Key Elements for Pitching a Book to Publishers

Pitching a Book to Publishers is about highlighting the commercial potential of a story and why it is worth putting money and resources into your book.

What is in a Book Proposal?

Pitching a Book to Publishers

A book proposal is a document a writer crafts with the intention to convince a publisher that your project is economically viable for their publishing house.

It is more common for nonfiction authors to pitch their book idea.

Commonly 15-50 pages long, a book proposal includes: an overview of the book, an author bio, comparable titles, potential marketing strategies, a chapter outline, as well as some sample chapters. It’s not a complete manuscript, but instead a chance to gain a publisher’s interest in your book.

While some publishers will have different specifications for their standard format, most book proposals follow a similar structure. So let’s dive deeper and look at the most common elements of a book proposal:

  • Overview of the book
  • Market analysis
  • Author bio and platform
  • Marketing plan
  • Chapter outline
  • Sample chapters
  • Conclusion

1. Hook

Start by simply giving a brief description of your book, including its title.

Overview of the book

Proposals start with an overview of the book — a short “elevator pitch” with the unenviable job of hooking an agent in and getting them interested in the project.

It will usually be less than two pages long and should hit the key facts about a book: its topic, themes, and intended audience. The overview will also provide insight into the significance and reach of the book, explaining why the subject matter is important and how this book is unique or will fill a gap in the market.

The overview will also include some insight into the author, comparable titles, and how the book will fit into the current market, but this will be only in passing. You will expanded upon these elements in later sections of the proposal.

2. Market analysis

This section (also under two pages) will analyze the book’s target market. As well as identifying who is going to be interested (e.g., “single parents,” “burnt-out young professionals,” “educators”), the market analysis should also attempt to quantify this market to show how many people could be interested in the book. Any evidence of demand for the book — such as reviews or endorsements from experts validating the book’s idea — would also go here.

After analyzing the target audience, the next stage is to examine how the market currently caters to that readership. And then, outline how this book differs from those existing works. This will usually involve an analysis of four-to-eight comparative titles within the market, explaining for each how the proposed book would challenge, improve on, or update the contents provided.


bio and platform

This page-long section provides an overview of the author’s qualifications and expertise in the field. It demonstrates that they’re the right person to write this book, and bolsters the author’s credibility. The author bio will usually include:

  • Educational and professional background
  • Any awards or accolades
  • Author platform (social media presence, etc.)
  • Previous publications
  • Speaking engagements
  • Any previous press
  • Personal endorsements from industry leaders
  • An author photo

Marketing plan

This section isn’t a fully fleshed-out marketing strategy. Instead, authors should use this 1-2 page section to lay out actionable steps they intend to take in the marketing of their book. This might include speaking engagements they could secure, interview or podcast appearances, or media connections they could use to generate buzz. 

The marketing plan will explain how the writer plans to leverage their existing audience (as established in their author bio) into a successful launch. Authors will sometimes consult a marketer to help with the section of the proposal.

Tick all the boxes, from ads to networking to social media and beyond.

Chapter outline

This section provides a detailed outline of the book and its structure, including a chapter-by-chapter breakdown. These breakdowns should include the chapter title, a summary, an estimated word count, and a breakdown of the topics covered in that chapter. These breakdowns shouldn’t be longer than a couple of paragraphs per chapter. They should be specific enough that the publisher understands what the book will contain and, more importantly, feels assured that the author has properly developed and fleshed out their “big picture.”

What percentage of writers are successful?

The odds of an author getting their work published stands between 1% and 2%. Despite this low number, more than 95% of manuscripts received by publishers and agents are below the level the standard required.

Sample chapters

Next, the author should provide one or two complete chapters that give a sense of the book’s tone and quality. These shouldn’t be drafts, but instead should be as close as possible to a polished final product. Many authors will work with a professional editor or ghostwriter to deliver these chapters.

Note that these chapters aren’t necessarily the book’s first chapters but a taster that captures the essence of the book in terms of content and style.

This brief final section should provide insight into the project’s timeline of the book and where it currently is in the writing process (x chapters written, a complete first manuscript, or only at the early stages of drafting). There should be an estimate for the final word count and and indication of how much you’ve already written.


The conclusion should also outline any special assistance the author needs to complete the book. For example, if they require an illustrator, photographer, or other professional to create assets for the book. If the author is already working with these collaborators, it should be mentioned here.

It’s also common practice to thank the publisher for their consideration in the conclusion and to include some insight into why the publisher in question has been contacted — for example, if the book fits in well with their previous offerings, or if a respected author in the field works with them.

Pitching a book to publishers is an art that requires skillful crafting and a deep understanding of your work’s unique value. By incorporating the key elements of a successful pitch—captivating hook, clear synopsis, unique selling proposition, target audience, comparable titles, author bio, manuscript status, and a polished writing sample—you can present your book with confidence and allure potential publishers. With perseverance, research, and a compelling pitch, you increase your chances of finding the perfect publishing home for your literary masterpiece.

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