Skip to main content

How to Write a Book Proposal, 4th Edition

Learn how to craft a proposal agents and editors can't resist with How to Write a Book Proposal, 4th Edition.
Image placeholder title

How to Write a Book Proposal, 4th Edition

by Michael Larsen

Writer's Digest Books, 2011

ISBN-13: 978-1-58297-702-7

ISBN-10: 1-58297-702-X

$19.99 paperback, 336 pages


Buy the Book!

Read an Excerpt!

Learn how to craft an irresistible opening and hook in chapter 7 of How to Write a Book Proposal, 4th Edition

Online Exclusive: Q&A With Literary Agent Michael Larsen

Literary agent Michael Larsen shares wisdom from over four decades in the publishing industry.

About the Book

Get the attention of agents and editors! How to Write a Book Proposal has been the go-to resource for getting your work published for over 25 years. With timeless advice and cutting edge updates on a changing industry, this newly revised edition is a must-have for every nonfiction book writer.

From your book’s hook, to your outline and sample chapters, to your promotional plan and author bio, veteran literary agent, Michael Larsen shows you step-by-step how to create, polish, and submit a proposal that stands out. Each section offers examples from real life proposals to guide you. In addition to clear instruction and detailed examples you’ll find:

  • strategies and skills to put together an effective promotion plan, on- and offline.
  • comprehensive information on creating a strong author platform—now more vital than ever
  • expanded information on online submissions
  • four complete sample proposals with notes detailing what works and what doesn’t 
  • a huge resources section with websites and recommended reading
  • endless tips and wisdom from Michael Larsen’s more than four decades as an agent

Build skills, gain confidence, and get your book rolling swiftly down the road to publication. With this guide you’ll have everything you need to write a powerful proposal.

About the Author

Michael Larsen co-founded Northern California’s oldest literary agency, Michael Larsen-Elizabeth Pomada Literary Agents, in 1972. He is a member of AAR. Mike is the author of How to Write a Book Proposal and How to Get a Literary Agent, and with Jay Conrad Levinson and Rick Frishman, coauthor of Guerrilla Marketing for Writers: 100 Weapons for Selling Your Work. His website is www.larsenpomada.com.

Table of Contents

Part I: Why the Book? Why You?

CHAPTER 1: Why Now Is the Best Time Ever to Write Books: Twenty Reasons for You to Be a Writer

CHAPTER 2: McBook: The Fastest, Easiest Way to Use This Book

CHAPTER 3: What’s in It for You? Reasons to Use This Book

CHAPTER 4: Pushing Your Hot Buttons: Choosing the Right Book for You to Write

CHAPTER 5: Getting Off the Pin: The First Three Steps to Take With Your Idea

Part II: Starting Off Right: Hooks, Benefits, and Titles

CHAPTER 6: Getting Paid to Write Your Book: The Parts of an Irresistible Proposal

CHAPTER 7: Selling the Sizzle: Your Opening and Hook

CHAPTER 8: Naming Rites: Finding the Answers You Need to Choose Your Title

CHAPTER 9: Your Selling Handle and the Models for Your Book

CHAPTER 10: Bennies for Readers, Royalties for You: Listing Your Book’s Benefits

CHAPTER 11: Adding Value to Your Book: Special Features

Part III: Following the Money: Your Book’s Markets and Competition

CHAPTER 12: Following the Money: Four Kinds of Markets for Your Book

CHAPTER 13: Sizing Up the Comps: Competing and Complementary Books

Part IV: Reaching Readers: Your Platform and Promotion Plan

CHAPTER 14: The Base of Your Golden Triangle: Creating the Communities You Need

CHAPTER 15: Eyes Are the Prize: Building the Platform Your Book Needs

CHAPTER 16: The Web as Synergy Machine: Building Your Online Platform

CHAPTER 17: Laying Your Life on the Lines: Your Bio

CHAPTER 18: Ushering Your Baby Into the World: Putting Your Promotion Plan on Paper

CHAPTER 19: Making Your Desk Promotion Central: Your Online Campaign

CHAPTER 20: Throwing Something in the Pot: Your Promotion Budget (Optional)

CHAPTER 21: Taking the Guesswork Out of Publishing: Fourteen Ways to Test-Market Your Book to Guarantee Its Success

Part V: Adding Ammunition: Optional Parts of Your Overview

CHAPTER 22: Using Niche Craft to Create a Career Out of Your Idea: Spin-Offs

CHAPTER 23: Star Power: Your Foreword and Cover Quotes

CHAPTER 24: Your Call to Arms: A Mission Statement

Part VI: Putting Meat on the Bones: Your Outline and Sample Chapter

CHAPTER 25: Chapter Choices: Finding the Best Way to Write Your Outline

CHAPTER 26: Giving Your Outlines Structure and Heft

CHAPTER 27: No Time for Sophomores: Strategies for Outlining Six Kinds of Books

CHAPTER 28: A Taste of the Feast: A Q&A Session About Your Sample Chapter

Part VII: Ensuring Your Proposal Is Ready to Submit

CHAPTER 29: Making Your Proposal More Salable: The Benefits of Writing Your Manuscript First

CHAPTER 30: Making Your Work Look as Good as It Reads: Formatting Your Proposal

CHAPTER 31: The Breakfast of Champions: Getting Feedback on Your Proposal

Part VIII: Finding a Happy Home for Your Book

CHAPTER 32: Publishing on the Vertical Slope of Technology: Seeking the Right Publisher for You and Your Book

CHAPTER 33: Get Published or Self-Publish: Do You Need a Publisher?

CHAPTER 34: The Hook, the Book, and the Cook: Write and Send Your (E-)Query Letter

CHAPTER 35: The First Impression: Making Your Proposal Look Like It’s Worth What You Want for It

CHAPTER 36: DIY: The Joys of Self-Publishing

CHAPTER 37: Pushing the Envelope: How to Sell Your Book Yourself

CHAPTER 38: Meet the Matchmaker: How an Agent Can Help You

CHAPTER 39: Recipes for a Successful Book and the Best Publishing Experience

Part IX: Plotting Your Future

CHAPTER 40: Starting With the End in Mind: Setting Your Personal and Professional Goals

CHAPTER 41: From Author to Authorpreneur: The Building Blocks for Growing From Small to Big

CHAPTER 42: Spring Is Coming: The Prologue

Appendix A: Resource Directory

Appendix B: Bringing in a Media Whiz: Why Hire a Publicist?

Appendix C: Marketing Your Book With Other People’s Money: The Quest for Partners to Help You Promote Your Book

Appendix D: Four Sample Proposals

Index

David Adams Cleveland: On Truth Revealing Itself in Historical Fiction

David Adams Cleveland: On Truth Revealing Itself in Historical Fiction

Award-winning novelist David Adams Cleveland discusses the timeliness of his new novel, Gods of Deception.

Lisa Jewell | Writer's Digest Interview Quote

The WD Interview: Lisa Jewell

The New York Times-bestselling British author discusses creating thrilling plot twists and developing characters in her 19th novel, The Night She Disappeared, in this interview from the Jan/Feb 2022 issue of Writer's Digest.

5 Tips for Successfully Pitching Literary Agents in Person (That Worked for Me at the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference)

5 Tips for Successfully Pitching Literary Agents in Person (That Worked for Me at the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference)

Author Anat Deracine found her agent at Writer’s Digest Annual Conference. Now she’s sharing what she’s learned to help other writers become authors. Here are her 5 tips for successfully pitching literary agents in person.

Tips for Reading Poetry in Front of an Audience

8 Tips for Reading Your Poetry in Front of an Audience

Poet's Market editor and published poet Robert Lee Brewer shares eight tips for reading your poetry in front of an audience.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Strength Lost

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Strength Lost

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, let a character lose their powers.

Sharon Short | Point of View Quote 1

Managing Point of View: Mythbusting

In the first of this three-part series, novelist and WD columnist Sharon Short breaks down 7 of the most common myths about choosing which POV is right for your story.

Channel Your Inner Authorpreneur for Your Writing Labor of Love

Channel Your Inner Authorpreneur for Your Writing Labor of Love

As self-publishing continues to become an attractive and popular options for writers, it’s important to know what you’re getting into and to have the right expectations. Here, author and entrepreneur Tom Vaughan shares how to channel your inner “authorpreneur” to help your book find its readers.

Mark Kurlansky: On Coincidences Driving Memoir

Mark Kurlansky: On Coincidences Driving Memoir

Award-winning author, playwright, and journalist Mark Kurlansky discusses the experience of channeling Ernest Hemingway in his new memoir, The Importance of Not Being Ernest.

In-Between: Writer's Digest 2nd Annual Personal Essay Awards Winner

In-Between: Writer's Digest 2nd Annual Personal Essay Awards Winner

Congratulations to Alyssa Rickert, Grand Prize winner of the 2nd Annual Writer's Digest Personal Essay Awards. Here's her winning essay, "In Between."