Book Proposal Checklist, by Terry Whalin

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Writing conferences are amazing places to ramp up our the craft of writing and make new acquaintances. In one of the courses I took at the Florida Christian Writer’s Conference Terry Whalin shared the following book proposal check list. He said I could share it with you. Thanks, Terry.

Book Proposal Check List

Is Your Idea Saleable?

  • Who is your audience?
  • Why would they want to read your book?
  • Research at several large bookstores to see if anything is already available.
  • Check a large major library for competitive titles.
  • Look at but understand it’s not always correct.
  • What makes your idea significantly different or better than the competition? These distinctions are your primary selling points. You need at least one major distinction between your idea and the competition for it to be saleable.

Proposal Mechanics

Most book proposals range from 15 to 30 pages. These proposals are always 100% typo-free and double-spaced with generous margins. The proposal takes many forms and the writer inevitably dictates the shape of hte proposal. The common elements include:

  • Overview –This is the most important part of your proposal and should be 1 to 3 pages long. In clear and succinct style it covers:
  1. What is the book about? Why the book is important, useful and necessary?
  2. Who is the audience? Who will buy this book?
  3. What makes the book different or better than any other book in on this subject?
  4. What is the book’s marketing handle? This is a twenty word or less description.
  5. What can you do to help promote the book?
  • Chapter Summaries. These summaries are an outline of the book. They can be as long as you desir but no less than 150 words for each chapter. Select the format, which works best for you–i.e.outline, narrative, bulleted list of key points, etc.
  • The Sample Chapter. You will need at least one sample chapter and probably two chapters (if a chapter is less than ten pages). These chapters should give the reader a strong sense of hte book’s tone and style.
  • About The Author. Don’t by shy. Why should the editor give you this project? Of everyone in the world, why you? Specifically show how you are the most qualified individual for this project. Every editor is investing at least $50,000 so show your worth.
  • The Competition. Everyone believes their book is unique. It’s not so please detail five or six books that will be in direct competition.
  • Manuscript Delivery and Length.  This is important information and many people do not include this information. Your vision for the book is very important.
  • Promotion/Special Markets/Volume Buy Backs (anything over 5,000 copies/Endorsements/PyroMarketing

Six Ways for Your Proposal to Stand Out

  1. Create your own marketing plan and why
  2. Follow Pyromarketing principles
  3. Gather high-profile endorsements
  4. Bring special sales
  5. Gather sales outside of the bookstore
  6. Have a must-have title for your book

Resources for Every Book Writer

  1. Write a Book Proposal Course (
  2. My FREE Teleseminar on proposals (
  3. Book Proposals That Sell
  4. Editor Reveals Book Proposal Secrets (over three hours of book proposal teaching)
  5. Free ebook, Strainght Talk from the Editor (

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  1. Great checklist! Evernoted this – I know many blogging friends that sure could use this as well! Thanks for this post!

    • Hi Cindy-
      Nice to have you here. Glad you found this helpful! I can’t imagine how full your EVERNOTE must be. Ha!


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