What the Heck Is A Book Proposal (& How Do I Write One?)

What the Heck Is A Book Proposal (& How Do I Write One?)

Live Workshop

September 12, 2020, 11AM-2:30PM PT/2-5:30PM EST

(scholarships offered; see below)

During this seminar for nonfiction writers, we will take a practical look at how to create a nonfiction book proposal that sells.

I‘m a former book proposal coach who specialized in helping those new to the publishing world create and sell their nonfiction books. Along the way, I learned the ins and outs of writing nonfiction book proposals—and I want to share that information with you.

This three-hour seminar, during which I’ll walk you through a book proposal and answer questions about traditional publishing, is intended for those who are inexperienced with the book proposal process. We will also have a guest who knows the answers to the things I don’t: Calvert Morgan, Executive Editor at Riverhead at Penguin Books, who specializes in literary nonfiction (one of his most recent projects is Eula Biss’s newest book, Having and Being Had).

Worksheets will be made available to students, as well as sample proposals from acclaimed authors such as Sarah Weinman, author of The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel That Scandalized the World, and Morgan Jerkins, author of the New York Times bestseller, This Will Be My Undoing: Living at the Intersection of Black, Female, and Feminist in (White) America. Also, there will be live transcription available during the workshop.

Because of the nature of the class, the workshop will be recorded and shared with participants for 24 hours after it takes place, but a recording will not be made permanently available.

If you have general questions about the workshop, such as about content, please DM me at Instagram (esmewwang).

Sign up & be the first to know what workshops will be offered again and when

& alongside important updates, you’ll also receive With Love & Squalor—monthly love letters from me about life, resilience, and making the most of our days.


 I’m offering 44 scholarships to BIPOC in financial need and 10 scholarships to non-BIPOC in financial need. If you are interested in helping to creating scholarship(s), please get in touch with my assistant Chloe at hello@chlobelleo.com.

Loyalty Bookshop, Rachel Berg Scherer (of Midwest Writing & Editing), Katie Adams, and Regina Anaejionu have provided generous donations for BIPOC scholarships.

Doors are now closed for scholarship applications.


A portion of the net revenue from the workshop will be donated to TGI Justice Project.


If you have general questions about the workshop, such as about content, please DM me at Instagram (esmewwang). If you have technical questions about the workshop (about payment, timing, scholarships, etc.), please email my assistant Chloe at hello@chlobelleo.com.

Teaching Testimonials

“My ‘book proposal’ was still just a bunch of ideas in the back of my mind, and scribbled in the pages of my journal.

And then, just as I started to think I really needed to do something about pulling this proposal together, I got an email from Esme Wang, a talented writer and professional editor who has done a fantastic job editing projects for me in the past. Out of the blue, after nearly a year without contact, she says*, ‘I’m just checking in about possible projects. Do you have anything you need editing?’*

Well, funny you should ask… And so, with Esme’s help, I put together an ambitious plan to write my entire book proposal in a matter of weeks, with regular Skype check-ins and frequent reviews. The pressure it puts on me is just what I need and the proposal starts to flow.”

—Beth Kempton, a self-help author whose books have now been translated into 24 languages


“I am immeasurably grateful for this workshop, which is the first and only one I have ever found to tackle both the big picture vision and the nuts-and-bolts labor of achieving it. I left armed with the tools (and reference materials!) to complete my book proposal and make it sing. But I also am left with gratitude for the extraordinary grace and generosity of Esme, to offer this gift to writers who are hoping to follow in her accomplished footsteps. It is a holy thing for someone who has succeeded so deservedly to offer to hold the door open for the people behind her. Thank you so much for this wonderful, wonderful work.”

Alexis R.

“Thank you so much for offering this book proposal workshop. I’ve taken other book proposal workshops and yours was much more thorough! I appreciate the amount of material you covered in the live session, as well as offering us all the follow-up material, resources and articles… I’m looking forward to any other workshops or classes that you offer.”

Julie L.

“This workshop is perfect for the person who’s been told they need to write a memoir their entire lives and the people who keep telling them to do it! In this non-fiction book proposal workshop Esme walks you through the highly formatted nature of the highly competitive reality of marketing a book to be sold today. The practical resources she shared were invaluable. She structured her workshop in such a way that as a person living with illness I was never afraid I’d miss a piece of information. It’s impossible to leave this workshop without buzzing with inspiration.”

Alex K.

“I saw a tweet this morning about how many folks growing up were never taught how to write a resume and a cover letter, dress appropriately for job interviews, etc. This workshop was at least as valuable as any job-seeking resume-writing class that I’ve ever taken. I love the way that you phrased the aim of the workshop: book proposals have a specific format that we unfortunately need to follow if we want to be taken seriously by traditional publishers, and your hope is that your students will come away with fewer barriers to publishing their work. I felt like I learned some good, baseline skills yesterday that I’ll be taking forward for the rest of my life.”

Ophira H.

“Is it cliché to say that it was perfect? Both you and Chloe created a gentle, welcoming, and unpretentious learning environment that allowed for all questions to be answered and all statements to be acknowledged. You were generous with the resources, before, during, and after the class. Sitting down in front of a computer for 3.5 hours can be daunting and exhausting, but you established a rhythm that made the consumption of a wealth of information easy and fun. It was a wonderful experience, and I hope to attend another one of your workshops again.”

Stephanie W.

“The level of professionalism combined with sincerity immediately put me at ease. As someone just starting out, you don’t know what you don’t know and your workshop answered questions I didn’t know to ask. I also deeply appreciated the attention to accessibility for various learning styles and sensory needs. Having a live transcript in addition traditional audio/video made it easier to relax, absorb the material, and just enjoy the discussion.”

Jen M.

“Spending three-plus hours on a Zoom call sounds like one of the most unfun weekend activities ever, but those three-plus hours spent in your workshop were the high point of my Saturday. You presented the material in a straightforward and engaging manner, and based on the Chat activity, participants’ attention and enthusiasm never waned.”

Heather H.

“Esmé is exceedingly knowledgeable and her teaching style is the perfect blend of calmly explaining every step of the writing process so you won’t be left confused and answering additional questions. She also puts much thought into every answer instead of giving a quick reply – I felt seen, taken care of and special, even though it was a group workshop.”

Navina B.

“”Esmé’s workshop “What the Heck is a Book Proposal” is one of the most generative spaces and life-changing experiences an emerging writer can have. No matter the preferred form or genre, publication experience, or stage in the process, you will gather and learn, and be in awe at the collective brilliance of resources Esmé has thoughtfully put together. By the end, you’ll also be thankful for the organic space that emerged for other writers to connect and share that you didn’t even know was shaping and coming. And of course, you’ll be in awe of Esmé herself, as a writer, teacher, orator, and incredible human. Esmé also has the dopest “podcast voice” so enjoy that too.”

José M.

“In two books and two agents, I have NEVER been schooled as hard or as well on the craft of writing an effective book proposal as I was by Esmé Weijun Wang. Esmé has an unfakeable passion for making practical, actionable information available to writers—to ALL writers, at all career stages and backgrounds, living and working with all kinds of limitations. Her warm, inclusive teaching style offers a priceless act of service to the literary community. Take any class Esmé Weijun Wang offers.”

Laura G.

Esmé Weijun Wang with a blue pixie cut, wearing a floral dress, wire-rim glasses and red lipstickEsmé Weijun Wang is the New York Times-bestselling author of The Collected Schizophrenias: Essays and The Border of Paradise: A Novel. She received the Whiting Award in 2018 and was named one of Granta’s Best of Young American Novelists of 2017; her short fiction has been included in the Best American Short Stories anthology. She has also received fellowships to Yaddo and MacDowell. She holds an MFA from the University of Michigan and lives in San Francisco.