The Authors Business Plan


Although proposals can be hard to write, they provide invaluable benefits to writers. Think of them as business plans, which are documents that justify every step of a prospective commercial venture and are required to get financing for business deals.

When you want to finance a new business, you can’t just say, “I have this great idea” and expect the investors to fight for a place in line. You must first prepare a convincing plan that clearly explains, step-by-step, your idea, the need for your product or service, how it would work, and how it will make money. A business plan must hold up under the fierce scrutiny of financial experts who will question and measure every expense.

Book proposals operate similarly and serve as both planning documents and selling documents.

As regards to planning, a book proposal gives you the opportunity to lay out your strategy for writing and promoting a salable book and to run it by your agent and others, who are expert at evaluating such plans. It forces you to anticipate each stage in the entire book-writing process and to decide exactly how you plan to proceed. It clarifies your approach and the resources you will need and can expose weaknesses that you should address.

And in regard to selling, proposals enable you to present representative samples of your work that will sell your book idea to an agent or publisher. It’s the marketing case that contains examples of your wares and should be stocked to convince your targets to buy.

When a publisher decides to buy your book, it is basically agreeing to finance your book’s publication by paying the costs of its printing and distribution.


Although the formats of proposals can differ, a number of basic elements should be included in every proposal.

Like most of us, agents and publishers are creatures of habit, and when they receive book proposals, they will be looking for specific information. Since a major purpose of your proposal is to sell them on your book, don’t force them to hunt for the answers they need. Instead, give them what they want in a format they like and can easily follow.

In a proposal, we like to include the basic sections that are listed below. After the overview, their order can be varied to give greater prominence to a particular strength.

For example, the fact that an author is a huge celebrity should be stressed in the overview and the about-the-author section should be placed directly after the overview.


The basic proposal sections we recommend for nonfiction are:

Cover letter

Title page



Markets for the book



About the author

Promotion plan

Table of contents

Chapter summaries or outline


Sample chapter(s)

Additional submissions


Reviews or short excerpts of your prior writing

Relevant articles, clippings, and press materials

Postage-paid, self-addressed envelope. Large enough and with enough postage. Many agents won’t return material if the envelope is not large enough and it doesn’t contain sufficient postage.

From AUTHOR 101 ™Book Proposals


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