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The past two weeks in my world have been about dividing and conquering—flipping back and forth between the creative part of my WIP (actually writing chapters of the book) and the business part (making progress on the book proposal, bit by bit).

Honestly, now that I’m in serious writing mode, it’s the chapter samples that I want to go back into whenever I have a spare fifteen or more minutes. Writing at the moment is not unlike the giant 1500-piece jigsaw puzzle strewn across my living room floor. I feel constantly drawn to it, and I find myself visualizing how the pieces might fit together while I’m lying in bed. It’s both exhilarating and maddening, which I guess pretty much sums up any creative venture.

Because I’m deep in book proposal writing mode, in today’s post, I’ll lay out what exactly a book proposal is, as well as why / when you’d need to write one. But before I get into that, here’s a quick check-in on how I did with my writing goals over the past two weeks:

  • Finish the Competitive Review section of my book proposal – YES
  • Finish the Markets for the Book section of my book proposal – NO (but did complete the About the Author section!)
  • Begin draft of second sample chapter for proposal – YES
  • Have a call with Theo to go over feedback on first sample chapter – YES
  • Write a blog post for my author website / Doable promotion – YES
  • Follow up with possible VA for doing research on blogs and podcasts for Doable promotion – NO

Overall, I’m happy with my progress, and I credit much of that to working well under a deadline and realizing it’s nearly the end of March already (!). My goal is still to get a draft of my proposal to my agent before I leave for Italy in mid-April. Considering that I’m traveling this weekend and have about two weeks left to wrap everything up, I realize I’m pushing my luck. But, I’m going to go for it anyway.


So, I keep talking about the book proposal I’m working on for my WIP, but what exactly is a proposal, and why would you need one? I like to describe a book proposal as a business plan for a book—it’s essentially a plan and promise for the book you have written or intend to write.

A typical proposal includes the following standard sections:

  • Cover page
  • Overview or Introduction
  • Markets for the Book
  • Competitive Analysis or Review
  • Promotional Plan
  • Author Bio
  • Table of Contents for the Book
  • Chapter Summaries or Book Outline
  • Sample Chapters

Depending on the type of book you’re writing or how you’re positioning yourself as the author, you might include other sections such as Book Format, Endorsements, Media Clips, design samples, illustrations, and so on.

Add it all up, and you’re looking at anywhere between 50 – 90 pages for a finished proposal, depending on the length of your book and samples. Suffice it to say that a book proposal is no joke—a good proposal can take weeks or even months to write (my average is 2-3 months), and like any sellable business plan, a proposal has to be as close to flawless as you can get since a proposal is all you have to convince a publisher to take a chance on you, your idea, and your writing.

When Do You Need a Book Proposal?

Though I personally believe writing a book proposal is a valuable exercise no matter how you plan to publish your book—taking the time to map out your plan, explore the competitive marketplace, and so on only benefits your end product—the primary reason for writing a proposal is because you’re looking to pitch your book to traditional publishers.

Unless you’re writing fiction (a novel is sold purely on the merits of the completed book), a book proposal is going to be your calling card, both for agents and publishers. I should note that while in the past memoirs were treated like novels in that they were pitched and sold based on a completed manuscript rather than a proposal, these days most memoirs are pitched through a proposal along with strong writing samples.

In my next post, I’ll answer one of the questions I get the most from writers working on a book—how should I decide whether to self-publish or try for a traditional publishing deal. In the meantime, here’s a look at my new writing goals as I march towards the finish line for the next phase of my WIP. I’m traveling to Berlin this weekend to run a half-marathon, and I’ve got a bit of client-related work on my plate at the moment, so I’m keeping my goal list short, sweet, and doable.


  • Finish the Markets for the Book section of my book proposal
  • Finish the Promotional Plan section of my book proposal
  • Finalize edits on my three samples chapters
  • Write a blog post for my author website / Doable promotion