Today, I spent some time at the Small Publishers Artists and Writers Network (SPAWN) web site. This site is filled with great information for publishers. In a number of articles, author Patricia Fry recommends that aspiring book authors write a book proposal.
If you plan to self-publish a book, you may be thinking, "I don't need to do that; book proposals are only if you want to be published by a big New York publisher!" Technically, that may be true, and I confess that I've never written an "official" book proposal like the ones you read about in many "how to get published" books. However, I did have a plan for my books long before I ever published them.
A book proposal has many of the same elements as a marketing or business plan. Virtually every book on starting a business or entrepreneurship recommends writing a business plan. For the same reasons, you should write a plan or book proposal for your book. Having a plan increases your odds of success.
Even a rough book proposal forces you to think about the book. If you write about the book before you write the book itself, you can save yourself a huge amount of pain and suffering in the long run. If you write a book proposal for a major publisher, they are going to want to know who will read the book (the market), what the competing books are in the marketplace, and how you plan to market the book when it's finished.
As a self-publisher, you too should have answers to these questions before you start writing. Unfortunately, countless failed self-publishers simply start writing without thinking about who might actually read the book. As I've written in the past, I wrote my books partly from articles that already existed. However, when I was compiling the information, I knew what the book would be about and who would read it. I already had written up information about the reader, researched the competition, and thought about how I was going to position the book in the marketplace. Armed with that information, I knew how I could re-slant my existing articles so they'd make sense as a book.
The bottom line is that if you craft a plan for your book first, it's a lot easier to write the book second. A book proposal doesn't have to be an elaborate document, but it should contain the following information.
1. An overview or summary of the book. Describe what the book is about. Explain why anyone should care that it exists. Some book proposal books suggest imagining that you have 5 minutes with a publisher to convince them they should publish the book. What would you tell them?
2. Market analysis. Who is the target reader? What are her likes and dislikes? Where does she live? What other books exist that cover this topic? How is your book different?
3. Your credentials. Why are you the right person to write this book? Maybe you have life experiences or a professional background that gives you the expertise to write authoritatively on the topic.
4. Marketing plan. How do you intend to promote the book after it's done? If you do a lot of speaking or are involved with an organization, how can you leverage that to sell the book?
5. Outline. Even if it's only a preliminary outline, you should have some idea what you are going to cover in the book.
One reason I self-publish is because, if I'm going to go to all this planning work, I may as well just write the book, instead of handing my fabulous ideas off to some other publisher and hope they deem them worthy. No matter how you opt to publish, don't skip the planning phase. The information you gather will help you write a better book and do a better job of marketing it when it's done.
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