Book Proposals

Nonfiction Checklist

Although I represent many works of quality fiction, I also look for the very special nonfiction project. As you prepare your proposal, here is a four-point checklist that might help determine if yours could work for an agent:

A Great Title

Lots of nonfiction is geared to impulse buyers. If you can convince a shopper to pick your book up from a spin rack or click and place in a virtual cart, based on a super title, everyone wins. A snappy title stating a felt need and book’s purpose quickly will do the job. Do you think you can find a market for books titled, “Save Money Now,” or “Live Happy Now,” today?

Broad but not too broad

A “marriage” book doesn’t say much. And any book on a topic that broad faces so much competition by superstar authors that we’d have a hard time making an impact for you – unless you are also already a superstar author. Otherwise, narrow your topic, perhaps to something such as, “Marriage Survival when Your Kids Rebel” or “Great Stages, Great Marriages” (about marriage at each stage of life). Work to find that sweet spot of broad enough but not so narrow that only a few people will read your work.

New and Improved

The topic doesn’t have to be new, and it probably isn’t, but what you say and how you say it has to be fresh. The way you present your idea must make readers have an “Aha!” moment, or many of those moments. So when you write your book, research what has already been written on your topic and think of a new approach that resonates.


There must be some reason why people are coming to you for this information, and you must be prepared to back up your information with facts and numbers. Reasons can include:

  • You’re an authority with an advanced degree.
  • You have the experience and/or know-how to write on the topic.
  • You have established yourself with a blog and/or some other media.

Allow me to point out that all of these factors can be in place, along with the services of a top agent, but the book might still not land with a publisher. Not every book with resonate with every editor, and most editors need to approach a team for approval before a contract can be awarded. When approaching any book project, give us any and all information that will help your book be distinguished from the other projects competing for attention. My hope for you is that your outcome will be a happy one!

Your turn:

I listed four points. What point(s) did I miss?

Other than the Bible, what is the best nonfiction book you have read lately?


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