Demystifying the Nonfiction Book Proposal: The Outline

The second part of the nonfiction book proposal is called The Outline. If you recall, the first part of the proposal is called the Introduction, and included all the sections I’ve discussed in the previous 10 posts. (Find the first post in the series here.) The Outline includes three sections: List of Chapters, Chapter Summaries and Sample Chapters. I’ll discuss all three in this post.

The List of Chapters is actually your table of contents for the book. At the very beginning of your book proposal, after the cover page, you will include a table of contents for your book proposal; this lists all the sections of the proposal with corresponding pages. The List of Chapters includes all the chapters in your book; however, the page numbers proved with the List of Chapters correspond with the next section, the Chapter Summaries, in the book proposal.

Chapter summaries are just what they sound like. Each chapter is summarized in the future tense (This chapter will…). The finished summary should correspond in number of lines to the estimated number of pages: 12 lines of summary = 12 pages of manuscript. This helps you estimate your number of finished manuscript pages. Try to use active verbs, avoid saying “this chapter” too often. Be creative, and highlight the most important aspects of the chapter. Unless chapters are extremely short, put one chapter on a page with the chapter title on the top left and the number of pages you’ve estimated on the top right.

For the Sample Chapters section, choose your best two or three chapters—the ones that highlight the book’s features or benefits or unique qualities—and drop them into your propsal. You need about 25-30 pages of manuscript. Separate the chapters with a page break. Each chapter should be listed in our table of contents.

If any of this series has made you feel overwhelmed, or you still can’t picture what your proposal is supposed to look like, I’ll remind you again that I do have two products that will help you compile the information necessary for a proposal and that will help you write a proposal. They can be found here and here.

Also, consider subscribing to this blog if you don’t already do so. I continuously offer all sorts of information pertinent to getting your book published. If you subscribe you won’t miss a single post from Write Nonfiction NOW! Get them in your email box three days a week without fail! You can use the form to the right of this post.



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