Book Proposals for Indie Authors . . . WHAT?!


One of the advantages of self-publishing is that you can spend more time writing your book instead of investing much time and effort writing and sending query letters and book proposals.

However, it is still beneficial to indie authors to learn how to write a book proposal and apply it to their own books.

I don’t mean to actually sit down and write a detailed, lengthy proposal.

I do mean to consider the ingredients, think how you would prepare each part of the proposal, and do the research that it would entail.

Why? Because it can help you with your marketability and marketing.

When you write a book proposal, you’re trying to convince a publisher that your book is marketable. Writing a proposal will help you better understand how to improve your book’s marketability and how to market your book.

Here are some examples:

  • A book proposal requires you to identify your specific target audience. You need to pinpoint your audience, justify it, and research numbers. The publisher wants to know that the audience exists and how large it is. Why do this? When you design your cover, write your blurb, and choose categories and keywords, you will know who you are trying to sell your book to.
  • You need to make lists of current competitive and complimentary titles when you write a proposal. The publisher wants to see proof that books similar to yours can succeed, to know if your book fills a need, and to determine if the market is already saturated. Why does it matter to you? First, you should share these same concerns. Second, checking out similar titles will help you see what kinds of covers attract your target audience and show you what kinds of formatting are common in your genre.
  • Your experience and expertise are important when proposing a new book. Not only that, but you must present these in a way that will show that you’re the best person to write your book. Why bother? If your author biography is effective at convincing customers that you’re well-suited to you write your book, this can be significant.
  • A query letter must catch the editor’s or agent’s interest while also briefly describing your book. So what? Well, doesn’t a blurb basically achieve this? Your blurb shouldn’t read like a query letter; they are two different things with different objectives. However, they do both need to catch attention and briefly describe what to expect. A little practice trying to sell your book with a query letter may help you see your blurb from the perspective of marketability.
  • You must research marketing options and prepare a promotional plan as part of a book proposal. Publishers want to know what you will do to help sell your book (not what you’re willing to do, but what you will do—if you ever write a book proposal, this distinction will be important). Why worry about marketing? Because, unfortunately, books generally don’t sell themselves. It’s better to learn about marketing before you publish your book than afterward. You should do pre-marketing, such as building a following and creating buzz before you publish. You’ll want to have a concrete marketing plan in place when you do publish.
  • A proposal also requires you to prepare an outline, sample chapter, and chapter summaries. If the editor becomes interested in your book, this will help the editor see your project in more concrete terms. Why does it matter? The sample chapter of a book proposal should sell the book to an editor. Similarly, the Look Inside sample of a book must sell the book to a buyer. The outline and chapter summaries can help you see the structure of your book, make connections, and keep things in order. It can also be a useful planning tool to authors who like to plan things out before they write. Authors who write by the seat of their pants might still find it helpful afterwards.

If you go through the trouble of trying to get published and get rejected or change your mind, use the experience of writing the query letter and book proposal to help you with marketability and marketing.

Note that Candace Johnson at Change It Up Editing has a 10-step article in progress on how to write a compelling nonfiction book proposal.

Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, Vol. 1 (formatting/publishing) and Vol. 2 (packaging/marketing)

3 comments on “Book Proposals for Indie Authors . . . WHAT?!

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