News room: 5 Essential Tips for a Winning Non-fiction Proposal - Expert Tips

5 Essential Tips for a Winning Non-fiction Proposal - Expert Tips by Jessica Barrah

You’ve got a great idea for a non-fiction book – but how do you go about trying to get it published? Do you need a synopsis, and some opening chapters? Or just an outline of your subject matter? Publishing consultant, Julia Kellaway shares her top tips on how to best submit your proposal.

1. Identify your unique selling point (USP)

Do this before you even start writing, as understanding why your book is unique and necessary will give you the focus to pull it together into a coherent and valuable piece.

2. Suss out the competition

Spend some time trawling online retailers, as well as your local bookshop, to see what other books on the market are offering. What do they do well? What do they do badly? Why is your book different? It’s so important to really analyse your market.

3. Be honest with yourself

Don’t be afraid to accept that perhaps there isn’t a place for your book in the market – it may already be saturated with similar titles offering the same advice. Don’t be disheartened – think about what other angle you could take.

4. Ensure your proposal is solid, strong and logical

Once you have identified your market and are confident that you are offering something unique, concentrate on getting a good, solid proposal in place. A winning proposal should consist of:
a) A brief overview of the book
b) A comparison with the competition
c) Your USP
d) A short author biography
e) A chapter-by-chapter outline
f) Ideally the Introduction and a sample chapter

5. Don’t submit the whole manuscript

Authors often submit their whole manuscript to commissioners, perhaps to prove that they can write an entire book, but also because they feel a weight lifted off their shoulders by finally finishing their book! However, the majority of commissioners receive several proposals a day and simply don’t have the time to sift through vast reams of text. Instead they need to immediately see the unique selling point (USP) of your book, so keep your proposal snappy and to the point.

Julia Kellaway is a freelance publishing consultant, with over 15 years’ experience in non-fiction publishing. She worked at Random House as a commissioning editor for 10 years and her specialities include parenting, health, personal development, soft business, popular psychology and personal finance.

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Written by
Jessica Barrah
Published on
Editor, Non-fiction, Manuscript, Writing, Help, Tips, Expert, and Advice