Write a book proposal
This how to guide takes you through everything you need to know to write and submit a book proposal.
You can read all the information you need below, or watch this video from Books Commissioning Editor, Katy Mathers.
Choosing the right format for your book
Before you begin writing a book proposal, it’s good to be aware of the different formats available to you. At Emerald we welcome both long form and short form projects.
Monographs – long form
One of our options is a traditional scholarly monograph, coming in at around 60 to 90 thousand words. A monograph enables authors to create a detailed written study that focuses on a single, specialist aspect of their field. Emerald publishes authored monographs, and also edited collections, which would allow an Editor to bring together multiple chapter authors under a specific theme.
Book series – long and short form
We also publish a range of book series, to which we also welcome submissions in both long or short, depending on the expectations set by the series. In the case of series, it’s really important to look at the aims and scope of the series titles in your field to find the best match. Ultimately, if your manuscript is outside the scope of the series, it is likely the editor will reject it.
Emerald Points – short form
We also have a short form option, housing projects between 30 and 50 thousand words. Emerald Points is a short-form book series that promises submission to publication within 12 weeks of a final manuscript going into production. It is an ideal channel for responses to current affairs and contemporary issues, and it welcomes theoretical or analytical work, as well as think-pieces or polemics, policy-focused research, findings with relevance for practitioners, and in-depth case studies.
Putting together your proposal
Having identified the right format for your book, you can now think about putting together a proposal. The following will offer guidance on how to build it.
When preparing a book proposal form, there are lots of key details that you’ll need to include to make your proposal as comprehensive, detailed, and strong as possible, including:
- Details about you and the author team (if it is a multi-authored work). Your name, affiliation, contact details, and publication history will all need to be outlined.
- Information about the book – this includes a title, short and main description, an overall topic description, and a list of unique selling points.
- Include a provisional table of contents so we have a full understanding of the proposed chapter structure. This should also include short chapter abstracts if available.
- Your understanding of the market and competition for the book – who does your book appeal to and why? Are there any competing titles?
- The format and length of your book – provide the expected word count, number of tables and figures, and if any sample material is available.
Another key question for us is understanding sales and marketing potential – so at this point can you help us understand any ways in which you may be able to support the sales and marketing of your book?
Finally, we’ll ask for some reviewer recommendations as all book proposals are single anonymous peer reviewed. It’s important to note that while we ask for recommended reviewers, these may not be used, and we may use our own contacts.
How to fill in specific sections of the book proposal form
The book description
It is important to bear in mind:
- In your short summary, you should be clear and concise, and avoid using too much jargon – it’s important to bear in mind that your proposal form will be read by several different people with different levels of knowledge of your field.
- You should also give as much detail as you can in a chapter-by-chapter summary to help the external peer reviewers and your editor understand your approach and the development of your argument.
- Finally, it’s very important to understand the purpose. It's essential to give your readers an idea of how your research extends beyond current understanding. You’ll need to think about questions such as:
- What is the significance of the work?
- Why is it important and original?
- What are the implications for practice?
- What new research avenues might the work lead to?
The market and competition element of the proposal
- You should be realistic with regard to the potential market for your book – no book can appeal to all markets.
- You should list works which sit alongside your own as ‘competition’, and be clear on how your book is distinct. What new contribution is your book making?
- Importantly, saying that there is ‘no competition’ for your book is not helpful and is very unlikely to be the case!
Getting the title for your work
Your title should be:
- Clear and concise, and accurately reflect the content.
- It should differentiate your book from other titles on the market.
- It should include key phrases and from the field that identify the focus – making your book instantly identifiable to the target readership.
Practical elements to consider
In terms of more practical elements, when crafting your book proposal, it’s important to:
- Be realistic about proposed delivery dates – don’t set yourself a deadline you cannot reach
- For edited works, you should set realistic deadlines for any contributors. We suggest an extra 6-8 weeks ahead of your manuscript submission deadline.
- You should consider word count – as covered, a typical word count for an academic monograph is around 80,000 words, or 30-50,000 words for short form Emerald Points titles. Exceeding these may impact pricing and marketing for your book, so it’s important to be realistic about this in advance.
- You’ll need to provide a list of possible external peer reviewers in your form. Reviewers should be based at a different institution and, if your book is an adaptation of your thesis, they cannot be one of your PhD supervisors.
- You are welcome to submit a sample draft chapter with your proposal – it is always helpful to give reviewers a further example of your writing style
- Finally, it’s always good to demonstrate that you are aware of issues surrounding clearing permission to use 3rd party material. For example, if you intend to include images in your book, do you have permission from the copyright holder to publish them?
Best practice for writing your proposal
Across the book proposal, it is important to write simply and in a clear and concise manner. Here we share best practice on achieving this.
- Investing a little time in ensuring your book proposal is easy to follow can really help readers absorb your key messages – if you read it back in the eyes of the reviewer/ editor – does it make sense?
- Particularly for a proposal, you want the reader to quickly grasp how your work has added to the knowledge in your field and highlight any potential applications. You should make sure this is clear throughout.
Paragraph and sentence structures
It’s important to keep in mind your paragraph and sentence structures:
- A good paragraph contains only one major point of discussion. All the sentences in the paragraph should relate to this one idea and should flow from one another.
- One golden rule for clarity is that a sentence should be easy to understand the first time you read it. If it isn’t, then think about restructuring it or splitting it in two if it is too complex.
Cut the clutter
You should cut the clutter and reduce unnecessary text – try not to use lots of words when just a few would do. Look out for ‘padding’ words – some words may be correct grammatically but they don’t really add anything to the sentence so can be removed.
Try to avoid repetition.
Finally, check your tenses - not only ensure that you use the right tense, but that you use it consistently. Be careful not to dip in and out of different tenses.
- One of the most important tips is to proofread – you should plan for this and build it into your writing schedule and try not to leave it until the last minute.
- Try waiting 24 hours. If you try to proofread just after you have completed your final draft, this will be much harder.
- Show the draft to someone else who can view it with a fresh, unbiased pair of eyes
Tips for writing as a non-native English speaker
If you’re English isn’t your first language, then here are some tips for writing as a non-native English speaker:
- Write a draft of your proposal in whatever English you have – this is much easier than writing it in your own language and then translating it. Try not to worry too much about grammar and spelling at this stage.
- It’s helpful to look at your target publication channel and others in the same field, to pick up tips on phrasing nuances within that field.
- You may need more 'hands-on' help here, but perhaps not a professional service. You could try finding someone who can help you express yourself more clearly in English. Try seeking help from a colleague whose English is better than yours, so that they can help you clarify your meaning.
If you need professional help, there are options available. Emerald partner with Editage who provide a paid service that match you with a relevant expert in language support, translation, editing, figure preparation, manuscript formatting, and more.
Dos and Don'ts
To summarise, here a list of things to think about, and things to try to avoid.
When building a proposal you should try to:
- Summarise and conclude, restating the main argument, and presenting key conclusions and recommendations
- State how your findings/new framework can be applied in practice
- Explain what the implications are for further research
- Say to what extent your original questions have been answered
- Highlight the limitations of your research.
You should try not to:
- Start a new topic or introduce new material that is reflected throughout
- Make obvious statements
- Make contradictory statements.