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How to Write a Book Proposal

As an entrepreneur, you're always looking for creative ways to stand out from the crowd. And nothing screams, "I am here! I know what I'm talking about!" like a book with your name on it.

Publishing a book will help you get consultation gigs, speaking engagements, clients, and exposure from TV, radio, and print interviews -- in other words, it will open some serious doors and give you solid credibility as an expert in your field. The beautiful thing about the world of nonfiction publishing is that, unlike fiction, you only have to write a book proposal, not the entire book, in order to sell it. Here's how.

Hone Your Idea
Before you get started on your proposal, decide what it is about you and your idea that will make someone want to read your book. For example, there are tons of books about making money, but why are you drawn to Suze Orman's over T. Harv Eker's? Is it her voice? Her story? The way she organizes her information? Figure out how you want to come across and what your book will offer that no one else's does. And if you can figure out a way to target an unfilled niche, go for it!

Prepare a Cover Letter
This is a brief (half page) description of your proposal that will illuminate its important points and underline the sales and readership potential. If there are any current events that make your topic more timely, discuss them here as well.

Write an Overview
This is a one- to two-page synopsis of what your book is about, who it's for, why it needs to be written, and why it needs to be written by you. It should have the same voice as your book (if your book is funny, it should be funny, etc.). This is where you'll include information on statistics you've gathered, experts you'll consult, research you'll include, ideas for photos, charts, and illustrations, and the approximate word count of your book.

Do Market Analysis
Agents and publishers are going to want to know how they're going to make big bags of money if they take you on. You need to go out and find three or four successful books that are already written on your topic and do a quick book report on each, explaining what they tried to do and how you're going to do it differently (and better!). If there aren't any books out there like yours, you'll want to go ahead and wag that in their faces as an excellent reason to publish yours. You'll also want to offer some statistics on the demographic you'll be targeting to show that there's an audience for your book.

Figure Out Any Promotional Possibilities
What ideas do you have for promoting your book? Who are your contacts? What organizations are you a part of that can promote your book? Where can you speak or lead seminars? What media outlets can you get to interview you? Come up with as many ideas as you can to show how wise, connected, and enthused you are. And keep in mind that this section of your proposal is about what you can do to promote your book, not what you think your future publisher should do.

Write a Brief Bio
This should be brief and focus on the areas of your career and education that relate to your book topic. You'll want to lead off with your writing experience if you have any, and be sure to include any media and marketing experience (both will come in handy when promoting your book). If you haven't already, I strongly suggest you get out there and try to get an article or two published, do some lecturing, join relevant organizations, and hit up your local TV and radio stations to have you on. The more you can up your expert quotient, the better, especially if it involves snagging some writing credentials.

Prepare a Super-Detailed Outline
Write a chapter-by-chapter breakdown of exactly what your book is about. Under each chapter heading and subhead, you'll need to write a couple of sentences explaining the gist of that section. This should be done in the voice of the book and give the reader a clear idea of what's to come.

Write a Few Sample Chapters
Pick two or three chapters of your book and write them out in full. They don't necessarily need to be the first three chapters, but rather the ones that will showcase your talents best or bring across the part of the book you find most impressive.

Once you get all of these elements together, you'll put them in a neat little package and start sending it out to agents and editors. As with everything else on this planet, getting a referral is the best way in, so get out there and tell everyone you know (and don't know, for that matter) that you're looking to sell your fabulous book! You should also hit the bookstore, find books that are in the same genre as yours, and see who the agent was (usually they're thanked in the acknowledgements). There's also a great book available at the library called "Jeff Herman's Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, and Literary Agents," as well as websites like and that are loaded with helpful information (including where to find ghost writers who can help you write your book).

If this seems like an overwhelming amount of work, before you curl up in a ball and put it off for another five years, remember -- you're writing about something you know inside and out and it's going to flow a lot more easily than you may think. Plus, picture the final product -- a book with your name on it! How great is that?

Text by Jen Sincero, a journalist, columnist, and best-selling author of two books.

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