Write a Book Proposal

If you’re looking to get published, learning to write a book proposal is essential. Many literary agents won’t entertain your idea without one. A book proposal consists of presenting your goals, your book’s purpose, and sample content from the book to an agent so he or she can get a better idea of your writing style and ideas before agreeing to publish, market, and sell it. Although proposals can vary between agents, their basic components can be divided into four parts.

Part 1: Overview
In this section, identify what your book (or cookbook) is about. If you’re writing a cookbook, mention how many recipes will be included. Address why you’re uniquely qualified to write the book and who your readers and/or potential audience are. Also discuss your book’s competition by addressing the following questions:

  • What other similar books exist? Go into detail about each book, including the title, author, publisher, and year of publication.
  • How will your book be different from (a) similar book(s)?
  • How will your book be better than the competition?

The length of this section depends on your book, but overall it should be written in a clear, concise fashion.

Part 2: Table of Contents
The literary agent and potential editor need to get a better idea of your book’s content. In this section, list the chapter titles and a brief description of each chapter, the latter of which should be in narrative form and no longer than a half-page.

For a cookbook, list all the recipes within each chapter. In addition, include between 10 and 12 sample recipes. The recipes should come from different parts of the menu, including (if applicable) breakfast, appetizers, soups, salads, mains, sides, and desserts.

Part 3: Sample Chapter
This section is where the editor gets a feel for your writing style. If the book is written for the average person, remember to explain simple nutrition and health terms. For cookbook proposals, include introductory text from several sections, as well as a sample from a written chapter, if applicable.

Part 4: Author Information
This section should include a full formal author(s) bio, as well as a professional headshot and writing samples. Writing samples should include both authored publications and articles that the author is quoted in as the expert. Because many proposals are sent digitally, provide links to articles. Radio and TV clips are also acceptable.

Having the above prepared is a good starting point, but every literary agent is different, so slight tweaks may be needed. If an agent accepts your proposal, he or she will then work with you on edits until you both agree to the changes and are satisfied that it can be presented to editors at publishing houses. The process is a tedious one, but the satisfaction of having a book published is well worth it!

— Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is founder of Toby Amidor Nutrition ( and author of the upcoming The Easy 5-Ingredient Healthy Cookbook, as well as The Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook and The Greek Yogurt Kitchen. She’s a nutrition expert for and a contributor to US News Eat + Run and You can also find her “Ask the Expert” column in Today’s Dietitian magazine.

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