Savvy Author Book Proposal Checklist: Considerations of Your Manuscript, the Book

Updated: Oct 15, 2021

Size up your work as a print and digital product

from the point of view of the publisher

This article is part of a series that adapts and excerpts my entire book, Pitch What’s True: A Publisher’s Tools for Navigating Your Best Path to a Published Nonfiction Book* (Everything Goes Media, 2019). Find an index to the series here.


The Book

The Savvy Author Checklist continues. [See here for Publishing/Publisher Knowledge, The Author, Sales & Marketing pieces.] A reminder: The boldface questions below are not simply the summarized knowledge of a veteran publisher rehashed for you somehow. These questions are from the actual assessment tool that my editorial team and I have used in-house when evaluating possible projects.


Does your book meet the highest standards in terms of content? Style? Mechanics?

If not, in which areas does it fall short? Who or what can help you raise your manuscript to a level of excellence? How and when will you correct those things? ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Does your book deserve to exist? Does it deserve the publisher’s investment of time, expertise, and funding? Does it deserve readers’ time in a busy world?

So…does it? What makes your book worthy of attention and expenditure…by a publisher? By readers? By stores with limited shelf space? What makes allotting time to read your book preferable to Netflix, yoga, drinking with friends, playing with kids, or a few extra hours of work or sleep? ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Is there an audience for your book with an important, unfilled need?

Who are they? ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

What is their need? ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

How does your content meet that need and to what extent? ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Should your material be adapted in light of these answers? ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Does your book cover its topic for the first time or for the first time in a particular way or from a particular angle? Does your book take us a step forward in thinking about a particular subject?

What is your book’s particular subject, and what are its points of distinction? How do you break new ground and add originality or perspective? ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Do your voice, approach, and/or style draw the reader to your material and make it irresistible or somehow fresh and unique?

If so, how? How would you describe these advantages to a publisher? If not, what changes need to be incorporated to make it so? Will you need help with that? What kind of help? ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Is there a mass or targeted audience large enough to support your book?

We will look at reaching your audience in greater depth in the Sales & Marketing section [link to come when posted], but for now, contemplate this from a justification point of view. Are there enough people who will benefit from and want to read your book? Moreover, will you and the publisher be able to reach them easily and economically enough to warrant the entire bundle of resources you’d have to devote to that end? ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Will your book be financially feasible for the publisher in terms of the amount of editing/development/production/marketing work and expense required? Can the publisher produce and price your book competitively?

The specifics of any publisher’s expenses and financial reckonings are unavailable to you, but engage your commonsense and intuition. Using what you know from bookstore pricing, can the book you’re proposing be priced so that its natural audience will readily buy it? Are you submitting a package of written (and where relevant graphical) material that will not incur undue costs to transform into a book? ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

How is your book conceived as a package[1]? Is it complete in content and approach? Will it include photos, maps, sidebars, a bibliography, notes, etc.? Are there gaps in content coverage? Photo coverage? Is your book’s category obvious at first glance?

Can you conceive of your book as a package? If not, what considerations will help you get there? If so, what elements of your book as a package need tweaking or enhancement? __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Does it lend itself to non-print formats/technologies?

Which ones? How might these extend the book’s reach? ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

[1] Just letting you know that I use “package” here, in no formal capacity, to mean the whole kit and caboodle, your book in its conceptual entirety.

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