In my search for books on how to write a non-fiction book proposal, I came across 6 that I found helpful:

  • How To Write a Book Proposal, by Michael Larsen
  • Nonfiction Book Proposals Anybody can Write, by Elizabeth Lyon
  • The Fast Track Course on How to Write a Nonfiction Book Proposal, by Stephen Blake Mettee
  • Write the Perfect Book Proposal: 10 That Sold and Why, by Jeff Herman and Deborah Levine Herman
  • Guerilla Marketing for Writers: 100 Weapons to Help you Sell Your Work, by Jay Conrad Levinson, Rick Frishman, and Michael Larsen
  • 1001 Ways to Market Your Books: For Authors and Publishers, by John Kremer

The first three are the basic ones that guide you through the process of writing a non-fiction book proposal. Lyon’s Nonfiction Book Proposals Anybody can Write does a lot of hand-holding and walks you through the entire process. Larsen’s How to Write a Book Proposal is much more detailed, and he mentions more types of books than does Lyon. But the most useful book I found was Mettee’s The Fast Track Course on How to Write a Nonfiction Book Proposal, which is much shorter and more succinct. It starts with walking you through the query letter rather than the proposal itself, which I think would be a more efficient approach. I have all three books, and I would use Mettee’s first as a general guide, referring to Lyon’s and then Larsen’s if I needed more detail about a certain section.

Write the Perfect Book Proposal: 10 That Sold and Why is a great complement to the general guides above, as the authors include 10 successful proposals with extensive notes on their strengths and weaknesses, and plenty of tips. The specificity in this book is GREAT, and it gives you plenty of examples and many variations, making the instructions in the general guides much clearer. The first half of the book is a summary of a general guide, which I skipped. The gem of this book are the proposals, not the guide; use the first three books for that.

The last two books on marketing are also useful, since non-fiction writers are now expected to do most of their own marketing and to ideally have a “platform” (be in the public eye and have authority on your subject). Guerrilla Marketing for Writers: 100 Weapons to Help You Sell Your Work is the one I highly recommend, as it’s geared to writers and is just plain FUN. Full of quick tips and great ideas, it also offers the cost for each idea, and most ideas are free or cheap.

The final book, 1001 Ways to Market Your Books: For Authors and Publishers was my least favourite, but still quite useful. It’s a huge reference book of marketing ideas. Once an author has a published book, I would definitely recommend buying this as a reference guide. But I tried to sit down and read it from cover to cover — BAD IDEA. It truly is a thumb-through reference guide and not meant for full-scale reading. I found it boring and dry, and found the “voice” confusing (until I realize that, in the first section, the author is talking to publishers, not writers; this is why I like Guerilla Marketing better – they’re talking to me!) It is full of great marketing tips (more so if you’re a publisher), but the book is so huge it was hard to find the ones that would be useful to me without being overwhelmed. Overall, while I’d recommend the first 5 books, I would not recommend this one. The Guerilla guide will give you enough ideas for your proposal; once you sell your book, then definitely check this one out.

The problem with any marketing book, of course, is that its information about internet marketing is going to be out-of-date by the time it’s published. These both are lacking a lot of material when it comes to current online marketing, so be sure to supplement these with something else. There is definitely a market for an up-to-date guide to e-marketing (one that is consistently kept updated). I know of one ebook that’s out there, but it’s a couple of years old now. And I’ve seen many articles about aspects of e-marketing, but I’d like a straight-forward how-to guide that includes everything. If you know of one, please let me know!


Originally published on WordPress on Sept. 27, 2009