Herbie J Pilato Tells Us How to Write a Nonfiction Book that Sells – Part 2

EDITOR’S NOTE: TVWriter™’s legendary Contributing Editor Emeritus Herbie J Pilato shares the key to his nonfiction writing success. Yesterday we brought you the “Teaser.” Time now to enjoy the specifics of the adventure!


by Herbie J Pilato

  • The Introduction

The information in this section may sometimes mimic the cover letter that you or your agent may submit to the editor/publisher with the proposal. Here, the author offers a general summary of not only their idea but a summary of the proposal itself — all in not more than two pages (if that).

  • The Overview

This section takes the proposal a step further, delving deeper into the subject matter of the proposal while offering more technical details of the intended length of the book (how many pages, words), whatever licensing fees may be involved (if, per se, the book is a companion guide to a particular TV show or feature film), and the number of illustrations and photographs (which might also have to be licensed, depending on the subject of the book).

  • The Market

Facts and figures matter most here. Who do you see reading your book and why? Which interests groups, on or off social media? Delve into the market figures. Find out, record and display it all in the Market section of the proposal. A list of competing titles for your proposed book is also a good idea to list in this Market section.

  • Chapter Outlines

Two or three sentences should be presented in each chapter, in future-tense. That is to say, each Chapter Outline should begin as such:

This chapter will be about, as opposed to: This chapter is about. Save the present tense for the Sample Chapters section.

  • Sample Chapters

It’s best to prepare at least two or three full sample chapters, written in the present tense. This is where the author has to prove their writing weight in gold. Don’t try to fool anyone in any part of the book proposal, and definitely don’t try to fool anyone in the Sample Chapters section.

  • About the Author

Keep it simple, and not longer than two paragraphs. Explain who you are, and why you are the best person to write the book you have in mind. But again…keep it brief.

In general, when writing your book proposal, clarity is the most important factor to remember. Watch those typos. Agents and editors are looking for reasons to say no to your idea. Be smart, professional, clear, and factual, and give them every reason to say yes — even if it takes a 100+ rejections to find the right partnership to get your nonfiction book sold.

And one other thing:

Don’t give up.


Writer/producer Herbie J Pilato is the host of classic TV talk show THEN AGAIN WITH HERBIE J PILATO, now streaming on Amazon Prime, Founder and Executive Director of The Classic TV Preservation Society, and author of several classic TV companion books. He has been part of TVWriter™ for 20 years and is Contributing Editor Emeritus. Learn more about Herbie J HERE. This article first appeared in Medium.

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