Sell Your Book Idea With A Well-Written Book Proposal

| January 13, 2012 | Comments (220)

Are you writing a non-fiction, self-help type of book? If you are, you are in luck because… guess what? You could actually sell your book to an agent or publisher with a well-written book proposal and just a sample chapter or two. You don’t need to complete the whole book!

But writing a good book proposal is not without challenges. There are a lot of details that must be addressed. You must know your book inside and out and be ready to explain how YOU are going to market the heck out of it!

So how can you make your book proposal get noticed? That seems to be a difficult question to answer at best because each book proposal is unique, just as each book is unique. It’s time to do some homework!

The point that new authors seem to miss is that writing a book proposal is not as much about the book as it is about the “marketing” of the book. Simply put—a book proposal is a business plan for a book. A publisher or an agent wants to know that your book is going to sell—it has the potential to make money! And it’s your task to convince them of that probability.

But your saying, “I know my book is going to sell, it’s a great idea, I just know it!” And you know what the publisher or agent wants you to do? They want you to PROVE IT! Let me say this again….It’s your task to convince an agent or publisher that your book will sell, and you have to show them WHY you believe that to be true. How do you do that? With facts!

An industry standard book proposal contains many components. We’ll look at each one of them here and give you some pointers to make each section strong. So let’s dig into this subject and hopefully you’ll come away with some solid ideas about how you can write a winning book proposal. Let’s see what it takes!

Overview:

Here is where you’ll introduce the book. What is your book about? This section should be concise, to ensure the reader that you can explain the book clearly, without rambling on. It should be no more than one or two pages. A key point to remember is that you are writing an “advertisement” for the book. You want to give as much powerful information as possible in a brief format that will keep the person reading. You really have to come out punching! You must intrigue the reader to continue reading—and arouse curiosity.

Also in this section you must include information about yourself—why are you qualified to write this book? What is your platform? Why are you an expert? What are your credentials? What work do you do in relation to your book’s topic? What is the market for the book? Can you put an exact number on that? What makes your book stand out from others in the same field? What are you going to tell us that is new information? Is the topic timely, or timeless? What is your approach?

Author Biography

The harsh reality of this section is the most difficult to overcome as a new author. Here is where your author’s platform will either make or break the book proposal. More editors reject proposals for nonfiction works for an under-developed author’s platform, or the lack of any platform than for any other reason.

In this section, you must do your very best to show that you are an absolute “expert” in your field. With the turmoil that the publishing industry has been going through, it is difficult at best to get anywhere in the business if you are not a “known commodity.” This is not to say that you cannot make it as a new author, you can, but your work is cut out for you and you will generally be swimming upstream until you break through. This is exactly why you see publisher’s jumping to publish books by celebrities. They are already established, have a following, have tons of people that know and love them, and they are bankable.

But this is not an impossible task. You just have to put your “salesperson” hat on and really start tooting your own horn. I have found that this is sometimes difficult for new authors I work with. I have to coax them into realizing how much they have done and how much they have to offer by going over their resume and history, and then creating a very detailed long and short bio piece for them.

Some questions to consider here are…What is your national platform? Do you do workshops or give speeches? Where will you be doing this? Who do you know who is famous? You’ll include that information in the marketing plan, but you must speak to it here as well. Have you written for magazines or been featured on a news show or radio show? Local is good, but national is better. This type of information gives you national recognition, which once again sells books. Pull out all the stops and include as much information as you can think of. It can always be edited out if it does not really pertain.

Marketing

I don’t even like to say that any of these three section is more important than the other. They are all important, and the Marketing Plan is crucial. You have to tell the editor or publisher or agent how YOU are going to sell your book. That’s right. Here is another thing many new authors don’t understand. YOU have to get out there and market and sell your book—period!

So now that you’ve convinced the publisher that your book idea is marketable, and you are marketable, you have to show them HOW you are going to do it. So for instance, we mentioned in the Author’s Biography section that you were a speaker, right? In this section we are going to tell more about that. WHERE and WHEN you will be speaking?

Do you have a schedule that is in place with dates, times and locations? Great, include it in this section. Here we want as much detail as possible. Do you write regularly for a magazine or newspaper? Include it! Do you have strong ties to associations, groups, or corporations where you will be able to speak? Who are your contacts in those places? Can you get a letter saying you are going to speak in those locations? Include it! Remember, continue to focus on what makes you special.

Here we are talking about what you are already doing, and what you have scheduled to do in the next year. How many people do you plan on speaking to? What are the topics of your speeches, seminars, or workshops?

Do you have an established website or blog with lots of follower? How is your email list doing? Do you have lots of dedicated subscribers? What are the demographics? Are people in the media seeking you out? Can you pick up the phone and call someone from the NY Times? Who is in your rolodex? Who do you have on speed dial that is important in the media? Include it! Is it a known fact that the market for your book is growing? Prove it! Also, do you know someone in your field that is famous and also a published author or a recognized authority that would be so gracious as to write a foreword for your book? Are there any organizations you are a member of that you can contact that would buy your book in bulk? Publisher’s love to hear that you already have a market for 50,000 books!

Competition

In this section you want to select some books that are similar to yours, but you must show that yours has something that the others don’t have. Competition is another reason books are rejected. Or it can be the lack of competition, which means there may not be any interest on the subject. Once again, going into sales mode, you have to prove that your book is a stand out in its category. Put yourself in the publisher’s shoes for a minute, and do your best to convince them.

A good exercise to do is to go to a large bookstore and go to section where your book would be located if it was published. Look at all the books you are competing with. Find the best ones, and then proceed to honestly ask yourself what does yours have that the others don’t have? Choose about three examples and then use them in your comparison—yes, a “comparative market analysis,” in this section. If you can convey this and make it convincing in your proposal, a huge part of the battle will be won! Reviewing the books also shows that you are an expert in your field. You must show that you are aware of who your competition is in your genre. Never assume that publishers and editors don’t know the competing books—they do!

Table of Contents (TOC) and Chapter Summaries

You probably skim through the TOC of a book when you’re browsing the book shelves at your favorite book store right? Right! And that’s exactly why you need to include this section in your proposal. The TOC gives another overview of the book, its contents. What are you going to talk about? Titles should be attention grabbing, but stay on subject. The titles of each chapter should deliver the goods. In other words, they reflect what the reader will be getting in the chapter. It’s also important to include any supplementary information that may be in the book here. This could include forms, charts diagrams, etc. You get the idea.

The Chapter Summaries will be your shining opportunity to show your writing style. Remember, you are being given a great opportunity to submit a proposal without submitting an entire completed manuscript as you would need to do if you were writing a memoir or a novel. So use this opportunity to write your summaries and once again make them intriguing and show your style! The summaries should be exciting and fun to read, provoking interest in your book. Use your writer’s voice! Here is your golden opportunity to make the editor want to read the full chapters you have included in the next section of your book proposal. As with everything in the book proposal, the point here is the stir up interest in your book, and keep the editor, publisher, or agent reading!

Chapters (Select two or three you want to include in their entirety)

We call them Sample Chapters because that’s exactly what they are, but they are the full chapters. You are giving the editor a chance to sample your writing. They will give a feel for your voice and style, but they should be your best work. Take time on these chapters to really make them shine. You must feel that they would be ready to publish exactly as they are. This is not the place to submit “draft” type work. Editing is of the utmost importance here. The chapters must be free of typos, using perfect punctuation and consistent style.

And remember, you don’t have to submit the first chapter of the book here. It can be any one you want. Remember, we are basing this on the fact that your book might not even be completed, so whatever chapters you have done already are the ones you can submit. Just make sure that the quality is there. Use your most interesting information here. You also want to reflect that you are ready to do the work, so the work you submit should reflect your professionalism and your ability to get the job done. Hasty does not fly here. Keep remembering, you are grabbing attention here, so make it your best work. Don’t be afraid to go all out!

Publicity

Here you will supply every bit of publicity including magazine and newspaper article, radio interviews, TV appearances, copies of articles you have written that have been published.

Conclusion

So there you have it, the contents of a solid book proposal. There are many more details involved here that I did not cover in this article, but this should have given you a good idea and what is needed as far as the bulk of information you need to gather and share.

If you have more questions about the format, pages, your author’s platform , how to come up with a good title for your book, or any other questions you may have, please feel free to contact me at publisher@balancedrockpress.com

I would be happy to arrange a free 30-minute telephone consultation.

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