In How to Approach Publishing as a Business, Part 1, I outlined the first steps a potentially successful author MUST take before entering into the highly competitive publishing industry. Today, I’d like to talk about the second most important task: how to write a book proposal.
Forget about writing a book proposal for a publisher. (Although if you do approach a traditional publisher with your project, he/she will, most likely, want to see a book proposal.)
The most important reason for writing a book proposal for a nonfiction, fiction and even a children’s book or book of poetry, is for YOU. Here’s what you need to know before launching a book. And this is true whether you plan to land a major publisher, go with one of the many smaller publishers, sign with a fee-based POD self-publishing service, or self-publish (establish your own publishing company).
Through the process of writing a book proposal, you will discover the answers to these questions:
1. Is my book a viable product, and is there a market for it?
2. Who is my target audience and how large is it?
3. How will I reach this audience?
4. How will I promote the book?
5. What is my competition?
6. What is my platform? (Credentials, expertise, following, way of attracting an audience.) If you don’t have a platform, start establishing one now.
A well-developed book proposal can tell you whether you have a book at all — and if not, how to tweak it so that it becomes a viable product.
Of course, all of this should be done before even considering writing a book. Unfortunately, many hopeful and new authors operate on emotions rather than business sense. They haven’t learned yet that publishing is not an extension of their writing.
Wake up folks! Why do you think that over 3/4 of all books fail? It’s because most authors bypass the onramp to publishing success.
What happens to authors if they bypass the onramp to publishing success?
1. They produce a book that is not well-written on a subject of interest to only a small segment of people or a slant that actually repels the very audience they want to attract.
2. Even though they have never written anything before, they trust that they’ve done it well and don’t bother to hire an editor.
3. They start seeking publication immediately after placing the last period. When their book isn’t welcomed with open arms by the majors, they pay a publishing service to produce it. This is okay, if the author is industry-savvy and understands the contract before signing it.
4. They never consider, until it’s too late, that they will have to promote the book. Or they don’t think this truth applies to them. One hopeful author told me several months ago that his book would sell itself. IF he ever got published and if he didn’t change his attitude, I’m pretty sure his is one of the over ¾ of authors who sold fewer than 100 copies last year.
What’s the answer? What is the key to publishing success? It’s nothing new—it’s not a big secret. Just think back on the other successes you’ve experienced in your lifetime. What were they based on? If you’re candid, your list will probably include:
Yes, your business (sports, parenting, relationship, artistic and other) successes were based on these attributes and activities. Therefore, it only makes sense that you would consider them when seeking success as an author.
[This article was written by guest contributor Patricia Fry, author of 37 books and executive director of SPAWN (Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network) www.spawn.org. Her latest book is Talk Up Your Book (Allworth Press). Follow her informative publishing blog daily: www.matilijapress.com/publishingblog.]