Nonfiction Book Proposal Tip: 2-3 Sample Chapters Only

The beautiful thing about nonfiction book proposals is that you don’t have to have the book completed before submitting and querying. You only need to have 2-3 sample chapters. Unlike novels, which need to be complete, the chapter breakdown section of the proposal shows the publishing house editor how the book is going to be laid out.

Which chapters should be included in the proposal?

There is no hard-and-fast rule when it comes to the sample chapters included in the book proposal, but it is recommended to submit the first few chapters. But what if the best chapters are in the middle of the book?

You better work extra hard on those first ones. After all, if the first chapters aren’t worth good, readers won’t ever make it to your favorite middle ones.

How long should the chapters be?

The length of the chapter depends on how many chapters are in your book and how many words the book is in total. To figure out your average chapter length, divide your total word count (or supposed word count) by the number of chapters.

As an example, a 15 chapter book of 55,000 words will have chapter lengths of around 3,666 words.

What is included in the chapter breakdown section?

The very last section of my book proposals, right before the sample chapters, is the Chapter Breakdowns section. In this section, you list the chapter titles and a description of what readers will take away from each chapter.

You can also include any resources and sidebar ideas, as well. An example might look like this:

Chapter One: Title Title Title Title
In this chapter, readers will learn this and this and this and this. Also, this is also what they’ll understand….text text text text text.

Sidebars include: _________ worksheet

Best of luck with your nonfiction book proposal! Questions? Leave a comment below!



**Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Bethany Jett

Bethany Jett loves sipping coffee and jamming in her planner while raising three boys with her college sweetheart Justin.

January 28, 2021

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  1. Abby Martin

    Such a good post, Bethany!
    I was wondering how to write a proposal for my non-fiction book!
    My writing style is different than most. I talked with Thomas Umstattd Jr. about what my genre is. He said I write both fiction and non fiction, but he said what is unique about it is that I write both with a non-fiction style. He said my genre is called ‘Parable.” He said I developed this style by reading non-fiction so much. Is the parable genre known well? I do know that one book in the Parable genre is “Pilgrim’s Progress.” Thanks! God bless! 🙂

    • Bethany Jett

      Hey Abby! We’ve got a nonfiction proposal sample on our Serious Writer website. I’m not super-familiar with the Parable genre, though. Here’s that link: and if you need assistance with a proposal, we do that at our company PlatLit: Best of luck!!!