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Nonfiction Book Proposals

You can’t have a nonfiction book published by a major (or minor) publisher without having a good book proposal that opens the door.


From Warren Berger:

Book proposal writing is an art form unto itself. But I’ve gotten this art form down to a science. My last 5 proposals all sold to major publishers at advances ranging from $75K to $350K. Agents have used my book proposals as templates for other nonfiction authors struggling to present their ideas in the specialized proposal form.

As an author and co-author, I work with authors and agents on helping them figure out how to best position an idea to make it sellable and also how to best capture the story appeal of a book in the unique book proposal format.

If I have the raw material, I can bring out the whole idea for the book just by interviewing the writer by phone. From a conversation or two, I shape the basic concept and then craft it to be the most appealing to publishers.

A 5-section proposal from me consists of:

  1. Long introduction. Reads like a chapter of the book but with positioning info in it (this is actually more effective than an out-of-context sample chapter of the book).
  2. Book structure. An overview of the organization of the book and detailed chapter summaries.
  3. Rationale. “Why I’m writing this book now” rationale; description of who the audience is.
  4. Marketing. Target readership demographics, competitive analysis, author’s ability to sell books (platform), press contacts, launch ideas, etc.
  5. Author’s bio. More than a standard bio, this pulls together a lot of different threads about the author and makes the case why he/she is THE author for this topic. I’ve written hundreds of magazine profiles of business people, creatives, and celebrities and bring my journalistic background to the author bio. I also know what publishers are looking for in their authors.
  6. Other short sections, if needed and discussed up front.

Length & Format

The custom book proposals I write run from 20 to 30 pages. I don’t believe longer proposals are necessary or even effective. Publishers and editors do not have the time to read long proposal documents—they just need to know you have the goods and a good voice. That’s what my proposals provide. The proposals will be professionally edited and typset by our staff, incorporating any logos or artwork if provided. The final document will be provided in both editable MS Word and read-only PDF.

Once the written proposal is finalized, it’s then up to you to take it to an agent or publisher to make the sale.


Depending on your availability for interviews and the raw info you have on hand, it generally takes me 1 to 2 months to complete a proposal from start to finish, encompassing two rounds of revisions. The fastest scenarios happen when you have some written material already developed but are ready to hand it off to someone else to shape, write, and edit. But I am also willing and able to create a proposal from a verbal idea—as long as you can set aside the necessary time to share your thoughts and knowledge with me. (While I have well-honed creative writing skills, I’m not a mind reader.)


My rates are competitive and will be priced according to the complexity of the job.

Note that the proposal fee is separate from a book-writing fee. If you decide you want to hire me as a co-author or ghostwriter for your book, after the book deal is made from the proposal, I could either get a percentage or a flat fee (paid in installments), depending on what we have mutually agreed upon. Since completing a written book can take many months, I do have a base “floor” fee that I must get for a project, whether it comes from the publisher’s funds or the author’s.

To learn more about my writing background, see my bio here.

Contact me to begin the conversation and find out my rates. Also, references will be furnished upon request.