BOOK PROPOSAL STRUCTURE
Please use the template provided below if you are submitting a nonfiction proposal to Willenfield Literary Agency. We will only review proposals prepared to our specifications. Please note that we are unable to follow up on incomplete proposals.
Include your name and credentials, book title and subtitle, and your contact information.
SECTION 1: ABOUT THE BOOK
Minimum 5 pages, maximum 10 pages
Provide a working title (and subtitle, if applicable) for your book.
State that your book is a work of narrative nonfiction.
How would your book be classified relative to its subject matter? Would it be considered a memoir, travel writing, literary journalism, or some other type of narrative nonfiction? Please indicate here.
Briefly state the premise of your book in one or two paragraphs—between 50 and 100 words. Your premise is the focal point, the main idea, the concept that holds your book together.
Avoid taking the reader through a chapter-by-chapter description but rather focus on shedding light on what your book is about, using the premise as your rallying point. Your overview must be strong and it should exude confidence. Make the case for the book’s originality, uniqueness, and relevance. Aim for around 300 words.
Provide a detailed description of the project in about 1,000 to 2,000 words. Again, avoid taking the reader through a chapter-by-chapter description of the book. It may be helpful to develop the narrative around the following questions: What is the intention behind the book? What previously unknown or neglected story are you planning to tell? What are the book’s unique angles on the subject-matter? What does the book offer the reader? Is it a timely book, and will it still be in 3 to 5 years?
This should serve as a comprehensive, detailed map of what the book will contain. Provide chapter titles and a brief description per chapter—between 50 and 100 words. Don’t just list the subheadings but rather focus on saying how each chapter will function within the framework of the whole book.
Will your book contain figures, graphs, tables, or other illustrative material? If so, describe them and say how many.
Anticipated Manuscript Length
What is the anticipated word count for the final manuscript? Bear in mind that the average narrative nonfiction book, including memoirs, contains between 50,000 and 75,000 words.
Describe the progress on the manuscript so far. Indicate whether any chapters, or substantive sections of chapters, have been previously published.
What is the projected completion date for the manuscript? Are there any possible complicating factors? Your assessment must be realistic. The typical publishing contract gives you 12 months to deliver the manuscript.
SECTION 2: ABOUT THE MARKET
Minimum 2 pages, maximum 5 pages
Market Analysis & Audience
The book itself is not the most important thing to a publisher, marketability of the book to the target audience(s) is. With this fact in mind, this section of the proposal must be taken very seriously.
To identify as clearly and accurately as possible the market for your book, you’ll need to do a bit of research. Start your research with the questions: Who are the readers most likely to buy your book? What makes your book unique and worthwhile for them? How big is this primary market? What other groups and types of readers may also be interested? How big is this secondary market? Does your work have international sales potential by virtue of the subject matter? Where might your book be shelved in a bookstore?
Identify both competing and comparable books published in the past 5 years that are similar to yours. The more recent the books, the better.
List each author and title, followed by the publisher and year of publication in parentheses. Below each listed title, briefly discuss why your book is better and/or different or point to shortcomings which your book will address. Aim for 120 to 200 words for your discussion of each comp title.
SECTION 3: ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Minimum 1 page, maximum 5 pages
Name, phone number, and email address.
Website, blog, and social media presence.
You must have sufficient authority, expertise, and/or experience to write a nonfiction book. So it is important that you frame yourself and your background in a way that positions you as the right person to write your book. Who are you and what are your qualifications for writing this book? How has your background contributed to making you an expert on your subject? Mention anything that presents you in an attractive light, including current occupation and title if relevant, institutional affiliation, awards, residencies, and other professional recognition. The bio should be written in the third person.
List any previous books you’ve written, including title, publisher, year of publication, and sales history if available.
Describe your unique platform or other connections that will enable you to reach a wide audience. For example, do you give lectures, write a magazine or newspaper column, appear on TV, or have a large social media following? If you haven’t started building your author platform, what are your plans for building one?
SECTION 4: PUBLICITY/PROMOTIONAL CONSIDERATIONS
Minimum 1 page, maximum 5 pages
Opportunities for Publicity and Promotion of the Book
Contrary to popular opinion, all major publishers expect authors to contribute to promotional efforts once the book is published. Publishers have been known to accept or reject a proposal on the basis of the author’s promotional plan. Where can you promote this book? Are there notable people you know who would be willing to endorse you by way of a blurb? Can you get their commitment in advance? What media outlets are a good fit for a book like yours? Have you got any connections in the media? Where should you and the publisher work especially hard to get the book reviewed? Describe additional promotional opportunities you will pursue to help bring attention to your book: tours, special events, conferences, independent publicist, social media advertising, etc.
SECTION 5: SAMPLE MATERIAL
Minimum 2 chapters, maximum 3 chapters
Attach fully-written and polished sample chapters that will help showcase your book project and writing style in the best possible light. The chapters must be directly linked to the project at hand.
Here you may include your resume and any other supporting material, such as endorsements, pieces written about you, and relevant articles that underscore the importance of your book project.
FORMATTING THE PROPOSAL
Use Times New Roman or Garamond, black type, 12 pt. font throughout.
Use one-inch margins throughout. Pages should be as uniform as possible, with consistent margins and type style.
Use 1.5 or double-spacing for everything, including quoted material, lists, appendixes, tables, and any other supplementary material.
Use left-alignment—do not fully justify the text.
The entire manuscript should be numbered consecutively—excluding the title page—in the bottom right-hand corner.
We require electronic files for all proposals, specifically DOC, DOCX, and RTF files that are less than 2MB. PDFs are not acceptable.
For a downloadable copy of the template, please click here.
For a downloadable copy of the formatting guidelines, please click here.