Writing craft

Writing Series on Coach Talk Radio

Angela Breidenbach, author/speaker/radio host

Writing Series on Coach Talk Radio

Coach Talk Radio host, Sandra Beck and co-host, CAN president and best-selling author, Angela Breidenbach talk and teach about how to create a writing career in 13 episodes. Special guest stars include quite a few CAN member authors. Also on iTunes.

  • Writer’s Series: Research Techniques Angela Breidenbach and Sandra Beck interview special guest star award-winning author, Lena Nelson Dooley, on research techniques. Lena hosts “The Lena Nelson Dooley Show” on the Along Came a Writer blog radio network.
  • Writer’s Series: Marketing and Branding Angela Breidenbach discusses marketing and branding with host, Sandra Beck. Tips and techniques along with ideas on low-cost marketing and ideas for marketing without spending a dime!
  • Writer’s Series: Creating Tension Angela Breidenbach and Sandra Beck discuss creating tension w/special guest stars Dr. Richard Mabry and Sandra Orchard. Dr. Richard Mabry is a retired physician, now writing “medical suspense with heart.” Sandra Orchard writes fast-paced, keep-you-guessing mysteries with a dash of sweet romance.
  • Writer’s Series: Character Arcs Angela Breidenbach discusses character arcs with special Guest Sarah Sundin, author of eight historical novels, including Anchor in the Storm.
  • Writer’s Series: Traditional Vs. Self Publishing Angela Breidenbach visits with Sandra on the common questions of traditional versus self (now called indie) publishing.
  • Writer’s Series: Finding the Right Literary Agent Angela Breidenbach with show host, Sandra Beck, discuss finding your agent with special guest, literary agent Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency.
  • Writer’s Series: Editing & Proofreading Special guest star, Kathy Ide, author of Proofreading Secrets of Best Selling Authors.
  • Writer’s Series: Plots & SubPlots Angela Breidenbach visits with Sandra Beck on creating compelling stories.
  • Writer’s Series: Conferences & Associations Angela Breidenbach, CAN president, visits with Sandra Beck on what first time authors need to know about conferences and associations, what to join, what to expect, and how to make the most out of your conference and association experience.
  • Writer’s Series: The Synopsis and Book Proposals Angela Breidenbach and Sandra Beck discuss what first time authors need to know about preparing a synopsis and a book proposal.
  • Writer’s Series: Avoiding Rejection Angela Breidenbach, CAN president, and Sandra Beck discuss submitting to publishing houses, literary agents, and attending conferences.
Writing Business

Writing More Effective Book Proposals



Greetings from Jackie M. Johnson!

When I worked at Alive Communications, “the world’s leading literary agency devoted exclusively to the representation of faith-based and inspirational authors,” I read thousands of book queries and submissions. Some were good; most were lacking, both in storyline and presentation.

Many writers who can craft a well-written book often forget—or don’t know—that they need to take the same care and effort to create a successful book proposal. Whether you write fiction or nonfiction it is essential to write a book proposal that captures the agent’s attention so he or she will enthusiastically shop it and sell it to the best publisher.

Michael Hyatt, a well-known industry expert and bestselling author confirms this. As the former Chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers and a literary agent for six years, he provides the inside scoop: 

The real secret to securing a book contract is knowing how to write a powerful, compelling book proposal that leaves agents begging to represent you—and publishers eager to sign you.”

One of the most important things you need to know in order to create a book proposal that gets results is this: Your proposal is a marketing piece; it is intended to grab an agent’s attention so he or she is highly motivated to shop your book idea to publishers. Your job is to convince them that you are the best person to write this book. Let them know who your target audience (the people who will most likely buy this book) is and persuade them with words that “sell,” not just words that “tell.”

What goes into a book proposal?

The format and number of chapters required will be different for fiction and nonfiction writers. I’ve listed below the main items that need to be included. However, you may want to check with your agent to determine the specific criteria he or she requires.

A good story (or nonfiction topic) is important, and so is the layout. Make sure your book proposal has all the necessary elements. Then, check your final piece for grammar, punctuation, and spelling. You may want to use an editing service or a critique service for your book proposal and/or manuscript. 

Nonfiction – Your nonfiction proposal should contain the elements listed below and at least two or three sample chapters:

  • Cover page (with book title and subtitle, author name, and contact information)
  • Title
  • Author
  • One line summary
  • Category
  • Tone
  • Target audiences
  • Benefits (in bullet point format)
  • Manuscript length and completion (word count and when the manuscript will be ready)
  • Rights
  • Book synopsis (about three or four paragraphs)
  • Author biography
  • Connections for promotion and possible endorsements: (Who do you know that would be      likely to provide a written endorsement for your book?)
  • Promotion ideas
  • How this book differs from the competition
  • Table of Contents
  • Summary paragraph about each chapter

Fiction – Unlike nonfiction, novel writers need to complete the entire manuscript before submitting a book proposal. Plus, you need a great “hook” (an attention-grabbing tagline that briefly summarizes the content of your novel) to sell the book idea.

According to Rachelle Gardner, an agent with Books and Such Literary Agency, you need these essential elements for a great fiction proposal:

  • Title page (with the book title, names of authors, phone numbers and email addresses)
  • One sentence hook (a tagline, one sentence that creates interest in the book)
  • Brief overview (two to four paragraphs, similar to back-cover copy that is exciting and tells the publisher succinctly what the book is about)
  • The market (the audience for the book, why somebody would buy this book)
  • About the authors (half page or full page on yourself and why you are qualified to write this book, previously published books or articles, sales figures and awards received)
  • Author marketing (your platform and how you will reach your target audience to market your book)
  • Comparable books (list four to five novels that you think are similar to yours and list the title, author, release year and a few sentences about the book and how yours is similar)
  • Details (word count, number of chapters and if the manuscript is complete. Note: Unless you are a multi-published novelist, you must have a completed novel before approaching agents and editors.)
  • Longer synopsis (in two to six pages describe the story start to finish)
  • Sample chapters (include the first 40 to 50 pages of your manuscript. These should be the first few chapters of your novel.)

Where do you send your book proposal?

Most of the time, you will be sending your book proposal to a literary agent who has asked you to send it in. As you may know, the majority of publishing houses no longer accept unsolicited manuscripts or book proposals, so it is essential to have a literary agent who will represent you to the publisher. (Note: We will talk about finding a literary agent in my June CAN blog post.).

Bottom line: If you have an amazing book idea, make sure your agent and publishers know it. Your book proposal can be more effective when you have a marketing slant (to sell your idea), include all the necessary elements, know your particular agent’s requirements, and present it in a clear, clean format.


Jackie M. Johnson is an author and freelance writer in Colorado. She also helps writers as a book publishing consultant. Previously, she worked at the premier literary agency, Alive Communications, and the CBA-publisher, WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group. Visit her encouragement blog, A New Day Cafe, or website for more information.