The Importance of a Book Proposal

by Jana Burson of The Christopher Ferebee Agency

Your proposal is not only the tool by which you will obtain your literary agent, it’s also the tool your agent will use to shop your book and, hopefully, get you a publishing deal. This is not a post about how to put a proposal together. There are tons of resources online to help with that including this one and this one. I do, however, want to share some tips on things you should and shouldn’t do when putting your proposal together.


Just like when you are meeting someone for the first time, you put extra care and attention into what you wear and say in the hopes of impressing the other person. The same extra effort should be poured into your book proposal. Put your best foot forward!

When I first started working in publishing, the lens through which I reviewed book proposals was as a publicist. Seven years later, my role, and therefore my lens, changed to that of an acquisitions editor. While those roles were different, there were still so many similarities in how a book proposal is ultimately reviewed. Now as a literary agent, my previous experience in book publicity and acquisitions plays a large role in how I review a book proposal today. The first three things I look for are (1) strong and fresh concept, (2) phenomenal writing, and (3) a well established or growing platform. Following are some tips to consider when developing your book proposal.

Your Book Proposal Should:

  • Have a strong title/subtitle
  • Have a very clear and fresh idea or concept that can be conveyed in 1-2 sentences
  • Include why you are the best person to write on the topic
  • Have a well thought out and developed outline with well written chapter synopses that convey the full direction/flow of the book
  • Have absolutely stellar writing
  • Include previous sales history, if applicable
  • Convey the size and power of your platform, and show any major growth that’s taken place, and explain how you will use your platform to help sell books
  • Include an author photo, as it personalizes the content
  • If possible, include a short video (2 minutes or less) sharing your heart behind the book
  • Convey your overall style and personality. While there are items of a proposal that must be included, feel free to be creative in how it conveys who you are

Your Book Proposal Should Not:

  • Contain incorrect or inflated information
  • Be more than 50 pages (Shorter than that is even better)
  • Be a rough draft of an idea you have
  • Be off brand from the niche or area of expertise you’ve built your platform on
  • Contain multiple misspellings or grammatical mistakes

The more excellent and thorough your proposal is, the better impression you will make when publishing houses review it for the first time.