How I Wrote A Winning Book Proposal and Landed a Book Contract
Updated: Mar 1
My book English for Pharmacy Writing and Oral Communication was published twelve years ago This book was inspired by the language needs of my college pharmacy major students whose first or best language is not English. My book is still used worldwide by pharmacy students, practicing pharmacists, and pharmacy programs. The publishing world has changed in the last twelve years but how to write a winning book proposal and land a contract with a traditional publisher remains the same.
This is how I approached my book proposal and landed a book contract.
Steps to Writing a Winning Book Proposal
I studied the author submission guidelines of the publisher - Wolters Kluwer| Lippincott, Wilkins & Williams. Do the same with your book idea and do the following.
1. Research and study samples of book proposals specific to your genre. There are plenty of samples online.
2. Be familiar with and follow the book proposal submission guidelines of the publishing house that might be interested in your book.
3. Provide the scope and intent of your book.
4. Demonstrate the need for your book. Include stats, data, and research.
5. Discuss the relevancy and timeliness of your book.
6. Identify your audience. Who will read/use your book?
7. Show how your book is different from others and why you are the person to write it.
8. Know your competition and similar books in the market.
9. Provide a table of contents.
10. Include sample chapters the submission guidelines require.
Once you have studied sample book proposals, start tackling yours. Find the time to write but don't overwhelm yourself. And don't rush the process.
At the time I wrote my book proposal, I was teaching full-time and I was the assistant director of a university writing center. While my students wrote in-class essays and final exams, I wrote my proposal, step-by-step. It took me about four months to write the book proposal. Share your proposal draft with a colleagues and friends. They can provide insight, feedback, and suggestions.
Stand Out From The Others
My book proposal was strong because it was evidence-based and need-based. With research findings and my expertise in the topic, including my grant-funded published original research studies on vocabulary and writing skills, I demonstrated the need for my book.
The feedback from all nine proposal reviewers solicited by the publisher was overwhelmingly positive. The feedback indicated that my book was a “long overdue,” “wonderful idea” that “fills an important need in the curriculum.” There was a “market in the field of pharmacy” for my book. The book “would be of use to those students and practicing pharmacists who wish to improve [their] English skills.”
My book stood out from others in the market. No pharmacy language communication book designed specifically for pharmacy students, pharmacists, and pharmacy technicians whose first or best language is not English existed. My learner-friendly, straightforward, and interactive/integrative book met that need.
Landing the Contract and Writing the Book
I submitted my book proposal in November 2005. I landed the book contract in March 2006.
I met with my editorial team and the senior acquisitions editor in August 2006. I submitted my first draft chapter in September 2006, then submitted two chapters every two months.
I spent one year writing the draft of a 13-chapter book, and another eight months editing and finalizing the book. Two months before the book was published in July 2009, voice over professionals recorded the interactive audio components of every chapter.
Tips for Writing Your Book
You have secured your first book contract. Now, it’s time to start writing your book. Keep these tips in mind.
1. Agree on a sensible chapter(s) submission schedule/deadlines with your editor(s) and your publisher.
2. Follow the chapter outline(s) you provided in your proposal.
3. If you have other commitments, write in bits & pieces anywhere. I wrote in my office, at home, at my son’s baseball games, and in the car on the long drives to and from ultramarathons.
4. Stay physically active. Do what works for you. By the time my 400-page book was published, I had trained for and completed four 50-mile ultramarathons. I got some of my best ideas for the chapters while running.
5. Be patient and disciplined. Writing is a process.
What’s Your Book Idea?
Writing a book proposal, landing a book contract, and writing the inspired book requires a lot of legwork, expertise, experience, and time commitment. Editors and publishers will express interest in a book proposal that showcases your innovative idea, tells a story, and addresses an unmet need.
What has inspired you? What’s your book idea? Do your homework, write, and be patient. Write a winning book proposal.
“If the book is true, it will find an audience that is meant to read it.” - Wally Lamb
This article is adapted from a previous piece I wrote for Huffington Post in 2016.
Purchase English for Pharmacy Writing and Oral Communication here.
Read next: 12 Steps to Getting Your Book Published