No matter how you intend to try to publish your book you should craft a proposal for it. This means that if you’re planning to self-publish electronically, or to self-publish on demand, or to attempt to sell your book to a traditional publisher, you should nevertheless do that resolutely old-fashioned but necessary thing, and create a proposal for your book.
You may have gone through a book-outlining process, such as the one that my colleague Michael Drew offers, that helps aspiring (and even experienced) authors draw up a plan for their book by focusing on right-brain intuitiveness rather than left-brain second-guessing. But, armed with an outline, you should still go ahead and draft up a proposal, even if it’s just for you.
You may think that you already know your subject pretty well. Or maybe you’re a writer who wants to find out more about a subject as you go along. Or you’re relying on what your audience is telling you as you build a platform as you write your book. Nevertheless, you should try to do the groundwork for your book beforehand. You need to give yourself this tool for your writing. You will discover things about your book, your market and your process along the way. First, you research what other books have been published in the last few years about your subject area. This will allow you to discover several things:
- Where your idea stands in the marketplace. As part of any proposal’s “due diligence,” a writer should search for all books on the same subject, even those that seem to have a distant connection, and see where the subjects diverge or converge. In this way you will have a better idea of your idea’s originality (many people are surprised to find that they’re not the first to have thought of something they consider to be a revolutionary). And you will also get a firmer idea of what the competition might be like. In this way, you’ll know that if only one or at most two books are connected to you by subject matter, you’ve got a better chance of finding new readers. If, on the other hand, you determine through your research that some 10 to 15 other titles on your subject already exist, it’s time to think again. Tweak your idea and see where you can make it more original.
- The potential of your idea in the marketplace. You can determine if books around the subject matter you’ve chosen (not necessarily your take on it) have done well. If so, then discussions of the subject clearly address a need.
- Who are the big names or not-so-big names you might be up against. It shouldn’t matter who your competition is if you’ve got a particularly compelling idea. But you should still know who’s out there.
Then you should write a prÃ©cis of your book, and what it is going to say â€“ be specific. This is more than “I have a great idea about efficiency in the workplace.” Once you’ve got that idea, you need to flesh it out and talk about why that works, how it’s worked, why it’s new and why you’re the expert. You need to create a fuller chapter outline, with a synopsis, than you might have done when you first thought of the book.
This will give you a more detailed game plan for research and writing; you’re less likely to lose your way. You can, of course, deviate from a chapter outline you’ve written in a proposal, as your research and writing reveal new things. But you need to start somewhere and the initial work on your chapter outline will serve you well as you move forward. You will then discuss your plans for promoting the book once it’s published.
This is especially important to a traditional publisher, of course but it should really also be important to you Today, the burden of promotion really falls on the author. And if you’ve put thought behind how you’re going to promote your book, offering a detailed and step-by-step plan of action (even if at this point it’s only you who reads it), you are ahead of things, and you can begin to tailor your platform work toward the marketing of your book as you write it. Writing a book proposal takes a lot of work and thought and attention to detail. But it pays off for you by forcing you to be organized, to think more deeply about your subject and how you approach it â€“ and to get you started on the way to writing your book.
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