the connection between your book and the bestseller is honest and accurate. Also, avoid comparing yourself to someone hugely famous, like Angie Thomas or Margaret Atwood, as that can sound like a stretch.
- Marketing and PR opportunities. I never expect an author to have a full-blown marketing plan. That is what a marketing team is for! However, it’s hugely helpful to know if an author has connections within a group of librarians or booksellers, if they can get a spot on a radio program, or if they have a newsletter with a nice subscriber base.
- One-page synopsis. They’re a pain to write and full of spoilers, but synopses are so, so helpful. They help editors see the arc of your manuscript and get an immediate sense of the story before diving into the text. They also help authors practice being concise and plot-oriented when summing up a novel.
- Sample chapters. A proposal generally includes one to three sample chapters from your novel. This gives authors a chance to polish those chapters into their best possible shape and to make sure the early pages draw the reader in.
Want to know more about creating a fiction book proposal? Check out the links below:
7 thoughts on “How to Write a Fiction Book Proposal”
Hi, What if you are unable to find a book to compare your novel to?
I imagine that would be quite difficult! As the saying goes, “there are no new stories,” which is to say, every story has something in common with those that came before it. If nothing immediately comes to mind, ask friends and fellow readers to look at your novel and share ideas for competitive titles. Or write down some main themes, and either search them online or ask a librarian or bookseller for a recommendation based on those themes. That could lead you in the right direction!
What if the book proposal is for a book that is essentially an auto-biography? Think “The Lost Boy” by David Pelzer but taking place in the late 90’s early 00’s and each chapter is a different home experience. Would I write it the same way that you describe above?
No, an autobiography would follow a slightly different proposal format than a fiction book. I’d recommend following a nonfiction proposal format since autobiography falls under nonfiction.
Would you send this instead of a query letter? Many sites are asking for query letters with submissions, not proposals. So I’m not sure how this fits into how to showcase my book! I’m new to this so any advice would be appreciated!
Hi Kaylin, if an agency requests a query letter, definitely send the query. Always follow agency guidelines 🙂 Query letters and proposals are different animals, and queries are more common in fiction.