10 Tips to Prepare a Book Proposal for a Big Publisher

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Becoming a published author is a dream come true, especially if your book is published by a big publisher. Words will not describe sufficiently that feeling when you hold that first book dear to your hands.

10 tips to prepare a book proposal for a big publisher

I know; I have been there.

A book manifests how much time, passion, and effort you have spent translating your love, knowledge, or creativity into printed material. That piece of print now can be an inspiration and may go on to change people’s lives.

But know this: the traditional route of getting published by an established publishing house is challenging. A good publisher can be very selective and have a very high proposal rejection rate. For example, a renowned publisher like HarperCollins and Macmillan may reject as much as 90% of the book proposals received.

Preparing, writing, and submitting your book proposal requires a lot of work and effort.

So, how do you make a compliant book proposal that maximizes your chance of getting published by a big publisher?

Some tips to prepare a book proposal for a big publisher

Following are 10 tips for you to prepare a book proposal that works.

1. Identify a publisher that fits your genre

On the one hand, some big publishers publish almost all kinds of genres. On the other, there are specialized publishers for specific genres. Which one works best for you?

Find out which publishing house is the best fit for your book. Browse through their title catalog to identify the most suitable publisher. 

Both types of publishers have their strengths and weaknesses.

For example, a specialist publisher may not have the resources and manpower of a big publishing house. Conversely, a big publishing house’s advantage is that it can give you access to broader distribution networks and better marketing opportunities.

It’s up to how much research you do on this before submitting your proposal document.

A publisher that publishes all book genres will find it more challenging to get your book published with them. They can be very, very selective. As a result, your book has less chance of being accepted unless you are an established author or have a unique idea that will sell like hotcakes.

On the contrary, you can stand out if your proposal gets picked by a publisher who only accepts books within specific genres. Their marketing is more focused, with more purpose.

2. There are pros and cons of publishing with a big publisher

There are always pros and cons for big and small publishers.

Big publishers tend to take a longer time for you to publish your manuscript but will leverage good marketing support. As your book begins to show signs of success in the market, your publisher will give even more focus to expanding the reach of your book.

On the other hand, smaller publishing houses usually publish books faster because of their limited number of titles per year; however, they cannot offer as big a marketing push as bigger publishing houses can.

Smaller publishers may give you more freedom in how you want to publish your book without too many restrictions, but big publishers offer a better distribution network and greater reach for the success of your book. The choice will depend on how much time and effort you are willing to promote it or how much support your publisher wants.

3. Choose a kick-ass book title

A kick-ass book proposal needs a kick-ass title.

A book title can play a critical influence in determining how far your book can go. Sometimes, a prominent publisher rejects a book proposal just by looking at the title.

Your book title is crucial because it can determine your potential readers’ interest in reading your book.

The best way to come up with a good and attractive title is by brainstorming on how you want people to perceive your book when they read it; what message do you want them to see? Is there something special about how you want your content to be perceived?

Be daring. Choose a provocative title. Sometimes, the more provocative your title is, the more interested the publishing house will be in publishing your book.

When choosing a title, avoid making it too long or too complicated. Instead, be straightforward and to the point; this will highlight what’s different about your book compared with others in its genre.

But make sure that whatever name you give has the edge over other titles already out there.

4. Find out what is required by the publisher

Different publishers work differently. The book proposal mechanisms differ from one another. Additionally, the requirements also vary.

Before sending your book proposal to a publisher, check how they want it formatted.

Some publishers want you to submit the whole manuscript first to make a publishing decision. Others will ask for the summary of your book and its chapter titles. Some may even request an overview of what the book is about.

Find out how they want you to submit your proposal/manuscript. In addition, check how much time the publisher usually takes to evaluate book proposals. 

10 tips to prepare a book proposal for a big publisher

5. Make clear the target market of your book

Who is your book’s audience? Children? Working professionals? Parents? Make it clear how you intend your book to reach its target market.

Some publishers may have a specific audience in mind for their books, while others want it to be available for anybody who wants or needs that information. How well do you know what kind of people will read your book?

Is there something about how they think and behave that you can use as a marketing point for your book? For example, are they primarily young or older people? Where do they live, and how much money will they spend on reading materials published by the publishing house you are targeting?

6. How much is enough?

There is no correct answer to how many words should be included in an average manuscript, but there is a consensus about how much is enough to make your book as engaging as possible.

There are no set rules on how many words should be included in a manuscript; it all depends on how you see the whole thing and what you want to have. But there’s one thing that can help: knowing about how long an average book is.

An average non-fiction book has about 60,000 words, and an average novel ranges from 80,000 to 95,000 words. Include this estimation in your book proposal.

7. Accompany your book proposal with a cover letter

Along with your proposal, write a cover letter underlying a brief outline about the book and yourself. Include relevant experience, such as writing articles for blogs/newspapers or self-publishing an ebook.

Of course, the most important details should be contained in the actual book proposal itself. But how are you perceived by the people reading your proposal? What do they think of how professional and well-prepared you are to write this book? You can answer that with an accompanying cover letter.

Give them a sense of how serious or dedicated you are to getting published, along with some background about yourself as a writer and the experience you offer.

8. State your commitment to marketing the book

Big publishers have their marketing plans backed by a sizeable financial budget. But, at the very least, you need to state your commitment to partaking in the marketing initiatives.

For example, part of a publisher’s marketing initiatives includes book launches, book talks, and participating in book fairs. This requires serious time and energy from your end. The more successful your book becomes, the more time you must spend on the road.

Include in your proposal how well-prepared and committed you are to this part of the process so they can assess how serious or not you are about getting published. This is an important consideration when deciding whether your manuscript will be accepted.

10 tips to prepare a book proposal for a big publisher

9. Follow the publisher’s book proposal format

Every publisher has its book proposal format. Follow it religiously. 

Ignorance is not bliss.

If you half-heartedly send your proposal without following the guidelines, how serious or well-prepared do you think they will consider it? 

If a publishing house has specific requirements for formatting and what should be included in their book proposal, don’t ignore them.

Include the required content in your book proposals. These include the title, author’s name (you could be using a pseudonym), synopsis, table of contents, and a sample chapter if required.

10. Have the completed book proposal proofread by a pro

Once your book proposal is ready, do not submit it yet!

Have someone, preferably a professional editor or proofreader, review the document. You want to be sure that what you’re sending is polished and free of all errors.

Proofreading services are available online for a certain fee, but it’s best to find someone who will do this as a favor, perhaps an acquaintance or colleague from the writing community. 

Proofreaders provide feedback about how well-written your book proposal is, how engaging it is, and how well-presented the content is. This will give you a better idea of how good your book proposal is.

Concluding remark

Writing a book proposal is not easy, but it’s the first step to getting published with a prominent publisher. You must be willing to put in the time and effort required.

Hopefully, the 10 tips to prepare a book proposal for a big publisher outlined above will help you prepare an effective book proposal that can stand out in today’s competitive market for publishing houses. But, of course, it pays to pay for this process early.

The key is being willing to do your research and work hard on this project. If you’re ready to take action and get started writing your kick-ass book proposal, signing a book contract with a big publisher may not be too far away!

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