Ideally, you want to include 3 sample chapters: the first 2, and a random, later chapter like Chapter 7 or something. This is where you will set the tone, writing style, and voice of your book. The sample chapters you send should represent the very best your book will offer!

No one expects you to be a designer or professional photographer, but any extra flavor you add to your sample chapters will help the reader understand your vision. If you’re writing a non-fiction book, you are declaring yourself an expert on that topic. Prove it with well-researched and interesting additions.
For the Mad Men Cookbook, my idea was to have secretary Joan Harris collect favorite recipes from the office staff. Since they’re busy ad men, I tied it into a fictional ad campaign pitch. To begin the sample chapters, I included a memo from Bert Cooper to the staff. I created fake letterhead, and typed the message in a mid-century font and layout. I then printed it, hole punched it, added a coffee mug stain, and scribbled secretarial writing on it. I scanned that in, shrunk it, and added a photo of a 1960s pen and the cover of “The Art of War” (Bert’s favorite book) from that era. In a single page, I set up the conceit of the cookbook, showed I was intimately familiar with the characters and the time period, and gave a glimpse into the fun layout I had envisioned.

Don’t go crazy with the layout throughout however. Publishers read a lot and they need to be able to read the bulk of your book unimpeded. When I want to show a side bar break-out box, I simply put it in a light gray rectangle. I know the book designer will use different colors and fonts, but I’m just trying to visually break it up.

If you add photographs — either your own or stock photography — make sure you are inserting them correctly into your document. A single graphic grabbed off the Internet and pasted into Word can make your proposal staggeringly big. No one wants to open a document that’s 4 MB when it should be only 200 kb. Worse, a company’s email servers might reject it for having too large an attachment. If you don’t know how to check the size of your document or import compressed images, find a 12 year-old and pay them $5 to help you.

Of course, make sure your sample chapters are correctly formatted and without a single error. Before you send your proposal to anyone, run it by a couple of different sets of eyes, including a Beta Reader.

That’s it! You’re done! Now go find yourself an agent.

>> GO TO: How to Get An Agent