The Nonfiction Proposal: What to Include

Of course, one of the agents that I’m approaching requires a proposal for nonfiction.  I’d rather send the entire manuscript than pull together a proposal. I’m not sure why they intimidate me so much.  I think the problem is that every write-up you find has a slightly different list of “things to include.”  Ugh.  I’m melding them together and will include:

  • Title.  Yes.  It seems like a no brainer but I’m afraid that if I don’t write it down I will forget it.
  • Book Description (sometimes called Overview).  Start with a hook and then go into the nuts and bolts.  Include word count, the target reader (age, gender, interests) and why the book is necessary.  Does your book include quizzes, sidebars or activities?  Also mention all the research you did.
  • Competing Books.  Other books on your topic published in the last 5 years.  How does your book differ?  My book covers a greater breadth than other titles and is more scientific.  Given the interest in STEM titles, I’m going to emphasize that aspect.
  • Bio/About the Author:  Why are you the ideal author for this book?  Include a brief resume.  Not everything but list the publishing credits that will help get your foot in the door. I am going to mention how many books I have as well as various types of educational writing that I have done.  But I will only list my STEM titles including those not yet in print.
  • Promotion: How to get your book into the hands of those would-be readers. What are you willing to do to promote the published book?  I can put my name out there as someone willing to do school visits.  I can also volunteer to do library programs.  Posting activities on my web site would also be a possibility.
  • Outline: List your chapters and summarize each.  In my Abdo outlines, most chapters are outlined in 12 lines or less.   For this book, I will include which animals are discussed in each chapter, why they were chosen, and what the sidebar is about.
  • Sample Chapters: Some agents want to see 3 chapters.  The one I am approaching wants only one.

How long should all of this be?  I’ve heard everything from 12 to 25 pages.  Now off to get to work.  I think I can, I think I can…