Structuring a Non-Fiction Proposal

Guidelines for Your Non-Fiction Proposal


Your non-fiction proposal should include the following items and should be attached as a single file to an email with “submission: title, authors name and word count” in the subject line:

  • A one page cover letter or query letter is sufficient.
  • Your non-fiction proposal should include the following items:


  1. Proposal Cover Letter

Addressed to the appropriate agent with title/genre/word count and appropriate contact information in the letter, this letter should interest us in reading your proposal. In an email the attached file name should be descriptive – author name / fiction or nonfiction proposal / slugline.

  • A single paragraph that introduces the proposed book
  • An “overview” of the intended works including a brief description of the target audience
  • A few sentences about the writer that highlights his or her credentials and explains why he/she will be a credible author of the book
  • A concluding paragraph that summarizes the strengths of the book.


  1. Proposal table of contents

Include a contents page for your proposal that provides page numbers for the items, below.


  1. One-page sell sheet
  • The first line of a one page is: The title, genre and word count
  • Tagline- one line pitch of your book
  • Back book cover paragraph
  • Abbreviated bio with author photo
  • All must fit on a single page


  1. Biographical sketch

List your writing experience, your education, your achievements and your prior publishing history.


  1. Description of the book

Describe your book in detail, including its purpose, the intended audience, the argument(s) you’ll make, and what the reader will take away when he or she reads the book.


  1. Chapter outline

A chapter outline is a detailed table-of-contents for your work that briefly summarizes the content of each chapter. A four or five line paragraph describing each chapter is sufficient.


  1. Market analysis

Identify your book’s audience and describe your ability, if any, to sell books at speaking engagements, seminars, conferences, and other events.


  1. Competitive analysis

List competitive books and briefly describe their contents. Summarize the differences between your book and its predecessors, highlighting why your book will fill a gap or meet an unmet need.


  1. Marketing plan

A marketing plan is a vital element of every non-fiction book proposal. It is up to the author (working with the agent) to prove that a sizeable target audience for the book exists, to sharply define this target market, and to evaluate competitive books (if any) in the marketplace.


  1. History of the manuscript

Please tell us if you or another agent has submitted the manuscript, or earlier versions, to editors and/or publishers.


  1. Three sample chapters

Provide three chapters that are likely to impress us and editors. The chapters need not be sequential but should include the first chapter.