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Lately, we have been getting a lot of calls and emails asking what goes into a book proposal. We are happy to post on any questions, but we thought this overview might be helpful.
When you are ready to pull together your “bits and pieces” and introduce yourself to the agent and publishing community, here are the elements you need to have ready to go:
Strong Positioning Statement – this is your elevator speech. 4 sentences or less on why your book will sell, who will buy it and why you’re qualified to write it. Remember, 4 sentences or less.
Overview—You get a full paragraph or two here. Describe what the book is, the subject matter it covers and why it’s relevant. Make sure you use marketing language and put your best face forward. You’re selling here.
About the Author—Make yourself shine. Highlight your media appearances. Talk about your blog or seminars or workshops. Be specific about your expertise and experience. Convince a publisher or agent that you have something to say, people are interested in what you have to say and you know how to sell your content.
The Market—While statistics may just be numbers, the reality is that numbers matter. You need to show that there is a large population of readers that will by your book. If you have a self-help book, talk about the number of people facing the problem that your book discusses. Business book? How many business out there are struggling with a problem that you have a solution for? Percentages, populations, and lots of facts drive the message here. If you have a message that people are clamoring for, most likely you’ve found an audience for your book.
Marketing Plan—The days of the publisher doing the marketing for your book are over. Any well-crafted book proposal includes the author’s own marketing plan. How are you going to sell your book? Think strategically and realistically within your budget. Do you have a website? If so, how many unique hits do you get a month? Have you been doing any workshops or seminars? Do you plan on writing articles for your local newspaper? Do you have contacts in the media that will help you get on radio or television? Have you posted articles about you and your book online. What’s your plan to get the word out about the book?
The Book—Include a detailed outline. If explanation is needed, 2-3 sentences per chapter that provides an overview is most likely enough to get you noticed.
The Competition—And yes, there is competition out there. If there’s no book exactly like yours, what books will be shelved near yours? What books have the same purchaser? List the competition. Consider including a sentence or two under each competitive title and highlight why your book is unique or different. Be realistic when listing competitive titles and how you’re book appeals to the same audience.
Endorsements—Talk to your friends. Talk to your colleagues. Talk to your acquaintances. Call in any favors. You want to show that people are reading your book and are excited about it. If they haven’t read the book (because it’s not quite finished, which is fine), get a quote about you and your program. How are you changing lives? How have you and your message impacted the people around you?
Sample Chapters—Read the guidelines for the agent or author you’re submitting to. How many sample chapters do they request with a proposal? Remember to proofread, proofread, proofread. No typos here. Include the best sample chapters of your book. This is your opportunity to show that you know your subject, know how to write about it, and can create a polished manuscript.
SASE—If you’re submitting unsolicited proposals, remember to enclose a SASE. Otherwise, you may never hear back from the publisher or agent with valuable advice or feedback.
- The Publisher – Do they have your best interests at heart? Does your book “fit” with their existing list? Are you satisfied with the relationships you have built with that publisher?
- The Deal – Make sure you read any contract carefully before you sign. Does that offer you’ve been made match industry standards? Have you done the math – and fully understand –the amount of money you’ll be making per book? Have you figured out the number of books that must be sold for you to earn back your advance?
- The Marketing—While many people believe that a marketing plan should come with the contract, that’s simply not the case. Publishers, and editors, are too busy to develop a marketing plan for each book they take on. However, you can do some digging on your own.
- Request a Catalog – have you heard of the Publisher’s books? Specifically, can
you research some of the books they’ve published in your same category and find
out if they’ve received any press
- Speak with a Publicist – it’s perfectly appropriate to request 10 minutes of a publicist’s time to find out if they have experience working with your type of book and find out their “generic” marketing plan for your category.
If you’re satisfied with the publisher, the deal, and the marketing department, it’s time to move to the contract. If you don’t have an agent, we’d strongly suggest that you get a second set of eyes to review your publishing contract. Unfortunately, your family lawyer probably isn’t qualified to do it for you. Talk to other authors. Get online to check out publishing contracts. Call a consultant. Make sure that you’re getting outside advice on what you should be asking for.
Finally, don’t ever be afraid to negotiate. While the reality is the publisher may not be able to meet all your demands, you won’t know until you ask.
I am thrilled to welcome Dr. Barbara Holstein to New Shelves. Dr. Barbara is the author of several books including her latest, The Truth. I asked Dr. Barbara to share with us her experiences navigating the world of Amazon.com.
Over the last several months, Dr. Barbara’s book has steadily grown in rank and increased in sales through Amazon. The sales and success can be traced directly back to her efforts on the site as a participant in their numerous discussion groups and using the tools they offer. We could all learn a lot from her.
So, with that, I encourage you to enjoy this short and helpful article about her experiences on Amazon.com:
If you ever want to experience a deep forest with wild rivers and secret caverns, without even leaving home, I suggest you take a trip to the Amazon. That is www.amazon.com .
It is an amazing place. I’ve been visiting it on and off for more than a year and I am still getting to know my way around. When my newest book came out last January, THE TRUTH (I’m Smart, I’m a Girl and I Know Everything), The Cadence Group suggested that I have a profile page and do reviews of other authors.
Since that time I have created a profile page, have reviewed about 70 books by other authors, and am still doing reviews as often as I can.
I have started a few discussion groups and posted answers to others.
Also, I have tagged my own book, with explanations. When I have been able to chat with someone who may be reviewing my book later, I remind them to make sure to Tag.
All of these steps have taken a lot of time and effort. I don’t know which of these steps has benefited THE TRUTH (I’m a Girl, I’m Smart and I Know Everything) the most.
That’s the thing-it is a trip into the Amazon, and like any adventure into the great unknown, we don’t always know what is working and what is not. But I can tell you, have faith and take the adventure. You will have a lot of fun and for sure your book’s Amazon rank will profit. My book was #13 a few days ago in the top 100 for BEING A TEEN. That is a great reward for taking a trip into the unknown!
I wish you great success and happy adventuring.
Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein,
Book Marketing is the act of letting the end user, the reader, know that your book is available and where to find it. Successful books are marketed in a manner that results in a reader purchasing your book and taking it home. A well-marketed book starts with a well-written marketing statement
Starting with the Basics:
To create a truly effective marketing statement, start with the Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How.
- Who will actually shell out the money to buy your book? Outline their age, finances, gender, and circumstances.
- What makes your book worth the consumer’s dollars?
- Where will your readers find your book?
- When will your readers need your book? At what point in their lives will they need your book?
- Why is your book more appealing than others in the same category are? (Be brutally honest here. Do you compete on price? Is your information more up to date?)
How will your potential readers find out about your book?
Your Positioning Statement
Get all this down on paper and look at it. You are now prepared to write your book’s positioning statement. When you are ready to present your book to the world (readers, bookstores, publicists, buyers, etc.), the most important tool in your arsenal will be the positioning statement. This statement is 100 words that outline for a potential buyer the reasons why your book will be of interest to their clients.
These 100 words should not outline what your book is about. This statement exists to talk about the potential market for your book and how you, as the publisher, plan to reach that market.
For example, if you have identified your core readership as business executives looking for a new job, your positioning statement could look something like this:
Shut Up and Hire Me is a step-by-step program designed for the busy business executive. Each chapter was written and designed to be read in less than ten minutes. Unlike other career guides on the shelf today, Shut Up and Hire Me draws from the wisdom and experience of CEOs from more than thirty Fortune 500 companies. Interviews, combined with proven techniques, are provided to help executives find and land their next position. Author Bill Billiam has hired top New York PR firm, Blown Out of Proportion, and is the author of such previous works as: Better Dead than Unemployed and More Money for Less Work.
Try it and see what you can come up with!
It is every writer’s dream to see his or her book in the front window of the local bookstore. It is fun to imagine tall, colorful stacks of your books surrounded by throngs of curious readers flipping through the pages while others rush to the cash register with their copy.
Feel free to continue this fantasy as you finish your manuscript, but in order to make that dream come true, the time is coming when you have to stop thinking like a writer and start thinking like a publisher.
Whether you are going to publish the book yourself or work to have it published by a mainstream publishing house, believe it or not, writing the book was the easy part. Your work is just beginning.
The first step on this journey to being published is to realize that for publishers, the dream location is not the bookstore shelf; that shelf is simply a short stop on the way to the real destination … a reader’s bookshelf.
The only bookshelf that truly counts is that of the consumer.
If you’re truly serious about getting your book published, then you need to shake off the fantasies and take a good, hard look at the challenges ahead. This isn’t meant to discourage you. On the contrary, the better prepared you are, the more successful you will be in reaching your goal.
The path a writer’s work takes through the publishing process, into the retail market, and then onto a consumer’s bedside table is arduous. I know that, as a writer, you are enthusiastic about your work and determined to see it through to book form. While these are certainly helpful qualities in battling the challenges ahead, there is one tool to help you overcome the obstacles and push forward during the final stretch: knowledge.
Take the time to learn about the industry as a whole, how to think like a publisher, and what steps to take to create a successful book. Step by step, maneuver the book industry’s websites, discussion groups, newsletters, and advice forums.
Here are some importants sites and newsletters that will help you learn more about the industry. Check them out online!
Yahoo Self Publishing Group
The best way to start a journey is to learn as much about your destination as possible. Once you know where you’re going, you’ll be able to plan your route to get there. So set your writing aside for the moment and explore the book industry and learn everything you can about that oh-so-important part of the publishing industry: the reader.