Crafting a successful book proposal

What I learnt from years of writing and publishing non-fiction, distilled into a few simple principles.

Shawn Seah
7 min readJun 4, 2021


A book talk I gave at Grassroots Book Room (a bookstore) in 2019

This article sets out some reflections and thoughts on writing a successful book proposal. It’s mostly a reminder to myself, but it might also help aspiring (or even experienced) authors craft a book proposal that has a good chance of being selected by a publisher.

What have I learnt over the years of writing and publishing non-fiction that I can distil into a few simple and practical principles?

Upon reflection, I have come up with five principles of crafting a successful book proposal. I hope these principles will be as useful to you as they have been to me.

First, understand yourself.

Before drafting one word, ask yourself what makes you uniquely qualified to write this particular book.

What is it about your experiences, qualifications, or background that makes you the one who should write this particular book?

What is your competitive advantage in this particular topic, that is difficult for another author to replicate?



Shawn Seah

Singaporean writer and public speaker, passionate about education, social issues, and local history and community stories.