On writing a book: Part 3

by Andie Mitchell on September 19, 2011

read part 1, read part 2

How to write a book proposal

Now, for different book types and genres, your proposal may vary in terms of content. Memoir will differ slightly from a cookbook, fiction may differ from that of nonfiction, etc. But all will include the same components. Below is the basic formatting, a nearly standard set-up that I employed in writing mine.

Overview- perhaps the most crucial component of a book proposal. This is the section where you present your concept and concisely illustrate the nature, the nuts and bolts of what you aim to cover in the book. It must be clear and ideally, it can stand alone as the single summary of your book. Really sell your idea here while showing the ways it’s relevant, new, and unique.

About the Author- Give the reader an idea of who you are, your background, and why you are perfectly poised to write this book. In a page and a half, I shared my history with food, my passions, and the work I’ve done in the last five years (from film production to food writing). Beyond selling yourself in terms of marketability, this section should reveal personality and depth.

Chapter Outline- This is a detailed table of contents. It’s the list of chapter titles along with summaries of what each chapter will cover. You want to aim for cohesion and smooth transitions, all the while building unique points in each section. Roughly one to two paragraphs of summary per chapter should suffice.

Sample Chapter(s)- This is a fully-written chapter or two of the book you intend to write. It will show the reader your writing style, voice, and tone. I included two sample chapters: one, ten pages in length, about my father and childhood, and another, of similar length, about finding pure love of food while living in Italy. If you include more than one chapter, it’s wise to ensure they are different in that they show your creative and conceptual range, but hold a consistent voice. For me, one was dark and one was bright, but both felt true to my writing style.

Competing Works- All the books published in your genre that are similar. Research the top-selling and most closely related works to what you hope to write, and then provide a one sentence summary of each book followed by a brief compare/contrast (3-5 sentences) of your story concept to that of the particular book you’re relating it to. I focused on seven popular books in the food and weight loss memoir genre. A few of my choices: Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life, Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love, and Jennette Fulda’s Half-Assed.

Marketing and Promotion- This section is where you’ll share how your book will be successful. As a blogger, I was able to share metrics for my blog (monthly average number of page views, monthly average number of unique visitors, Twitter followers, Facebook fans, etc). You will also want to expose relationships you may have with media and other sources of promotion. I pointed to my feature on the cover of Woman’s World magazine in October 2010, Woman’s World’s readership, the growth of my blog in the year I’ve had it, and my work as Social Media Director at Foodista (where I’ve taken their Twitter following from 10k to 150k in one year’s time), and as Event Organizer of the International Food Blogger Conferences. It’s best to show how connected you are to your industry and audience, thus proving how effectively you’ll be able to push and promote your book through various media.

part 4 to come…

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

johnny September 20, 2011 at 2:29 am

Sounds very complicated and intense. Multitasking doesn’t even come close to describing what you must be doing right now!


Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat September 20, 2011 at 4:54 am

Wow, that’s quite a lot of material to come up with! I’m sure you’ve got heaps for each part though Andie. You’ve got so much great experience and I know I could probably read a bazillion pages of your writing! I hope this is going to be a long book!


The Mrs @ Success Along the Weigh September 20, 2011 at 6:55 am


That kind of scared the crap out of me but I can’t thank you enough for doing this. It gives me a lot to think about and you are truly my hero!


Lisa September 20, 2011 at 2:05 pm

Great info! Thanks.


Chrismarcjo February 4, 2012 at 9:42 pm

oscar rlaoses marquezDeseo luchar, deseo vivir, saber donde aquel deseo pueda coger ritmo. Salir, donde aquel sueño cobre ganas, poder vivir. Saber donde lucho, lugar donde tenga ganas, deseo.Dejar atras todas penas, celos, dudas… logro hacer ruido. Logro aquel deseo, canto, adios aquel dolor, tener gente, amigos, tener deseo. Subir, volar, donde nadie actúa, donde todos somos igual, aquel lugar feliz, libre, dulce. Quizá quede sitio sobre aquel cielo.


Anne September 20, 2011 at 11:56 pm

Amazing. All of it. Please lay your wisdom on me (the Twitter part, especially!).

I’m so happy for your success and really just want to read your book, like, today!


Kristin Murdock September 21, 2011 at 6:08 am

This is super helpful. Although nowhere near marketing a book it’s been on the backburner for a while so I’m SURE this will come in handy. Gracias, amiga!


Lea @ Healthy Coconut September 21, 2011 at 7:54 am

What a long and daunting process and I am sure it is worth it for those who want to write a book.

I look forward to reading your book when it comes out. Is there an estimated time frame of when it will be released?

Nominated you on Foodbuzz today :)


Ashley September 21, 2011 at 8:55 am

Bookmarked!! Such a clear + concise explanation. Definitely excited for part 4!


Heather September 21, 2011 at 11:30 am

What a fantastic series, Andie. I love what you’ve done with your career. Inspiring!


Clara September 21, 2011 at 3:59 pm

I stumbled across your blog from Pinterest and haven’t been able to stop reading! You’re so lovely and all of your food posts are mouth watering. Not to mention, I’ve been dying to move to Seattle for years and am about to bite the bullet and do it! I admire you for all of your positive energy!


Karista September 21, 2011 at 4:19 pm

Love this information and love your blog! Truly inspriational. Thanks so much for sharing!


Lu September 23, 2011 at 8:14 am

For truly selfless reasons I’d like to volunteer to be a recipe tester… please?? I love this series. I like to see how the whole process came together for you.


Megan (Braise The Roof) September 23, 2011 at 10:47 am

Wow, this is such a great overview! I always wondered exactly what went into a proposal and can’t wait to see the actual book when the time comes!


Leigh September 25, 2011 at 10:40 am

So…how are you finding time to work and live and sleep and write a book and breathe and….you sound so busy :)


Sook October 1, 2011 at 9:40 pm

I love honey dijon flavor…. your blog is so beautiful! Love it.


Phill Turner November 21, 2011 at 5:33 am

I love this !

Great tips about the book.

Competing Works is my favourite as most people don’t do this.

Great stuff




Lisa January 25, 2012 at 4:38 pm

What tense was the proposal and chapter summaries in?


admin January 25, 2012 at 6:03 pm

Past tense. But, if done well, I think present would work!


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