Proposals/Letters of Inquiry

It is best to send a publisher a proposal or letter of inquiry instead of the entire manuscript since few publishers accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Be sure to review a publisher’s submission guidelines before sending a proposal or query. These guidelines are typically found on publishers’ websites.

Book Proposal Guidelines

The most important aspect of a manuscript submission to publishers is the book proposal. The author needs to prepare a carefully detailed and compelling proposal to convince a publisher that his or her book is worth publishing. The proposal is extremely valuable in negotiating a good sale by allowing publishers to evaluate the project quickly and to determine their ability to market the book successfully.

Your proposal represents the promise of your book; it must be distinctive and engaging so that the editor becomes enthusiastic about signing your project. The difference between a good proposal and an excellent one can determine whether you receive an offer—and can make the difference between a modest advance and a large one.

Every book is unique, but almost every proposal contains the elements listed below:

About the Book

Give a brief (three to five pages) overview and introduction to your project. Think of this section as the information that would be used in the jacket copy, book synopsis and market survey.

Describe the reasons you were inspired to write the book and what makes it valuable. Make sure to explain what makes your book different from other, similar books and mention any special features or approaches you offer.

Give a two or three paragraph synopsis of the contents, illustrating in detail the logic your book follows to satisfy its premise.

Explain why you as an author are uniquely qualified to write this book. Include relevant experience and credentials, as well as any supporting professional expertise or publishing credits.

Market & Competition

Who is the audience for your book, and why do they need to buy your book? Provide demographic data that reinforces your hypothesis.

Address the competition. List each title that would be in direct competition with your book, along with the author, publisher, and year of publication. Explain why your book would be better, or how it fills a vacant niche in the market.

Chapter Outline

Provide a brief chapter-by-chapter outline of the book. Try to convey both the content and tone of each chapter succinctly. Where possible, use quotations, anecdotes and examples to describe your chapters.

Sample Chapter

Include one or two sample chapters, preferably not the introduction or first chapter, to give the publisher an idea of your writing style and the actual content of the book.

Publishing Details

Describe the physical form you plan for your book. Be sure to include:

  • proposed book length, measured in words;
  • state how many, and what sort of, photographs and/or illustrations will be used;
  • list any special considerations for book size, format, design or layout;
  • estimate how much time you will need to deliver the completed manuscript.


About the Author

Provide a detailed biography of yourself. Stress your background experience in your field and credentials relevant to your book. If you have an established audience through social media, a blog, or other online platforms, let the publisher know. If applicable, attach a copy of your resume or curriculum vitae.

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