Thayer Literary Services ~ Book Editing

Getting started on your nonfiction book

Pre-planning your book


As you pre-plan your book you should ask yourself these questions:


• What is this book about?

• Why would someone buy it?

• Who is the target audience? How big is it, and how can you reach it?

• Are other books available on the same or similar topic? What makes your book different or superior? Do a search of books in print at and Barnes & if you aren’t sure.

• What makes you qualified to write this book? List your credentials and experience in relation to the topic of the book.

• Do you have experience speaking, teaching, or writing about this or similar subjects? Have you published other books or articles in periodicals or journals?

• Do you have a marketing plan for the book? Do you have a website?

• Do you have speaking or networking opportunities to promote the book? How many copies do you think you could sell based on your personal, professional, or teaching contacts?


You will use the answers to these questions in your query letter and book proposal. This information is of vital importance to literary agents and editors at publishing houses. Publishers today expect the author to help them sell books.


Organizing your book

The writing process will be easier if you know where you’re going. Construct a road map in the form of a chapter-by-chapter summary (also called a “chapter outline”). This should include every chapter topic, each with a brief explanation of what you plan to accomplish in that chapter.





Traditional medicine doesn’t and can’t “cure” heart disease. The recurrence rate of arterial blockage after angioplasty is 25%-35%, while a bypass operation only treats the problem but does not cure it. The author proposes a new way of looking at heart disease, one in which patients become responsible for the care and well-being of their heart, in partnership with their physician. Following a brief, understandable discussion of the physiology of heart disease and heart attack, further topics covered in this chapter include:


Heart disease as a message from your body.

Blah, blah, blah.


Why medical tests and treatments are not enough.

Blah, blah, blah.


Getting the best (while avoiding the worst) of modern medicine.

Blah, blah, blah.


How to assess your doctor.

Blah, blah, blah.


Taking charge of your own medical care.

Blah, blah, blah.


Seven keys to a healthy heart.

Blah, blah, blah.


The amount of copy in each section of a chapter outline varies from book to book, but you should include enough material so that you have an accurate guide for your writing. This material will also give a prospective agent or editor a good idea of what your book is about and how it compares with similar books on the market.



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