The most important parts of the proposal are your idea and your platform. Your idea has to be original, offering the reader value in a way no one else is offering in your genre. Your platform has to be able to reach tens of thousands of people on a regular basis.
Q: How much does a book proposal cost?
A: $8,000, payable in two installments.
Q: How long does it take?
A: 2-3 months.
Q: If you write my proposal, am I obligated to have you write my book?
A: No. But you'll probably want me to.
Q: Can you get my proposal in front of literary agents?
A: I can make connections, but an agent wanting to see your proposal is based on many factors, including personal chemistry.
Q: What's your batting average, i.e., what percentage of the proposals you've written have resulted in book deals?
A: About 60%. In 2016, 5 of my proposals sold—to Hachette, HarperCollins, FaithWords, Wiley and MIT Press.
Q: What's the biggest reason proposals don't sell?
A: The platform isn't strong enough.
How do I get an agent? How do I find a publisher?
The answer to both those questions is the same: you write a book proposal. A book proposal is a sales document that’s used to sell a nonfiction book. It typically runs 40-60 pages and consists of the following sections:
An overview of the book
Bio of the author or authors
Your marketing plan
An analysis of your target readership (sometimes)
A review of comparable titles in your genre
A detailed outline of the book
Two sample chapters, usually Chapter 1 and a middle chapter
You’ll use the proposal to get a literary agent, who will then shop the proposal to publishers. That’s how you get your book deal. But the proposal is also your opportunity to really develop your book idea before the market sees it.
Is it original, or are you covering ground that ten other authors have already walked in the last couple of years? Do you have the platform to reach a substantial audience consistently, and have you worked to build up an existing fan base that's hungry for your book? Is your outline fully fleshed out or are you not really sure what you will write? Have you thoroughly researched the books already on shelves to make sure there's nothing like yours already on the market?
Your proposal is your testing ground for rooting out dead-end ideas and determining what you need to do with your marketing platform. It's also a terrific tool for test-piloting different voices and styles before you commit to one for your final manuscript.