What is the most important tool to become a successful author? Some might argue that it’s a pen or even your computer, but I’d have to disagree. The most important tool for any author is actually a book proposal. That’s because it captures an idea in a way that’s critical to your book’s success. When professionally prepared, a good book proposal communicates to the industry that you know what it takes to write, publish, market and sell your book.

Shockingly, this critical resource is treated as an afterthought by many independent authors who often wonder why they receive rejection after rejection despite all the effort they put into writing their book. So whether you’ve never created a book proposal before or just want to make sure your manuscript stands out, we’re here to help.

Forget Your Manuscript (for now)

Your book proposal is the single most important tool for opening doors with literary agents, acquisitions editors, booksellers, and even the media. Your book proposal is the only representation of your book that industry professionals may request before they take interest in you. Literary agents and acquisitions editors receive thousands of solicitations. Sending a complete manuscript before it is requested is an immediate indicator you are not a professional and whatever is inside the envelope on their desk is going to require a lot of work.

Pro Tip: Even if your manuscript is complete, receiving an unsolicited ream of paper in the mail triggers a reaction to throw it straight into the recycling bin. Don’t send it until they ask for it.

Spend Time to Save Time

There are nuances to even the simplest information in a book proposal that telegraph whether you are a professional or an amateur. The seemingly smallest details communicate you’ve been around the block and you’re going to be easy to work with compared to another writer with no knowledge or regard for the details to the art of book publishing. In this guide, you will learn those little details to show you’re on your way to being a professional author.

There’s a limited number of projects any agent or editor can manage. If one is faced with deciding between two proposals with equal perceived potential, the one requiring less work up front will have a significant advantage. The time you put into your book proposal saves time for the people who will work on your behalf in the future because you’ve already answered many of their questions. This guide helps you focus your time to save you and others time in the long run.

Why Do I Need to Write a Book Proposal?

Most books considered for publication have at least two proposals created for them. Developing a professional book proposal with the information agents and acquisitions editors need will make their job easier and make your book more attractive.

In traditional publishing, an author often submits a query letter and sample chapters to a literary agent looking for representation. The agent works with the author to develop a proposal in the agent’s template. The agent’s proposal is submitted to acquisitions editors at publishing houses. An acquisitions editor who takes interest in a book will develop an in-house proposal to take to a publishing board meeting with other editors, the publisher, and representatives from marketing, sales, and production. As a team, these publishing boards often review hundreds of titles per month to decide which books they want to publish.

Your Business Plan

Writing a professional book proposal is also critical to the ongoing life of your book. That’s right. After your book is published comes another round of the publishing process, often with more writer’s block than you experience writing your book. At this point in the process, it should be called author’s block and getting stiff-armed happens at every turn. Even authors published by major New York houses find themselves blocked by their own marketing department, publicist, the media, and even friends and family. Again, unless you’ve spelled out clearly what people can do to help market your book, it is very difficult to motivate them to work on your behalf–even those who get paid to do so.

As with a business plan, a book proposal should be a living document. It should be updated with new events in the news and your life and work. The proposal should adapt to opportunities as they surface. It is something you can return to for guidance and remember your vision.

Tired of Rejection? Read This.

We’ve all experienced painful rejection after rejection throughout the life cycle publishing. What many fail to realize is that those rejections can be traced back to poorly researched, poorly written, or poorly constructed book proposals. But no more. In just 5 days you can write your book proposal with insights directly from industry professionals who will tell you exactly what they want to see. Feel confident you are casting your book in the most professional light to give it the greatest chance of success.

Here at Author Gateway, we’ve created a video course to help you get your proposal done, including:

    • Five video units walking you through each section of a professional book proposal
    • Author Gateway’s Book Proposal Template (reg. $49.95)
    • Author Gateway’s Comparative Sales Template
    • Daily instructions and homework assignments
    • The ebook, Complete Your Book Proposal in 5 Days

Get Started

The online course is designed to work in tandem with the book proposal template edited by Pete Nikolai, Director of Publishing Services at HarperCollins Christian Publishing. Regularly $49.95, the Book Proposal Template is included free with the course for you to work through this project. The Book Proposal template is a Word document making it friendly, approachable, and familiar to many. Each section has a field you may select and begin entering your own text. The fields were developed based on favorite proposals submitted by agents as well as the in-house proposal used for HarperCollins Christian Publishing’s pub board meetings.

Ready to get started? Click this link to go to the course in the Resources section now.