Demystifying the Nonfiction Book Proposal: The Outline

What goes into a book proposal?A while back I wrote a series on this blog that described the different sections of a nonfiction book proposal.I called it Demystifying the Nonfiction Book Proposal. (you can find the first post here.) I stopped, however, after I finished the first of the three parts of a nonfiction book proposals, The Introduction. I’d like to finish up that series in case anyone writing a book proposal might be using it for reference and wondering where to find the remaining section descriptions.

The second part of a nonfiction book proposal is called The Outline. There’s not much to it, but it packs a punch. It includes just two sections:

  • List of Chapters
  • Chapter Summaries

While this may not seem like much, this part of your book proposal packs a huge punch. In fact, it’s where an agent or acquisitions agent goes to really discover what will be in your book–the content, the structure, the uniqueness, the angle, etc. While the Overview contains a short marketing-oriented summary of your book, the list of chapters is actually the table of contents for your book. The Chapter Summaries are short-but-detailed synopsis of each of those chapters. By looking over the table of contents and then reading your Chapter Summaries, an agent  or acquisitions editor will know if they want to go on to read your sample chapters.

Here in this short section–or long depending upon your book–you offer publishing professionals get a peek at your finished manuscript (even if it isn’t yet done). If you do a good job, once they have read the sample chapters (which are placed in the third part of the propophosal) they will ask to read your manuscript.

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles

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