The main thing to keep in mind is to make publishers an offer that they can’t refuse. The book proposal is a selling tool. It should use as few words as possible to generate as much enthusiasm as possible. Think of it as a map. A solid outline will enable you to see where you are going.
Books are sold in one of two ways. A complete manuscript is usually required for novels, especially first ones. But if you prove that you can research, organise and write non-fiction , you can sell a book with a proposal consisting of an introduction, chapter-by-chapter outline and two sample chapters.
For non-fiction or how-to books, the introduction has 3 parts … Overview, Resources needed to Complete the book, and About the Author. The first page should have only 2 paragraphs. Start half-way down the page and HOOK the editor with the single, most exciting, compelling thing you can say about the subject. The 2nd paragraph includes the title – which must sell – and sub-title if you need one. Also your contact details. If it is non-fiction,your first sentence should be: The “title of book” will be the very first book to ….
I have sold my 13 books to date (novels, poetry, memoir) by sending an irresistable first sentence, an exciting “About the Author” page – and remember, this is no place to be modest about your achievements – and at least 2 sample chapters. Don’t overwhelm the Acquiring Editor with too much. If they like what you have sent them, they will ask for more. Tell them if you have a complete manuscript or, if not, how long it will take you to complete it. Don’t start by asking for an advance to do the work – that will be discussed much, much later into the process.
Revise your proposal until you are convinced that it is as well- conceived and crafted as you can make it. Do your market research to ensure that it fits into the category that interests that particular publisher. An agent is of course helpful , although in my own case – except for one book – I have approached the publisher direct and built up a relationship in that way. Simultaneus submissions are permitted as long as you are honest and admit that your proosal has gone out to other sources as well.
Good luck and good writing!