27 Questions Every Academic Book Proposal Should Answer

Listen: the person who knows your latest book best IS YOU. (After all, you’re the one who’s poured hours and hours of diligent research into the thing!). And that means before you begin writing your book proposal (or hiring someone to write one for you), there are 27 important questions you’re going to want to ask yourself before you hit the stacks again with the old paper and pen.

Book Proposal Essentials:

Before you get answering those questions though, make sure you have some of the most common proposal essentials in your arsenal: you’ll want to make sure you have a nicely-formatted resume or CV, some excellently-edited sample chapters from the work in question, and a brief biography depicting your research interests, previous publications, and relevant artist’s or academic history. You’ll also want to go about drawing up a solid chapter outline (especially for those pesky academic tomes), including one to two lines of summary text for each chapter.

Finally, do yourself a favour and delve into some cursory research about the publisher (or publishers) to which you’re thinking of submitting. Having an understanding of their profile — as well as a respectable idea of what types of literature they publish — will help you tie your book to that publication as you write your proposal. Ultimately, you’ll be in a better position to establish your work within their existing repertoire of publications; and word on the street is, it’ll almost always get you past the first reading.

27 Questions Every Academic Book Proposal Should Answer

When your average academic book proposal is shooting for anywhere between 1750 and 6500 words on average (or about ten to 25 pages, double-spaced), you’re going to need a ton of excellent insight on what your book has to offer, especially if you’re braving the odds and submitting to a popular or credentialed publishing house known for their exclusivity.

Like we said though, there’s no better source of information than YOU, and although you may think you already know everything about your book, it’s really time to put that confidence to the test by answering any and all of the following questions before you begin writing your next academic book proposal.

You can even copy and paste the following list into a new word document, and get started right now!

Basic Book Proposal Questionnaire:

  1. Title?
  2. Subtitle?
  3. What is the purpose of this book?
  4. What is the thesis of this book?
  5. What is the primary approach taken in this book?
  6. What was your (or your team’s) rationale for writing this book?
  7. What is the general plan of the book?
  8. What are some outstanding features of your book (or, what do you think to be outstanding, unique, or distinctive about your work)?
  9. What key questions or problems does your book address or answer?
  10. How does your book contribute to existing literature in its field?
  11. What is your intended audience for this book? (Choose one or two, maximum)
    1. Is it for general readers (on what basis)?
    2. Is it for scholars? (If so, what fields and how may it best be reached by those audiences)?
    3. Is it for students? (If so, which courses and at what level? Is the book a core text, or a supplement? Which type of student would take this course? Do you offer a course on this book yourself? How many times have you taught this course?).
  12. What are some books that you would consider as similar in style, topic, or theme? (It’s a good idea to list titles, authors, and general theme, for reference).
    1. How are these books comparable to, or similar to, your work?
    2. How do they differ?
    3. What are the strengths and weaknesses of these existing texts?
  13. What topics do you cover that are similar to your ‘competition’?
  14. What topics do you cover that you feel (or know) your competition does not?
    1. In what ways do you believe you’ve addressed these topics better than your competitors?
  15. What topics do neither you, nor your competition address in your respective works?
  16. In what ways do you believe you’ve addressed these topics better than they have?
  17. What are some books which readers of your future publication would also enjoy?
  18. What is the expected length of your final manuscript? (Total number of words/double-spaced pages).
  19. How many illustrations, figures, or tables are in the publication?
  20. Does the book include photographs, line drawings, cases, questions, glossaries, a bibliography, references, and/or appendices? (Approximately how many of each?).
  21. Do you plan on providing supplementary material to accompany your book?
  22. Do you have a timetable for the completion of your book?
  23. What percentage of the material is now complete?
  24. Has this book been submitted to other presses or publishing houses?
  25. Do you plan to include any material requiring external permissions? (Text, music, illustrations?).
    1. To what extent?
    2. Have you started the permissions request process?
  26. What is the primary market for the book? (Scholarly? Professional? Text Reference? Trade?).
  27. Are there any experts in your field related to you, or with whom you would feel were ideally suited to evaluate your proposal? (If so, record their name, title, and email).

Questions, Answered!

Alright! Once you’ve got those questions answered, the rest is simple as pie: with all this source material at the ready, you can assemble each answer into clean-cut, concise paragraphs that leave nothing to the imagination. You’ll be sure to hit all the bases for the academic publisher of your choice, and will have 10x better odds against your proposal competitors!

You’re now over the half-way mark and well on your way to the finish line, so why wait? It’s time to get started and tell the world about the book that’s going to change your (and their) lives forever!

Having trouble putting pen to paper and getting the word out to publishers about your book? JB Editing may be “write” for you! Just fill out the questionnaire above, and touch base here about your upcoming proposal project, and we can get the ball rolling.

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