Nonfiction Book Proposal

Nonfiction Pathways
If you’re not sure what kind of nonfiction to write...
If you know what kind of nonfiction to write...
If you want a rather short course...
Next Steps
After completing a Level I ten-week course...
After completing Memoir II, if you want to write a book...
Selling Your Work
If you hope to get published somewhere...
Nonfiction Book Proposal

Nonfiction Book Proposal is a 4-week class, which includes a mixture of lectures and book proposal assignments. It’s for beginners or anyone who wants a refresher. Farther down, you can view a syllabus for this course.

Perhaps you’re near completion of a nonfiction book. Or perhaps you’ve just hatched an idea or begun roughing out a draft. Before you proceed further, you should know…

Most nonfiction books are sold to publishing houses on the basis of a proposal—a 20 to 40-page document that pitches the book’s content and marketability and is supplemented by sample chapters. Agents and editors don’t want to see the finished book. They want to see the proposal.

Here you will learn everything you need to know about nonfiction book proposals and, to focus your concept, you’ll write (and refine) your book’s catalogue copy—a brief description that reveals the book’s essence. All under the guidance of an established literary agent.

About Nonfiction Book Proposal
Nonfiction Book Proposal

The class really took the idea of a book proposal and fleshed it out in a step by step manual. It was very helpful to me and I am now motivated to continue with my proposal.

Serge Avery

History instructor


This course deals with all kinds of nonfiction books. (Memoirs, however, are sometimes sold with proposals, and sometimes sold after the complete work is written. Often it’s best to write the complete memoir, but this course can help you discern the scope and marketability of your memoir.)

After this course, you can get one-on-one help through Nonfiction Book Proposal Doctoring.

You might also consider How to Get Published, but Nonfiction Book Proposal is a good place to start for nonfiction writers.

Upcoming Classes

Masks are not required, but we’ll provide masks for those who want them. We are no longer requesting proof of vaccination.

More Covid details
  • You can still enroll in this class.
    Starts Wednesday, July 17 3 spots left
    Online, anytime
    4-Week Class
  • Starts Wednesday, October 16
    Online, anytime
    4-Week Class


Registration fee $25, paid once per term



This course gives you a firm grounding in the basics of creating a nonfiction book proposal, and helps you focus a concept for a nonfiction book. Course components:
     Writing and receiving feedback on catalogue copy for your book (each student presenting work two times)

Week 1
Focusing Your Idea: Defining your book. What is a book proposal? Catalogue copy—angle, credentials, excitement. Catalogue copy analyzed. Titles.

Week 2
Anatomy of a Proposal: Analysis of the parts of a book proposal—Overview, Market, Competition, Promotion, Author, Details, Chapter Outline, Sample Chapters. (Complete book proposals are given to students.)

Week 3
Creating Your Proposal: Advice on handling the parts of a book proposal—Overview, Market, Competition, Promotion, Author, Details, Chapter Outline, Sample Chapters.

Week 4
The Submission Process: The steps from idea to publication. Understanding publishing houses, editors, and agents. Should you approach agents or editors first? Researching the right agents and editors for your book. What to send, how to send it. Query letters. Response. Rejection. Contracts. Self-publishing.

Note: Content may vary among individual classes.


Sharon Pelletier
Sharon Pelletier

Sharon Pelletier is a vice president and senior agent at Dystel, Goderich & Bourret, where she represents upmarket adult fiction, from book club and women’s fiction to elevated suspense and romance, and select narrative nonfiction. She previously worked on the editorial side at small presses and Barnes & Noble.

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