When you go from toying with the idea of writing a book, to actually putting pen to paper and committing to writing a book proposal — you’re probably going to go through a wide range of emotions. 

At first, you’ll be super excited, and feel on top of the world — after all, you’re FINALLY going to write this book!  Yay you!

Next, you might feel sort of lukewarm, and that little voice in your head is saying things like, “Wait, what?” Who are YOU to write a book? You’re not a REAL writer. You don’t have millions of followers. You don’t have a PH.D. in this topic, like so-and-so…”  

I want you to know this is totally normal and to be expected. You’re embarking on something new, and that’s exactly when our friend the Inner Critic and her sister, the Imposter Complex are likely to show up.

And the best way to work through this totally normal experience — is to 1) acknowledge that it is in fact NORMAL, and then 2) get to work! 

How to Make Sure Your Book Proposal Stands Out

These days, book proposals land in agents’ email boxes along with your query letter.  Agents (or more likely, agents’ assistants) get MANY of these emails every single day. 

#1. Don’t stand out for the wrong reason. 

The number one rule is to submit your proposal in the format the agent wants it in. You can find these details on their website. You can also google the agent and see if they have written anything or have been interviewed about how they like to be pitched.

#2. Show that you know your ideal reader inside and out. 

A book without a clear audience will not be successful in the publishing marketplace. 

Paint a picture of who will be buying this book. Whose hands will booksellers press this book into? How old is she, where does she live, what keeps her up at night, what does she want more than anything, and what can your book do to help her? 

Many of my authors are coaches, therapists, and other helping professionals writing personal development/how-to/self-help. If your reader is hurting, know how your book will help her pain, and how. 


#3. Know the transformation your book delivers your reader.

This one is a cousin to #2, and if you know your ideal reader really well, and what she needs help with — then you should also be able to clearly articulate the process she’ll experience as she moves through the book, and how she will feel differently after reading your book. 

Will she learn a new skill, be inspired to change, understand a topic better than she did before?

If you get stuck with this, try visualizing the process by drawing a map. Is it an arc, like a rainbow, a winding road of steps?

#4. Your marketing plan is specific, unique, and authentically you.

In the marketing plan section, you want to show in detail the effort you will put behind making your book a success. Long gone are the days when publishing houses would fund multi-city book tours for first-time authors. If there is a book tour, you will be the one planning and executing it.

You want your marketing plan to be authentic to you. Think about how you will actually want to show up in the world with your book. Don’t promise to do a 10-city book tour if you don’t know any booksellers, but do plan a month-long podcast interview circuit if you have a podcast and are familiar with that world. 

To create a marketing plan that is unique and realistic, these are the things to ask yourself. When you are out talking about your book — What do you want to be talking about? Where are you? What are you not doing and why not?  

Rank all your ideas, and the top ones will be the foundation of your marketing plan.

#5. Your marketing plan builds on your platform, but doesn’t stop there.

Your platform is basically a pre-existing group of people ready and excited to buy your book. This can be made up of your social media followers, your email list, or some combination of ways with which to connect with people who are already bought into your ideas and will buy your book.

There are agents who will not even look at a proposal if you have less than 100k followers across your platform. If this is not you, then you will skip those agents.

If you don’t have an existing platform, you can focus on showing a clear plan for developing one. Developing a platform takes time, and don’t try to fake it. A professional website, the ability to collect email addresses, and social media accounts along with a clear plan for how you intend to develop your platform will go a lot further than pretending you can do it overnight.

#6. You know why YOU alone are meant to write this book.

 You must confidently and compellingly talk about yourself. This may feel awkward, but if you are going to write a book, then you will need to get comfortable talking about yourself anyway!

This is not the time to diminish. This is also not the time to exaggerate. This is the time to pull out all the credentials, look back into your history and highlight all the important wins, use all the letters you have the ability to put next to your name — and talk about why you are the expert, the thought leader, the innovative voice who is MEANT to write this book.

This is also a place to call attention to what is different and special about you, versus all the others out there in your field. 

And I saved this one for last — because besides not following instructions and standing out for the wrong reason — this is really the most important thing that will make your book proposal stand out.

#7. You are uber-clear on what the point of your book is.

Last but absolutely NOT least… you must be able to communicate the core argument of your book

Here are some tips to help you make sure you are communicating your Big Idea, the why behind your idea, and also why an agent or publisher should pay attention and help bring this book to life.

  • The best ideas — whether they take the form of a book or not — get at something universal, something that resonates and connects with many people. Get at this — and show how you are uncovering something new about it, your special, unique angle.
  • Think of the “point of your book” as a bumper sticker for your book. How would you describe in 5 words on a sticker that people will read stuck in traffic, and then want to know more about?
  • Think of your book idea as a TED Talk. You have 18 minutes to make one point, to argue and prove one idea —  what is that specific idea?

So there you have it, 7 ways to make sure that when your book proposal lands in an agents’ inbox, it stands out and they want to work with you, and publish your book!