Book Proposal Elements

While different publishers will ask for different things in different forms, there are certainly common elements that will show up in most proposal. The proposal I’m working on is for a faculty development book, rather than a traditional dissertation-turned-monograph or a textbook, but the presses I reference below show examples of various manuscript types.s your thinking about these proposal elements, I recommend reading Rachel Toor’s excellent Chronicle article on book proposals as well.

Here are some of the main elements you will find:

  • Proposed and alternative titles – What words would both summarize the theme of the book and attract readers?
  • Purpose and scope – Why do you want to publish this book? Why is it important? What will it cover and why?
  • Intended readers – Who will buy the book, and why? How big is this audience? Might there we secondary or tertiary audience who might be interested, such as departments and programs rather than individuals? If you writing a textbook, what types of courses might it serve?
  • Statement of need – Why is this book important? What gap does it address in the literature or market? What will readers be able to do after reading your book that they can’t do without it?
  • Competitors – What books are already on the market that you might be competing with? How is your book different?
  • You – Why are you the one to write this book? Why would readers trust you? How does the publisher know you will be successful?
  • Proposed Table of Contents – What will you cover in the book in what order? What special features might the book have (graphics, images, activities, homework questions, etc.

Most publishers will also expect a sample chapter, usually the introduction or key example of how the book will work. This allows the publisher and review to see your writing style and judge how well the text will fulfill what you promise in the proposal. Some publishers will expect to see the entire manuscript, but most would rather work with you to shape the book during the writing process.

Other pieces of information you might be asked to include are estimated word count and image or figure count, a marketing plan for how you will help to support and sell the book when published, ideas for e-books or electronic resources to accompany the print version, a timeline for how you plan to finish the book.

Here are four examples of publisher guidelines for proposals as examples. You can find guidelines on most publisher websites.

University of Chicago Press


Johns Hopkins University Press

Stylus Press


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