Writing a non-fiction book proposal can sometimes be even more nerve-wracking than writing the actual book. You know that your non-fiction book is well-written with great information, but even the best of writers aren’t always experts at selling themselves. A book proposal must be sufficiently intriguing to captivate even the most pessimistic of editors.
Before you give up on your book entirely, however, there are a few ways that you can work on improving your non-fiction book proposal. Just because you’ve been rejected before doesn’t mean that an acceptance letter isn’t right around the corner, and using these tips, you can give your non-fiction book a better opportunity for success.
Introduce a Broader Market Potential
One of the major mistakes that new writers make when writing their non-fiction book proposal is limiting the market potential before the book even hits the shelves. If your book is geared toward scientists, for example, don’t say in your book proposal that your book will appeal only to scientists. Instead, mention the hobbyists and students worldwide who are likewise interested in science.
Book publishers look for material that will sell to the widest possible audience. By limiting the market potential to a select group of people, you narrow the chances that your book proposal will interest an editor or agent.
Expand Upon the Material
Another mistake that young writers make with their non-fiction books is conceiving an idea that doesn’t warrant book-length treatment. If you don’t have enough information to fill a book (40,000 – 200,000 words), there’s no way a publisher or agent will give you the time of day.
If it seems that you have scant information, consider expanding upon the original material. Branch out and find new information to include without generalizing too much. For example, a book about businesses who have trouble collecting debts might be too broad, but a book about “How to Write a Collection Letter” would be too narrow. However, with a fresh spin, a book called “Credit and Collection Letters that Get Results” might work fine.
Outline Each Chapter Carefully
It is entirely possible that your non-fiction book proposal has been rejected because your outline doesn’t give enough information. Editors and agents will only request manuscripts for books that seem to contain lots of great information. That is why the outline is so important; you demonstrate exactly what each chapter contains.
When constructing the outline for your non-fiction book proposal, include at least 5-7 bullet points under each chapter title. For example, a book about writing articles might have a chapter outline that looks like this:
Chapter Six: How to Choose Your Article Titles
-Creating Titles That Catch the Eye
-How to Shorten a Lengthy Title
-Using Keywords in Your Article Title
-When to Use a Subheadline
-Five Tips for How-To Titles
-How to Match Titles to Articles
In the above example, I’ve shown the editor or agent exactly what Chapter Six will contain. It didn’t take up a lot of space and I didn’t give details about each section of the title, but the editor can infer that I’m going to have plenty of information to fill the chapter.
Demonstrate the Differences
It doesn’t matter how clever or how intelligent your book is; you are not the first person to write a book on the subject. That is why it is absolutely imperative that you explain in your non-fiction book proposal why your book is different from all the others on the market.
Most writers choose to write a one- or two-page comparison of other titles on their subject (usually 4-5 titles) with explanations for why their book has new and different information.
Don’t Give Up
Even if your non-fiction book proposal is rejected by the first ten literary professionals you target, the eleventh might be the charm. Keep sharpening and honing your proposal with each submission, tweaking sections that might not be up-to-par. And if you change something significant about your proposal, don’t be afraid to re-submit it to agents or editors who have rejected it in the past.