Writing a Nonfiction Book Proposal: Sample Chapters

Publish date:

In today's writing tip Sharlene Martin and Anthony Flacco, authors of Publish Your Nonfiction Book, discuss one of the nine essential elements to a book proposal--sample chapters.

book proposal | publish a nonfiction book

Always begin with your first chapter. It’s never a good idea to toss chapter 6 at them for your writing sample and hope no one notices. If chapter 6 has your best work in it, why isn’t there some of that work right at the front to help pull readers into the book? Your purpose as an author is to demonstrate how your book will hook readers from the beginning.

Offer the first twenty to twenty-five pages of text, up to the end of a chapter and a logical cliffhanger or teaser. Even if you have more of the manuscript completed, don’t send additional pages. Your proposal
is a selling tool. All you need to do is give them enough to get fired up about you and your writing. Then politely end the conversation and allow them to go off and think about how much they want to publish your book. There is no magic number for sample pages, but the issue can be reasoned this way: Twenty to twenty-five pages should be enough to offer a picture of how the book will read and of your writing skills. More pages than that can make for burdensome reading at the proposal stage.

The “less is more” principal applies here; it leaves room for the agent or editor to come back and give a tentative yes to the book, provided that the manuscript is given more of this and less of that. Sometimes
this sort of guidance can be just the thing that a manuscript needs. So when you submit a calculated amount of sample pages instead of throwing everything that you have at them, it leaves you room to accommodate such requests—if you choose. Anyone who is captivated by your proposal will come back and ask to see what else you have. You may then reveal the extra pages, if they fit, and your brilliance will stun them all. If they don’t fit the requested changes, you can leave them in the drawer with none the wiser.

Did you find this writing tip helpful? Buy Publish Your Nonfiction Book now!

Mary Alice Monroe: On Writing the Family Saga

Mary Alice Monroe: On Writing the Family Saga

Award-winning author Mary Alice Monroe discusses what it's like to draft a series that spans generations and storylines.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: Final Competition Deadline, Short Story Virtual Conference, and more!

This week, we’re excited to announce the Self-Published Book Awards deadline for 2021, details on the upcoming Short Story Virtual Conference, and more!

John B. Thompson | Book Wars

John B. Thompson: On Researching Changes in the Book Publishing Industry

John B. Thompson, author of the new book Book Wars, shares the research that went into his account of how the digital revolution changed publishing for readers and writers.

From Script

Supporting AAPI Storytellers and Tapping into Mythical World Building (From Script)

In this week’s round-up from ScriptMag.com, meet South-East-Asian-American filmmakers and screenwriters, plus interviews with screenwriter Emma Needell and comic book writer/artist Matt Kindt, TV medical advisor Dr. Oren Gottfried, and more!

What Is a Personal Essay in Writing?

What Is a Personal Essay in Writing?

In this post, we look at what a personal essay (also known as the narrative essay) is, including what makes it different from other types of fiction and nonfiction writing, examples of effective personal essays, and more.

FightWrite™: How Do People Who Don’t Know How to Fight, Fight?

FightWrite™: How Do People Who Don’t Know How to Fight, Fight?

If your character isn't a trained fighter but the scene calls for a fight, how can you make the scene realistic? Author and trained fighter Carla Hoch has the answers for writers here.

April PAD Challenge

30 Poetry Prompts for the 2021 April PAD Challenge

Find all 30 poetry prompts for the 2021 April Poem-A-Day Challenge in this post.

The Problem of Solving a Mystery When You're the Prime Suspect

The Problem of Solving a Mystery When You're the Prime Suspect

Mia P. Manansala, author of Arsenic & Adobo, explains how writers can help their main character solve a mystery when they're the prime suspect.

Mistakes Writers Make: Not Using Your Spare 15 Minutes

Mistakes Writers Make: Not Using Your Spare 15 Minutes

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake writers make is not using your spare 15 minutes.