Writing a Book Prospectus

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A book prospectus is a proposal to a book company for an edited or authored text. This is a fairly comprehensive business document that addresses a range of issues. Its essential structure helps the potential author (or editor) express their ideas in a practical way.


Basic Contents

Different book companies have their own downloadable forms for their preferred methods for receiving this information. Basically, prospectuses include the following contents:

  • an overview of the subject area;
  • the objectives of the book;
  • a draft table of contents;
  • suggested titles for the book;
  • keywords for the book;
  • the scholarly / intellectual contributions of the proposed text;
  • the prospective audiences (including courses for which this text might be used);
  • the unique angles of the work;
  • competing published books and their substance;
  • a projected word count;
  • a projected timetable;
  • the CVs of all the author(s) or editor(s) (including the publication history);
  • the book's technical specifications, and
  • a sample chapter (or up to 2-3 chapters).

A prospectus should generally be sent in with a professional cover letter.

It's important not to send it more than is requested because editors tend to be busy and efficient people.

Academic Value

It is helpful to define the potential academic value of the text to justify its existing. With an estimated 60,000 books published in the U.S. annually, it is important to show that one is adding to the informational value of the published information.

The Author / Editor Abilities

A prospectus has to showcase the abilities of the author / editor to actually deliver on a manuscript. This is where the CV and the sample chapter(s) are critical pieces to in the book prospectus.

The Marketing Angle

This helps the publishers at a book company decide what the market looks like for the subject matter (How many potential users of the book are there? Who's the competition? What unique angle does the prospective author or editor have in this field?).

Visuals Preparations

Visuals that are presented for a text have to be prepared a particular way, according to the manuscript standards of the particular press. Because of challenges with intellectual property release rights, poor naming protocols, and legibility, many book publishers tend to be hesitant to include these unless they're professionally developed. Color plates also add plenty of costs, so many try to go with b/w processing. If these are to be included in the manuscript, it would be helpful to follow the publisher guidelines to the letter.

Tailoring a Book Prospectus

A prospective author or editor may be writing a prospectus based on any number of circumstances. There may be a writing contest with a publisher. He or she could be responding to a call for book proposals on a publisher website. Or he or she could have an original inspiration and be making a "cold call." Or maybe a particular author or text inspired him or her to creativity. Whatever the original inspiration, it's important to make sure that the prospectus is tailored to the circumstance.

Investments by the Publisher

Book companies that are competitive ones put in a lot of editing, peer critique, visual design, book publishing, and marketing into each book. This means that their editorial staff have to work hard to vet all proposals, so they don't take a loss on a book. While their contracts have escape clauses for every text (which seems to mean that a book project may be ended at any point in the process, even up to the moment of books being published and packaged), they often seem to work defensively by defining a potential market ahead of time and trying to have an assured base of purchasers.

See Also

eHow: How to Write a Book Prospectus: http://www.ehow.com/how_4449625_write-book-prospectus.html