Writing a Book Proposal

Following is a combination tutorial and example book proposal that I've created to help aspiring authors clearly communicate their vision for books they plan to write. I use the example in my day-job at Apress, where I work with authors to create books on computer- and related-technology topics. You can download the example in Word 2007 or PDF form, or you can just read through it here on this page.

 Caveat! The example is somewhat specific to Apress. I ask authors to provide precisely the information I need for the Apress product database -- no more, and no less. The example is good. I believe it is generally useful. You are welcome to look at it. Just know that if you follow the example, that you should tailor it to your publisher of choice.




Dear Prospective Author,

We appreciate your thinking of Apress as a publisher for your book. We’ve written this example book proposal to help you put your vision down on paper so that we can better talk about it and refine it.

Please read carefully! Keep the following two goals in mind:

  • To communicate your vision for the book
  • To prove that you can write serviceable text

Sharing your vision for a book is the primary goal. You have a vision in your head that you need to communicate clearly to your editor, and your editor in turn needs to share that vision with an Editorial Board when seeking approval to publish, and with a sales & marketing group when launching the book into the marketplace. Help your editor sell your idea by creating as clear a vision as possible on paper.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but a good and well-written proposal goes a long way towards demonstrating that you are able to write well-enough for publication. It’s not just about getting words down with proper grammar. Writing is also about caring enough to watch the details, to not be sloppy, to take some pride in your work, and to demonstrate some leadership in developing and selling your topic. We want to work with authors who care enough to produce excellent work.

Thank you for taking time to read thus far. Instructions in the sections to follow will help you fill out the various parts of the proposal. Take your best shot, and your editor will help you refine the proposal until it’s ready to pass on to the Editorial Board.


Jonathan Gennick
Assistant Editorial Director, Apress

Name / Address / Phone Number

Don’t hide from us! We need your name and address for the contract. We need it for tax reporting. We need it to send your royalty and advance payments. Give up your phone number too; your editor may want to call sometime to discuss your book.

For example:

Jonathan Gennick
126 W. Varnum
Munising MI 49862

Office: 906-387-1698

Email: jonathan.gennick@apress.com

Your editor cannot even enter your proposal into our database without the above information, including phone number. Please don’t annoy your editor by not providing it.



Apress is based in the United States of America. We must know whether you are a U.S. citizen in order to properly report to our taxing authority any monies that we pay you. We don’t mean to be nosy. Our government requires us to be so.

For example:

Jonathan Gennick is a U.S. citizen

Name to Use on the Cover

Tell us how you want your name to appear on the book cover, and in the Amazon.com and other online listings. For example, you might have one of those first-initial affectations:

J. George Gennick

Title of the Book

You and your editor may have already discussed title ideas. If so, you may already know that much of Apress’ marketing and branding efforts are built around titles falling into the following patterns:

  • Beginning <something>
  • Pro <something>
  • Expert <something>
  • <some sort of> Recipes

Other title keywords are possible. The preceding are just some that are core to our brand.

Here’s the title of the book that this example proposal is built around:

Build Your Own Bicycle

In this case we’ve completely deviated from the patterns listed earlier. That’s ok. Not every book needs to fit some established pattern. Work with your editor to decide on a title that is both marketable and that describes your book well.



We need a description of your book suitable for Amazon.com, and for our own catalog page on Apress.com. Our goal is a very specific format:

  1. One or two paragraphs describing the book, followed by
  2. Exactly three bullet points also describing the book.

Why this particular format? The answer is: “just because”. Really, it’s just the format that our marketing department decided upon. We apply it to all our books. Life is easier that way. And the format plays well with prospective readers, so please just go along with it.

Here’s an example:

Build Your Own Bicycle is a project-oriented book taking you through the process of buying a frame and building it up with parts in order to have a working bicycle suitable for errand-running, cruising the neighborhood, and even some light trail riding. Because you’ve built it yourself, you’ll know exactly how the bike works, and you won’t be dependent upon a bike shop to maintain it. You will have a far stronger and more reliable bike than is typically on offer at your local discount store.

Building your own bike is an excellent parent-child project. We live in a day when obesity is rampant, when kids are too sedentary for their own good. What better way to encourage your child to get out and reap the benefits of exercise than by equipping him with a smoothly-operating bike that will be a joy to ride and the envy of his peers? Build Your Own Bicycle equips you with the knowledge and confidence to attack a wonderful project together with your son or daughter. Recapture some of the magic of childhood. Build your own bike.

  • Takes you through building a bicycle from a frame and components.
  • Provides a parent-child project leading to fun and good health.
  • Teaches you how to adjust and maintain your bicycle.

The preceding description is a decent example of what we hope to end up with as catalog copy for Amazon.com and other book outlets. Following are some points worth noticing:

  • The example copy begins with the book’s title. The first few words are important. Get that title into your reader’s mind quickly.
  • The entire purpose of the book is summed up in the very first sentence. It’s critical to capture the reader’s attention fast. Get the point of the book across in sentence #1. You can elaborate later, but get the gist of the book across immediately.
  • The sentences in the first paragraph link together to form a chain of thinking: #1) Build it yourself, #2) You’ll know how it works, #3) You’ll have something better.
  • The copy ends with a call to action: Build your own bike!

Don’t worry if you can’t come up with a perfectly polished description on the first go. Do the best that you can. Your editor will help you, but first give your editor something to work with.

Short Description

We also need a short description of your book. This short description gets pushed out to booksellers, some of whom use it in their online listing and searching functions.

Often you can derive the short description from the first sentence of your long description. You may be able to use that first sentence as-is, or you can cut it down. For example, here is a cut down version of the preceding, long description:

Build Your Own Bicycle shows how to buy a bike frame and parts and build a working bicycle suitable for errand-running, cruising the neighborhood, and even some light trail riding. 


We need what is termed a tagline to go under the title on the front cover of the book. It’s your editor’s job to dream up a tagline, but help out if you can. Think pithy. You want something short-and-sweet, as in:

Impress your friends by building your own bike from the frame up

You can see that I’ve written this tagline to appeal to people’s general desire to look good in front of their friends and neighbors. Tagline-writing is as much about making an emotional connection to your readers as it is about describing the book.



You really need to have an audience in mind before writing the description, but it’s usually easier for your editor to understand the audience after having read the description. Hence, the audience comes second.

What we’re looking for here is a single paragraph, again suitable for Amazon.com and Apress.com. If you need inspiration, visit Apress.com and read the audience descriptions for some of our recent books.

Here’s an example, for the bicycle book:

Build Your Own Bicycle is for the enthusiast rider who is ready to move beyond store-bought bikes by creating something unique and distinctive. It’s for the rider tired of paying for maintenance and suffering downtime while a bike is in the shop. Build Your Own Bicycle is an excellent choice for people who like to work with their hands and create things to use in everyday life. It’s an excellent choice for the parent wanting a project to build and strengthen the bond with a son or daughter.

Begin with the book title, but focus on describing the audience. Don’t fall into the trap of describing the book. Describe your target reader.

BTW, don’t be too broad in your audience description. For example, it would be a mistake to include bike mechanics in the audience for this book, because they already know how to build bikes. Try to make a book appeal to everyone, and it will end up appealing to no one. Focus on a specific audience and keep to it.

What You Will Learn

Here we are after six bullet points that summarize what a reader will be able to do as a result of having read your book. Why six? It’s just the number our marketing people came up with. Roll with it, ok?

Here’s an example set of six for the bike book:

  • Choose a frame style and size appropriate for your needs.
  • Purchase reliable components that will work well together and fit your frame.
  • Assemble frame and components properly and safely.
  • Make adjustments to dial in shifting and braking.
  • Perform routine maintenance to ensure many years of smooth riding.
  • Begin a tool collection for use in future projects.

Look carefully at these bullets versus the three earlier in the section on “Description”. The bullets here are from the reader’s point of view. The reader will be able to choose, to purchase, to assemble, and so forth. The bullets earlier are from the book’s point of view. The book takes you through, provides, and teaches. This point-of-view distinction is subtle, but one that we like to get right.


Biographical Statement

Sell yourself! Write the bio that you want see on Amazon. Give readers confidence in your command of the topic. Don’t write too much. One paragraph is plenty. Don’t go above two. For example:

Jonathan Gennick is a professional writer and computer-book author residing in the lovely city of Munising in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. His passion for cycling goes back to the 1960s when a group of neighborhood girls taught him one summer how to ride around the block without training wheels. He first picked up a wrench and began doing his own mechanical work in 2007 as a result of wanting to install a bashguard without making the hour-long drive to the bike shop. Jonathan’s love of mechanical work exploded, and his basement office is now an eclectic mix of frames, bicycle parts, computers, and books. He now has as much fun working on bikes as riding them.

Page Count

Have a specific page-count in mind before creating your table of contents. Then estimate page-counts for each chapter. Total those up and circle back here to see how closely your per-chapter page counts agree with your planned page count for the book as a whole.

250-350 pages are good for an introductory book. 500-600 pages are where you want to be for a mainstream, professional-level book. Between 250 and 400 pages is right for hobbyist-oriented books that you expect readers to actually enjoy reading cover-to-cover. There are always exceptions, and different editors have different viewpoints.

My target page count for Build Your Own Bicycle is:

300 pages

Total up my per-chapter page counts in the table-of-contents to follow, and you’ll see that they add up to just 264 pages. It appears that I’m short on pages, but I know that I tend to estimate low when I go one chapter at a time. I’m choosing to leave my per-chapter estimates as they are and proceed with 36 pages of headroom. I will write additional content if I need it in order to hit 300 pages. (Note: Do not be too cavalier with page-count. It is important to hit the planned number. We like to see page count land within 10% of plan).

Keep your competition in mind. Look around at other books on the same topic to see how your page count compares to the competition. Readers pay attention to cover-price versus the number of pages, and readers often think of books having more pages as having more value. Work with your editor on these competitive aspects. You may need to adjust your planned page count upward or downward to compete more favorably in the marketplace.

Competing Books

List the top two or three competing books. List at least two, because that is the number of competing titles your editor’s boss demands of him. So help your editor out a bit here, ok?

Sometimes you can easily identify directly-competing titles. Other times you must do a bit of lateral thinking. Ask yourself what other books on similar or related topics might compete for a reader’s attention. For example, a bicycle enthusiast might choose to spend his money on a book about bicycle maintenance instead of on building a bike. That choice would make some sense, as a book on maintenance also is likely to cover much of what one would need to know in order to build a bike.

Here are the competing titles that I came up with:

Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance; Lennard Zinn, Todd Telander; VeloPress; April 2005; ISBN-13: 978-1931382595; Amazon Rank = 267,583;

Build Your Own Electric Bicycle; Matthew Slinn; McGraw-Hill; May 2010; ISBN-13: 978-0071606219; Amazon Rank = 576,604;

Atomic Zombie's Bicycle Builder's Bonanza; Brad Graham, Kathy McGowan; McGraw-Hill; January 2004; ISBN-13: 978-0071422673; Amazon Rank = 41,226;

Zinn is considered by many as the “go to” book on mountain-bike maintenance. You can build a bike from Zinn, but the book is focused on providing maintenance advice rather than a step-by-step build process. Zinn also does not recommend or help choose frames and parts.

Slinn is interesting in its focus on bicycles driven by electric motor. It is certainly conceivable that a cyclist might get drawn in and decide to build an electric-motor-assisted bike rather than a plain pedal bike. Thus a reader might buy Slinn rather than Gennick. But we hope not!

Graham/McGowan is poorly-described on Amazon.com. The book appears to show how to build bikes, but the Amazon description and photos suggests that a good amount of content is about building bikes with wild frame designs. My proposed book is about building normal bikes for normal people on a normal budget with normal skills.

By the way, now is a good time to rethink your topic, or the angle you are taking. Pretend that there are already five or six books showing readers how to build bicycles. Then I might choose to focus on a specific style of bike such as building a mountain bike or building a touring bike. I might choose to slice and dice the audience and write a book aimed at teens, or at retirees. I could focus on building bikes for young children, helping readers to find suitable parts for small bodies. If the competing books were largely text-based, I might choose to present my content using photos on layout-intensive pages. Try not to be the Nth book to take the same approach to the same topic to the same market.


Will Sell Like Titles

Skip over this section. Let your editor fill it out. Your editor will need to come up with two, so-called “will sell like” titles. The idea is for your editor to be able to say that your book’s sales profile will be similar to such and such a book that is already on the market. For example, I might begin by looking at the first book on the competing books list:

Atomic Zombie's Bicycle Builder's Bonanza; Brad Graham, Kathy McGowan; McGraw-Hill; January 2004; ISBN-13: 978-0071422673; Amazon Rank = 41,226; Retail-to-date = 5505;

Next I would decide whether I believed Build Your Own Bicycle could manage to sell 5505 units in its lifetime, at a velocity of 5505 units / 82 months = 62 units/month over the long haul. I can believe in that profile, so then I would look for a second book to support it. Your editor’s job ultimately is to come up with two books having sales profiles that he can believe in and defend for your proposed book.


Talk to your editor before worrying about schedule. Your editor may need to target a specific publication month. If that’s the case, then set the schedule first and limit the scope of the table of contents to what you can deliver on that schedule. Also consider recruiting a coauthor. If the topic is not time-sensitive, then your editor may prefer to settle the table-of-contents first before circling back to think about schedule.

Ultimately, you and your editor need to agree upon three dates:

  • A due-date for having a first-draft of any three chapters
  • A due-date for having a first-full-draft of all the chapters
  • A publication month

If you’re an experienced author, you probably know the velocity at which you can write. If inexperienced, then begin by thinking in terms of one chapter every two weeks. Adjust upwards or downwards depending upon length of the chapters and difficulty of the material.

Channel Buyer Pitch

Imagine that you’ve just walked into the elevator from the lobby. You hit the button for the 42nd floor. The doors close. You look around, and standing next to you is the buyer from the Barnes & Noble bookstore chain. You’ve got 42 floors in elevator time to sell this channel buyer on your book. Wikipedia says there are 777 stores in the chain. You make about $2.00 in royalties per book. Figure two books per store, and you’ve got $3000+ riding on your next few sentences. What do you say?

Here’s an elevator-pitch for Build Your Own Bicycle:

Build Your Own Bicycle promotes family togetherness by providing an exciting project for a father and daughter, or mother and son, or any adult and child to work on together. Families in this down economy are taking a second look at how they spend money. They are reconsidering frivolous expenses and refocusing on activities of enduring value. Building a bike is about spending time together. Parents will laugh with their kids and have the opportunity to teach patience and perseverance. Kids and parents both will learn valuable and cost-saving skills in bicycle maintenance. Think of the joy at the end of the project when the son or daughter, or niece or nephew, takes that bike down from the stand and pedals away on the first test-ride. Readers will come away with a working bicycle that they can be proud of, that will pay off in health benefits for years to come.

Most channel buyers make their stocking decisions from one or two paragraphs of text written on what is termed a sell sheet.. Few books will get 42 floors worth of a buyer’s time. Help us write a good pitch. Give us one long paragraph, or two short ones. Take your best shot, and we’ll refine what you give.


Channel Buyer Bullet Points

Remember that sell sheet? We need to fill up space. Plus, we’ve discovered that some channel buyers don’t actually read the paragraphs of text. Help us out with some bullet-points too. We like to have three:

  • Promotes family togetherness by providing an excellent project for any adult and child to work on together. Almost everyone enjoys riding a bicycle.
  • Promotes a healthy recreational choice to battle against today’s rampant epidemic of obesity.
  • Leaves readers with valuable skills in bicycle maintenance that will save them money and contribute to their enjoyment of the sport.

Table of Contents

Now we come to the heart of the proposal, which is the table-of-contents for the book. Editors often refer to this as the TOC, pronounced “tee oh see”. What we’re after here is a description of each chapter that includes:

  • Chapter name
  • Page count
  • One or two paragraphs describing the chapter’s content
  • The first level of headings for the chapter

The first level of headings is optional, but it’s something we really encourage you to try and think through. Forcing yourself to think through one level of heading helps you to recognize when your goals for a chapter don’t match up with reality.

For example, it’s easy to say that you are going to write a chapter called “Selecting the Parts for Your Bike”. But there are many parts to a bike, and more to consider about each of them than you probably realize. Youwill realize it though, when you begin to list headings and discover that your single chapter requires 30+ main sections, each with subsections. Then it’s time to back up, rethink your approach, chunk your topic into more digestible portions, and generate a list of smaller chapters such as on “Choosing a Drivetrain”, “Choosing Wheels and Brakes”, and so forth.

Working out one level of heading will help you identify and resolve many issues that otherwise will sting you by costing time and contributing stress during the writing process. We encourage you to take time to think carefully about chapter content, to do your best to make sure that each chapter’s content will fit into its allotted page-count (modulo some reasonable margin for error), and to chunk your material such that each chapter can have a reasonably short and simple heading structure. (We recommend not descending below two levels of heading except when you have a series of very short sections—almost a list—that can work as a third level).


Introduction (6 pages)

Building a bike can be fun and rewarding. Building can be an excellent project for a parent and child. Building is a way to learn enough about bike maintenance to sever much of the dependence upon a bike shop. However! Building one’s own bike is not a way to save money, at least not in the short run. It is not a way to minimize risk. Readers must understand that they will spend money; they might make mistakes such as buying parts that do not fit together, or damaging a part; they might get frustrated, especially if they aren’t naturally handy with tools. Readers must be mentally prepared to accept the costs, the challenges, the risks that come with doing their own build. Only then can they reap the rewards.

Part I: Getting Started

Readers need tools. Those tools represent an upfront cost. Readers must be willing to accept that cost before moving into the process of selecting and buying parts.

Chapter 1: The Tools (10 pages)

The number of specialized tools readers will need is actually quite small. Some of the more specialized items can be improvised. In other cases, readers can decide to have some work – such as the pressing of the headset – done at a bike shop, thus avoiding the need to buy a specific tool for a one-off event. A few tool choices must be deferred until parts are chosen. Bottom-bracket and crankset tools, for example, depend upon the specific crankset choice made later.

  1. Gathering Common Hand Tools (e.g., hex wrenches, screwdrivers)
  2. Selecting Specialized Hand Tools (e.g., cable-cutter, pedal wrench)
  3. Deciding on One-off Tools (e.g., headset press, crown race setter)

Chapter 2: Work Area and Supplies (5 pages)

The single most useful item a home bike mechanic can buy is probably the workstand, and that is where this chapter begins. The workstand holds the unfinished frame off the ground at a comfortable level for the mechanic. It is key to making mechanical work fun. Aside from a workstand, there are some other supplies that one will need, such as degreaser, cleaner, grease, and shop rags. Workspace can be as simple as a corner in the dining room, spouse permitting.

  1. Choosing a Workstand
  2. Laying in Supplies
  3. Organizing a Workspace


Part II: Frame and Parts

Part II is a series of short chapters leading readers through the process of choosing their parts. Each part decision ends with a specific recommendation from the author. The recommendations lead to a hard-tail mountain bike with a “centered” design suitable for bike paths, for recreational trail riding, for casual racing.

Chapter 3: Choosing a Frame and Fork (12 pages)

The frame is fundamental. It needs to be chosen first. The choice is partly driven by the intended style of riding. For example, racers will often choose frames with larger seat-to-bar drops than those who do not race. The tradeoff there is one of reduced comfort and increased risk of an “endo” in return for improved aerodynamics and hill-climbing. Next to the frame, the fork is the most crucial of the other choices. The fork must be appropriate to the frame. Frame and fork together essentially define the character of the bike.

  1. Choosing a Geometry (XC versus trail versus all mountain vs dirt-jump, etc)
  2. Selecting a Frame Size
  3. Finding a Fork (includes choosing axle-type)

Chapter 4: Choosing Wheels and Brakes (10 pages)

Wheels and brakes come next. They are related in that one must take care to buy either rims suitable for rim-brakes or hubs suitable for disc-brakes, depending upon the choice of brakes. There is also a tie-in to the fork choice from the previous chapter.

  1. Deciding Between Disc and Rim Brakes
  2. Choosing a Wheelset (keeping fork axle-choice in mind)
  3. Deciding Between Hydraulic and Cable Actuation
  4. Choosing a Brake Set
  5. Selecting Brake Levers


Chapter 5: Choosing a Drivetrain (12 pages)

Several parts mesh together to form the drivetrain to propel the bike forward. It makes sense to think about them together when making a choice. Some readers might also want a bashguard, either to protect their chain rings, or to keep pants from getting caught in the gearing.

  1. Eight-, Nine-, or Ten-Speed?
  2. Choosing a Crankset
  3. Choosing a Cassette
  4. Choosing a Chain
  5. Bringing on a Bashguard

Chapter 6: Choosing Derailleurs and Shifters (12 pages)

With frame and drivetrain choices out of the way, the reader can choose a front derailleur suitable to the frame and crankset, a rear derailleur suitable to the number of speeds in the back (and to the presence or absence of a bashguard in front), and finally the shifters.

  1. Choosing a Front Derailleur
  2. Choosing a Rear Derailleur
  3. Selecting Shifters

Chapter 7: Choosing Your Contact Points (12 pages)

Contact Points are the finishing touches, and represent those parts of the bike that one physically sits on, stands upon, or grabs with their hands whilst riding. Good choices here make for a comfortable and safe ride. And there is more to consider when choosing these parts than you might think.

  1. Choosing a Handlebar and Stem
  2. Selecting Grips
  3. Choosing a Seatpost
  4. Selecting a Saddle
  5. Deciding on Pedals


Chapter 8: Choosing Cables (10 pages)

Last is the choice of brake and derailleur cables. This choice includes both inner and outer cabling. For inner cabling, readers must choose between stainless steel, galvanized steel, and Teflon-coated steel. Readers who have purchased hydraulic brake sets do not need to buy brake cables, as their brake sets will have come with hydraulic line already in place.

  1. Choosing Inner Cables
  2. Selecting Outer Derailleur Cable
  3. Selecting Outer Brake Cable

Part III: The Initial Build

The reader has tools and parts. Time to build! Chapters in Part III lead readers through the build process. Each chapter represents a milestone that is sensible to accomplish in a single session. The order of assembly is based upon my own experience, and the milestone points are where I’m generally willing to leave off for the next day when I am unable to complete a build in one session.

Chapter 9: Seatpost & Crankset (including pedals) (20 pages)

The first step is to insert the seatpost. It is a best-practice to clamp a bike into the workstand using the seatpost so as to eliminate risk of damaging the frame as a result of placing too much pressure on the clamp. So seatpost first, and then bottom-bracket, crankset, and pedals. That sequence leaves readers at a good place to stop for the evening, and their kids can see pedals spinning around. Readers will end this chapter with working pedals and cranks – something to show off.

  1. Insert the Seatpost (include greasing)
  2. Clamp Bike Into Workstand
  3. Screw in the Bottom-bracket
  4. Attach Crank Arms
  5. Bolt on the Pedals
  6. Test for Trouble

Chapter 10: Fork Preparation (10 pages)

There is often much angst around the crucial step of measuring and cutting the steering tube. Some readers might choose to pay a bike shop to perform the work in this chapter. Either way, this chapter represents a “unit of work” after which the beginning reader might prefer to call it a day.

  1. Cut the Steering Tube
  2. Set the Star Nut
  3. Set the Crown Race
  4. Test for Trouble


Chapter 11: Headset, Fork, Stem (10 pages)

The next logical step is to assemble the front-end of the bike. Readers will end this chapter with an object that is much more bike-like in shape, that is ready for wheels and tires. Readers who are risk-averse will be advised to pay a professional bike mechanic to press their headset.

  1. Press the Headset
  2. Mount the Fork and Stem
  3. Tension the Headset
  4. Clamp the Stem
  5. Test for Trouble

Chapter 12: Wheels and Tires (13 pages)

It’s not a bike without wheels, is it? Now is the time to mount the tires and the wheels. Front and rear wheels are treated separately in order to discuss the different options for securing the wheels in place for riding.

  1. Mount the Tires
  2. Seat the Bead
  3. Bolt on the Cassette
  4. Place Front Wheel Into Fork (discuss quick-release clamping mechanism)
  5. Place Rear Wheel Into Dropouts
  6. Test for Trouble

Chapter 13: Bars and Brakes (16 pages)

Brakes come next. Largely that’s because everyone wants to pedal and spin the wheels after attaching the derailleurs and chain in the next chapter, so it follows that readers should have the brakes in place first. It’s also necessary to turn the rear wheel to adjust the rear derailleur. Having the brakes in place facilitates that adjustment work.

  1. Mount the Handlebars
  2. Slide on Shifters and Brake Levers
  3. Mount Disc-brake Calipers
  4. Mount V-brake Calipers
  5. Test for Trouble

Chapter 14: Derailleurs and Controls (10 pages)

Now it’s time to put on all the remaining parts. This chapter will go by fast.

  1. Bolt on the Rear Derailleur
  2. Mount the Front Derailleur
  3. Add the Chain
  4. Slip on the Grips
  5. Test for Trouble


Chapter 15: Cabling (20 pages)

Cabling is the final step prior to making the final adjustments and riding. All readers will need to run derailleur cables. Readers with cable-actuated brakes will need to run brake cables. The chapter begins by coaching readers to look at their bike and form a clear understanding of how the frame designer intended for the cables to be routed.

  1. Examining the Cable Routing Scheme
  2. Measuring and Cutting Outer Derailleur Cable
  3. Measuring and Cutting Outer Brake Cable
  4. Installing Derailleur Cables
  5. Installing Brake Cables
  6. Securing the Cables to the Frame
  7. Test for Trouble

Part IV: Adjustments

All the parts are together. Now it’s time to adjust the shifting and braking so that both work adequately. Readers also need to set the position and angles of the bar and the controls for comfort while on the bike.

Chapter 16: Adjusting the Rear Derailleur (10 pages)

Begin by adjusting the rear derailleur, because one needs to be able to shift the chain to opposite ends of the cassette when adjusting the front derailleur as described in the next chapter.

  1. Set the High-Limit
  2. Set the Low-Limit
  3. Tension the Cable
  4. Run Through the Gears
  5. Test for Trouble

Chapter 17: Adjusting the Front Derailleur (12 pages)

Many cyclists are terrified of touching their front derailleur, as if it is some demon with magical powers waiting to curse them with poor shifting and a rubbing chain. Readers have no need to fear. The front derailleur is nothing more than a metal cage. Readers can master it and become the envy of their cycling friends.

  1. Set the Low Limit
  2. Tension the Cable
  3. Run Through the Gears
  4. Set the High Limit
  5. Eliminate Rubbing
  6. Test for Trouble

Chapter 18: Dialing in the Brakes (15 pages)

Readers with cable-actuated brakes will need to adjust cable tension and caliper position to give reasonable braking power. Readers with hydraulic brakes can skip this chapter.

  1. Align Disc-Brake Calipers
  2. Align V-Brake Calipers
  3. Remove Cable Tension (include pre-stretching the cables)
  4. Dial in the Lever Feel
  5. Test for Trouble


Chapter 19: Positioning the Controls (10 pages)

Now is the time to make sure the bars and stem are straight, and that all the controls are in a position the reader finds comfortable.

  1. Level the Seat
  2. Set the Stem Straight
  3. Rotate Bars into Comfortable Position
  4. Lock Down Brake and Shifter Controls
  5. Test for Trouble

Chapter 20: Test-Riding the Bike (12 pages)

The build is done. It is time to take a test-ride and make certain everything works as well on pavement as it does on the workstand.  (Note: In this one chapter, I outline to the second heading-level in order to help me remember the important pre-ride and ride checks that I plan to cover).

  1. Perform Pre-ride Checks: Verify Quick-Release Engagement, Verify Headset Integrity, Verify Crankset Installation, Test Brake Engagement
  2. Test-ride the Bike: Test the Brakes, Test Rear Shifting, Test Front Shifting, Ensure Your Comfort
  3. Resolve Problems
  4. Job Done!

Part V Appendixes

Appendix A: Ongoing Maintenance (16 pages)

The job is never really done. A certain amount of ongoing maintenance is necessary to keep any bike performing well. Readers really need to buy another book if they want to go deep into maintenance, but I will get the off to a decent start in this appendix.

  1. My Thoughts on Maintenance
  2. Pre-ride Checks
  3. Cleaning the Bike
  4. Lubricating the Chain
  5. Seasonal Checks
  6. Further Resources


It’s nice, optional touch to include with an at-a-glance listing of parts and chapters, which I’ve done next.  I like having an at-a-glance view of a book, and I need to create one anyway for our product database.

Do be aware that listing chapters twice leads to data synchronization trouble. I wrote the main table-of-contents first. Then I copied and pasted, and deleted everything but the part and chapter titles.


Part I: Getting Started
Chapter 1: The Tools
Chapter 2: Work Area and Supplies

Part II: Frame and Parts
Chapter 3: Choosing a Frame and Fork
Chapter 4: Choosing Wheels and Brakes
Chapter 5: Choosing a Drivetrain
Chapter 6: Choosing Derailleurs and Shifters
Chapter 7: Choosing Your Contact Points
Chapter 8: Choosing Cables

Part III: The Initial Build
Chapter 9: Seatpost & Crankset
Chapter 10: Fork Preparation
Chapter 11: Headset, Fork, Stem
Chapter 12: Wheels and Tires
Chapter 13: Bars and Brakes
Chapter 14: Derailleurs and Controls
Chapter 15: Cabling

Part IV: Adjustments
Chapter 16: Adjusting the Rear Derailleur
Chapter 17: Adjusting the Front Derailleur
Chapter 18: Dialing in the Brakes
Chapter 19: Positioning the Controls
Chapter 20: Test-Riding the Bike

Part V: Appendixes
Appendix A: Ongoing Maintenance


If you’ve read thus far, you deserve a gold star. Thank you(!) for your diligence.

WritingJonathan Gennick