Author Resource Center: Checklist Nonfiction Book Proposal Submission

The typical Nonfiction Book Proposal has a number of components that must be included if you want to improve your manuscript’s chance of success. Goldilocks always advises that you should check the submission guidelines presented by the literary agents and publishers where you are pitching your manuscript in order that you submit all the necessary parts and pieces required.

The average length of a book proposal can range from about 30 pages or longer depending on the level of detailed information you have included. Use this Checklist below as you prepare your  document.  Remember to start a new page for each new component of your Nonfiction Book Proposal.

Goldilocks has provided a very detailed explanation of each of these components in her…

Goldilocks Methodology/Process Section

Now let’s get started…

Simply click or tap on each link and you will be taken further down the page where you wil

Find a very detailed checklist for each component of your Nonfiction Book Proposal

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Ready to dig in?

Cover/Title Page

*The “Working Title”

This is a tentative title and could be subject to change either by you or your literary agent/publisher.

Considerations when Developing a Tentative Working Title for Your Nonfiction Book

-It should clearly encapsulate the book’s premise

-It might state the promise to your readers if they read the book or what could happen if they don’t

*Author Contact/Platform Information

-Full name, mailing address

-Telephone numbers (home, office, fax, cell)

-E-Mail address (it is recommended that you use one which has your full name and not one with a host of numbers and characters)

Gmail is okay but Yahoo and Hotmail email addresses should be avoided

-Website address if applicable

-Your Blog, Portfolio, LinkedIn, FaceBook and YouTube URLs if applicable

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Book Proposal Table of Contents

Your Book Proposal’s Table of Contents should contain the following Sections…

-Cover/Title Page

-Cover Letter

-Query Letter previously submitted to your Literary Agent


-Marketing: Target Markets

-Competitive Analysis

-About the Author

-Promotion: How Will You Market Your Book?

-Book Marketing Plan

-Book Table of Contents

-Chapter by Chapter Summaries

-Sample Chapters

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Cover Letter

(not to be confused with your Query Letter)

PART 1: Contact information for author and literary agent/publisher

-For author: full name, mailing address, E-Mail address, telephone numbers(Website, Blog, Portfolio, YouTube, FaceBook) URLs if any or all of these apply

-For the recipient (probably your literary agent) name, and mailing address

-Proper greeting to your agent or publisher contact (Dear Mr., Ms., etc. followed by a “:” not a “,”)

PART 2: Introductory elements, the greeting and “elevator pitch”

-“Dear X: thank you for the opportunity to submit a nonfiction book proposal…”

The next sentences refer to what is called the “elevator pitch” which consists of a couple of lines that capture the essence of your proposed book. This is a concise and targeted summary of the book in just a couple of sentences.

-The closing sentences in Part 2 are a brief summary containing a few lines that describe your book in a bit more detail. At this stage you are simply showing your literary agent/publisher the type of book you have written and giving them a chance to see if it will fit into their current marketing plan.

PART 3: Further details about the substance of your proposed book

-The purpose of this paragraph is to jar the recipient’s memory regarding your initial Query Letter and to remind them of what your proposed book is about.

-Don’t forget to mention the title of your work here also

PART 4: Audience/genre/promotional elements

-This should be a brief summary about the audience for your material, move on to highlight your expected promotional effort and perhaps include why you are just the right author for the project.

PART 5: Optional paragraph, “anything New to report”

-This short little paragraph will discuss important details that can support your project that have arisen since you sent in your Query Letter, such as a news story, new research results, a big name endorsement of your work, etc. Or it can just be some tantalizing bit of information you didn’t include in your query, but which would be effective here to further sell your project.

PART 6: The closing, summing it all up

-Has the manuscript been completed, if not when would be the projected date when it can be submitted?

-Approximate word count of finished book.  Don’t indicate how many pages it will be as different publishing formats will make this data rather useless.

-Short pertinent biographical details, the primary reason why you should be the person to write your proposed book

-Is your transmittal a “simultaneous submission” meaning that you are sending your book proposal to multiple literary agents/publishers?

State Your Call-To-Action

-That you are looking for representation if writing to an agent

-You are seeking publication if writing to an editor/publisher

-The last sentence should be a thank you, just as in your Query Letter Previously Submitted.

Insert a copy of your original Query Letter directly behind your Cover Letter as a reminder to your literary agent that you have been pre-screened and that you were informed that you should proceed with your complete Nonfiction Book Proposal.

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Overview Section

Here is where you will summarize the components of your Nonfiction Book Proposal so that your literary agent sees what to expect from the rest of your submission and it needs to do the heavy lifting for the whole Proposal.

Introduction to your Nonfiction Book Proposal Overview

Not to be confusing, this is a summary of the components of your Overview Section at a glance.

The Overview starts with a “hook”!

Your Hook is a one-sentence summary of your book. It must contain the title and it should summarize your manuscript concisely. Another thing it could contain is the phrase…

“The first book to… (fill in the blank)”

This is because books that are unique stand a much better chance of selling.

Make sure it is a strong Hook!

The Importance of a Premise

This is a two- or three-sentence statement of the book’s basic concept or thesis. Usually, it identifies the need and then proposes a solution.

Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

This sentence clearly identifies what consumers will gain by reading your book (the benefits they will receive) and how it will deliver it (its features).

Here is a helpful template…

If consumers in the target market purchase and read (name of your book), then they will (list the book’s benefits), because the book will (list the book’s features).

Book Sections Outline

NOTE: As a general rule, a nonfiction book should include at least three sections which will cover the following…

-Description of the problem or need

-Presentation of the solution

-Amplification of the solution through concrete applications

Brief Annotation for Each Nonfiction Book Section

Now that you have presented the major Sections of your book, you need to add a brief blurb to each, explaining in general terms what you intend to cover.

Manuscript Status

-Where does the manuscript stand, level of completion?

-Have you begun writing?

If so, how many chapters are finished?

-How many words have you written?

-Are there charts, graphs, tables, illustrations, photographs, etc.?

-Anticipated number of manuscript words

Each chapter should include around 400-7500 words with a book length to be at least 80,000-100000 words in length

-Anticipated submission date

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Marketing/Audiences/Target Markets

This Section should be written with Three Things in Mind…

First, assert confidently that certain markets for your title exist. No one really knows who will buy a book, so you might as well give optimistic estimates. In other words, say things like…

“This book will appeal to women aged 18-45…”

Of course, if you think they will be interested in the book. Add words to the effect that

“This is a huge segment of the book-buying market.”

Second, remember to include the most important markets first. Don’t be shy about saying that “millions of those readers will be interested in this title.”

This is precisely what a publisher wants to hear. So say it if you think it’s true.

Third, you shouldn’t forget your minor markets. If you’re writing a book about World War Two, mention that libraries will want the book. Also state that veterans will be interested in it as well. You could also say that some women will be interested in it, especially those who are married to veterans or those who teach history. Although your minor markets will not be your main focus, don’t forget to include them because every sale counts, and publishers may have ways of reaching out to these special groups.

What Current Trends Are Going to Influence People to Pick up Your Book?

Think about the audience you’re targeting and how your writing will address their needs. Instead of having a niche audience, you’ll want those that are as broad as possible…

“People in relationships” vs. “married couples without children in the Midwest.”

Who will buy your book? Why will it sell?

Avoid generic statements

Example of a meaningless statistic…

A Google search result on [topic] turns up more than 10 million hits.

Much better market insight…

Media surveys indicate that at least 50% of people in [demographic] plan to spend about $1,000 on their hobby this year, and 60% indicated they buy books on [topic].

Market characteristics: demographic description

These characteristics are sometimes called the “demographic description.” The term demographics refers to the external, objective characteristics of your audience. It includes such elements as…

Gender- for men, women or both

“Psychographic Description” of Your Target Audience

This is all about motivation and here are some questions that you should address…

Why would readers want to buy your book?

What are their frustrations?

What motivates them?

What do they expect to get out of the book?


-Affinity groups

The term Affinity refers to “a natural attraction or feeling of kinship.” An Affinity Group is a body of people who will likely have some attraction to your book based on their behavioral history. Generally, you will think of and list several of them.

For example, if you were writing a book on marriage, a natural affinity group would be people who attend one of the many marriage seminars available.

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Competitive Book Analysis

Several questions should be addressed in this Section…

-Does your book meet a specific need not addressed by the other ones you are mentioning?

-What unique prospective do you bring to your chosen concept/topic?

-Why would you want to list your competitor’s nonfiction books?

You want to convey that there is indeed a readership for your topic, but your book takes a slightly different twist on what’s already out there, and you’re just the person to write it.

-Where do you find the competing books?

Look in bookstores if you can find them

Also, Google your topic and the problem it solves. Your greatest competition is probably a Website, Online community, or well-known blogger. Your proposal should evaluate not just competing print books, but also Websites, digital content, and Online experts serving the same audience.

-What terms would people search for if they wanted information or a solution?

-Is it easy to get authoritative information?

-Is it free or behind a pay wall?

-Where do Online experts and authorities send people for more information?

-Do they frequently reference other books?

Ask your local librarian where you would look for information on the topic you’re writing about.

People forget that libraries still exist and their reference desk attendants can be of great help to you.

Ignore books that are out of print and are not available in bookstores or Online. They are not going to compete with yours.

How many books should you feature in this competitive analysis?

Four or five titles is sufficient

Information to Include for Each Book in Your Competitive Analysis…

-Give the title and author of the competing book

-Include the publisher and copyright date

-Indicate the average selling price, considering the difference between buying it Online or in a bookstore

-Sales figures

-Ranking, was it on a best seller list?

The best way to cover competing books is to devote only one or two sentences to each entry. Your book proposal Competing Books section will then have the look and feel of a professional product one that isn’t afraid to talk about competing books.

Provide a brief statement about what the title offers and how yours would be different and better. Don’t be overly critical of the competition since in some cases you will be trying to sell your book to the same publisher. At the end of your list, summarize how your book will distinguish itself in the marketplace.

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About the Author/Bio

-Write in third person around 250 words or less is sufficient

-Why is Your Author Bio so Important to the Success of Your Nonfiction

Book Proposal?

Basic Questions Your Bio Should Answer

-What’s your main vocational role?

-How are you qualified to write about the topic of your book?

-What work have you already done elsewhere on the topic?

-How can you help the publisher promote your book?

-How much public speaking have you done to date on your topic?

Give literary agents/publishers a sense of you as a person.

Will you be reliable and fun to work with?

Also, if you’ve got a famous friend in line to write a foreword or endorsement, better still include any that have already been written about your book in progress.

-Do you have any affiliations or bookstore appearances under your belt?

-How about ideas for sequels or spin-offs?

-Describe your background, particularly as it relates to the subject of your book. Explain why you feel you are qualified to write it. If your professional stature is very important to qualify you as a good author on the subject, add a separate C.V. to this Section.

-Mention your education, if relevant. Doctors, professors, psychologists, dentists, and other professionals should always mention their education, especially when writing about their field.

-Have you received any awards that may enhance your reputation as author of your book?

If you have promoted previous books or have made speeches or conducted workshops or classes related to your book, include some detail about them. Should you have a video, CD, or DVD of one or more of your appearances, provide a link to an easily accessible source on the Internet.

Previous Writing

Have any of your articles or books been published?

If so, include the following particulars…

-What and when did you have published, articles, books?

-Who published them, was it a traditional publisher or did you self publish?

-Assuming that the books have sold well, give sales figures.

-Any radio or TV shows you’ve been on to promote your previous work

-Indicate if there were any newspaper stories that have covered your work

If you have written relevant magazine or newspaper articles, include some samples via links.

-Have you received favorable reviews, provide links to a few of the best?

-Show that you are very enthusiastic about your manuscript, publishers like to see this and they want some indication that you are someone that they feel comfortable working with moving forward.

What if you don’t have any publishing credits?

Just focus on whatever positive credentials you do have.

For example,

-Are you a scientist, focus on your education and work experience!

-Now, if you’re a professor, state the courses you’ve taught and the research you’ve done.

-As a housewife, emphasize your unusual situation…

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Nonfiction Book Marketing Plan

As a reminder your Marketing Plan will answer these three crucial questions…

-What positive results does your book create for your readers?

-Who needs those results the most?

-Where do people who need those results the most congregate in large numbers?

Components of Your Marketing Plan

Most of these elements have been included in the previous sections of your Nonfiction Book Proposal.

Marketing Plan: Book Details 

Title, Author, Publisher, Publication Date, Book Pricing, Promotion Budget

Distribution Strategy

Pricing could reflect…

-Intention to sell directly to target buyers rather than through a distribution network to retailers

-Planning to limit your promotional expenditures

-Wanting to make your book more competitive against other market options

-Seeking a long-term profit potential

Choose a higher-than-average price if your content will be quickly outdated, is highly specialized or has very little competition

Distribution Strategy

Summarize the channels you will implement to sell your book…

-Send buyers to or iTunes

-Sell off your book dedicated Landing Page

-Put a shopping cart on your author website

Marketing Plan: Marketing Goals and Objectives

describe What Your Book is About in 100 words or less

Think of it from your readers’ points of view…

-How can your information help them reach their goals?

-How will what you will teach them change their lives?

Marketing Plan: Marketing Objectives

(Estimates should be based on what you want to accomplish in one year)

-Will you make it available as a printed book, an EBook, an audio edition (if possible you should strive to make your book available in as many formats as possible)

-How many reviews do you want to harvest for your book?

-Decide the number of guest appearances you plan to make to market your book.

-Are you considering broadcast interviews, if so when and how many?

Here is a little template to help you write the marketing part of this component…

By (date) _____ I will sell (number) _____ books and make $____ by getting ___ reviews, ___ awards and ___ media appearances.

Marketing Plan: Brief Book Description

Provide a brief description (100 words or less) of your book’s premise and the positive results that it can create for your readers.

-How can your information help them reach their goals?

-Will the teaching that you offer change their lives for the good?

Marketing Plan: Author Biography

  • Words or less

Why are you qualified to write this book?

Potential buyers of nonfiction books want to know why they should listen to you – what are your qualifications for teaching them about this particular topic?

Marketing Plan: Author Background Story and Personal Marketing Efforts

In 500 words or less, explain the background that led you to write this book.

What challenges, research, or special circumstances prepared you to write this message?

Marketing Plan: 30-Second Marketing Summary

Readers buy books based on the question…

“What’s in it for me?”

Therefore, summarize the reason why your book answers this question in 2 – 3 sentences. Then, list 3 – 5 bulleted statements that explain the specific type of positive results that readers will get from your book. In other words…

How does your book improve the condition of your readers?

Marketing Plan: Target Audiences Description

-Primary Book Purchasers

-Secondary Book Purchasers

Example of primary and secondary target markets…

Primary: young adults living in Florida

Secondary: female tennis players

Marketing Plan: Audience Locations

List at least 10 places where they hangout on and offline

-What websites, blogs, or E-zines do they read?

-Do they listen to radio or TV programs and if so which ones?

-Can you identify which events they attend?

Marketing Plan: Sales Handles and Media Angles

Why will your book sell?

List at least 3 clear ways that prove the sales validity of your book. Show how your Author Platform will help generate book sales.

For example, describe any groups who’ve agreed to use your book as a resource. List any special features of your book that would create extra sales.

Marketing Plan: Public Relations Strategy and Execution

Why is your book worth discussing in the media?

List at least 3 reasons why a radio or TV producer would want you as a guest on their show. Describe any current trends, headlines, statistics, and needs that your book addresses.

Marketing Plan: Competing/Comparative Titles

List at least 5 books

Provide the following for each book…




-Publication Date



-Sales statistics

-Briefly explain how your book is different

Marketing Plan: Endorsements from Personal and Professional Contacts

List at least 3 – 5 endorsements you have from well-recognized leaders in your field, such as business leaders, celebrities, musicians, pastors, athletes, etc. Keep each endorsement to 2 – 4 sentences. If someone has agreed to give an endorsement that you’re waiting on, list their name.

List at least 10 ways that you specifically plan to market your book yourself. Provide details for each point.

For example, if you send out newsletters, list the frequency and number of contacts.

Marketing Plan: Author’s Sales Leads, Contacts, and Platform Power

Describe all aspects of your current author platform that would help create immediate book sales, such as a personal database of leaders or newsletter subscribers, monthly website visitors, blog visitors, professional affiliations, alliances, leadership positions, author awards, past book sales history, social networking connections, upcoming speaking calendar, etc.

Marketing Plan: Marketing Timeline to Reach Target Audience

-Manage Personal Newsletters, Blogging, and Social Media: (Ongoing activities)

-Setup Speaking Events: (3 – 6 months in advance of your book launch)

-Contact Key Alliances, Book Reviewers, and Organizations: (3 – 6 months in advance)

-Pursue Print Media and Magazines: (3 – 6 months in advance)

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Book Table of Contents Section and Chapter by Chapter Outline/Summary

Explain to your agent/publisher how your proposed book will be compiled/structured. It starts with a Book Table of Contents, not to be confused with your Nonfiction Book Proposal listing which was a compilation of the components that makes up your proposal itself.

Your Nonfiction Book Table of Contents should include both Section and Chapter titles in the order in which they appear in your book manuscript.

The purpose of a chapter-by-chapter annotated outline/summary is to give you (and your literary agent or publisher) an overview of the book’s structure. This will convince them that you know where you are going and how you are going to get there.

For each chapter, provide anywhere from a few sentences to a few paragraphs to summarize what you will cover. To make it more appealing, include some intriguing case histories, anecdotes or data, if possible. Communicate how the chapters will build on each other and advance your thesis.

You should pay particular attention to section/chapter titles. As with the book’s overall title, each one must be interesting and intriguing. In today’s

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Sample fully edited chapters submission

Can this author really write a lengthy manuscript?

The only way to demonstrate this is to submit a few completely finished and edited chapters of your manuscript. Check your literary agent/publisher guidelines for specifics but here is what is usually recommended…

Which chapters should you choose to include?

Send two chapters from the heart of your book manuscript so your literary agent/publisher can get a sense of how you are going to handle a major issue or theme. Introductions and first chapters tend to repeat what is said in the proposal and, though useful, do not give them as much insight into your writing skills. Including the final chapter is also not recommended, especially if it has a conclusory tone.

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Goldilocks provides a very comprehensive look at each of these Nonfiction Book Proposal components in her…

Goldilocks Methodology/Process Nonfiction Book Proposal

If you have any questions about this important document in the nonfiction book publishing process, please don’t hesitate to contact Goldilocks.  This is a very detailed book submission and may feel very overwhelming to lots of people, so if you want to hand over the writing of this proposal you can reach her in any of the following ways…

Contact Goldilocks
E-Mail her:
Pick up the phone: 914-944-1474

Goldilocks Wishes You Good Luck with Your Nonfiction Book Proposal Submission