How to write a book proposal


“Now is an amazing time to be a writer.”

Thus is the sentiment of Michael Larsen, author of How to write a book proposal. “You are blessed with more ways to get your books written and published and more ways to promote and profit from them than ever before.”

Yet when it comes to traditional publishing, why is it so difficult for new writers to get picked up by big publishers? While there are many ways to answer this, one big reason is that their proposal is letting them down. A writer can spend months, maybe even years putting everything they have (blood, sweat and tears, the whole shebang) into perfecting their manuscript, only for their work to be rejected because of a poorly written or unconvincing proposal.

But why do editors and agents put so much emphasis on the proposal? I mean it’s the manuscript that’s what really counts, right? Well, yes and no. Because, while the manuscript is the main feature of a writer’s submission, the proposal is what convinces the editor to invest their precious time in picking it up and reading it in the first place.

“To sell the steak, you’ve got to sell the sizzle,” writes Larsen.

How do you write an effective proposal then?

This is where Michael Larsen’s book comes into play.

  1. The introduction: “Your introduction should prove that you have a marketable, practical idea and that you are the right person to write about it and promote it,” write Larsen. “The introduction has three parts: the “Overview,” “Resources needed to complete the book,” and “About the Author”. They give you the opportunity to provide as much information about you and your book as you can muster.”
  2. Overview: The overview consists of several parts, most of which are optional: Your subject hook. Your book hook. Your book’s special features (optional). A foreword by a well-known authority (optional). Answers to technical or legal questions (optional). Your back matter (optional). Markets for your book. Your book’s subsidiary-rights possibilities (optional). Spin-offs (optional). A mission statement (optional). Your platform (optional). Your promotion plan (optional). Each point is covered more depth in Larsen’s book.
  3. Resources needed to complete the book (optional)
  4. About the Author: “Include everything that you want the editors to know about you in descending order of relevance and importance that is not in your platform,” writes Larsen.
  5. The Outline: “is a paragraph a page of prose outlining your chapters to prove that there’s a book’s worth of information in your idea and that you have devised the best structure for organising it. Aim for about one line of outline for every page of text… To help make your outlines enjoyable to read, start each one with the strongest anecdote or slice copy from each chapter, then outline it.”
  6. Sample Chapter: “Include the one sample chapter that best shows how you will make your book as enjoyable to read as it is informative.


FOR EXTRA POINTS: The parts of an Irresistible Proposal

According to Larsen these are just some of the ‘hot buttons’ that can excite editors enough to buy your book:

  • Your idea
  • Your title
  • Your writing
  • Your credentials
  • Your book’s timing
  • Your ability to promote your book
  • The size of the markets for your book
  • Your book’s subsidiary-rights potential
  • Your book’s potential for bulk sales to businesses
  • Your book’s potential as a series of books that sell each other


The above is just an overview of the first chapter. The books goes into topic by topic detail to aid you on your way to writing up a proposal or pitch to any potential publishers, so it’s a really handy tool to have in your writing arsenal. We have a copy on shelf at the Blue Mountains Libraries.

Happy Writing! 🙂

Source: How to write a book proposal by Michael Larsen


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