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Turning Your Expertise and Creativity into Cash, Part 10
In session 9, you created a rough draft of your book’s table of contents.
In session 10, you’ll discover what many/most publishers and agents want to see first from writers.
The reality is that, if you plan to write a nonfiction book, you typically don’t write the entire book before trying to sell it (although you certainly can). Quite often, a publisher initially wants either a query letter or a book proposal, even if the book manuscript is complete.
In a book proposal, there are usually these elements:
- Executive summary of the book
- Writer’s bio and platform
- Target audience analysis
- Competitive analysis
- Promotion plan
- Annotated table of contents
- Sample chapters
Now, to describe each of these sections fully would require another course, but here is a brief overview:
Executive summary of the book: It often makes sense to write this section last, after you have all of the rest of the pieces/parts of the proposal put together. This is a high-level look at your book and your best shot at writing the most compelling – even dazzling – text you can to grab that editor’s or publisher’s attention.
Writer’s bio and platform: Here is your chance to sell the publishing house on you, as a writer. Share relevant writing experiences, including previously traditionally published books, if any (and perhaps self -published books if you were impressively successful in sales), along with summaries of other published credits. Be sure to focus on whatever previous publishing experience makes you the ideal candidate for your current book idea, as well as any other relevant expertise that you have – or have access to.
Target audience: Who would want to buy your book? Be as specific as possible and include potential numbers whenever possible. For example, if you are writing a book about new ways to help your child deal with and perhaps even thrive with autism, research numbers of people belonging to autism-related groups and so forth. Do not succumb to the temptation to say that this book is for everyone or otherwise inflate numbers. Be thorough and realistic.
Competitive analysis: Describe what other similar books are available and what makes your idea different and/or better. Perhaps the audience is different; for example, there may already be a book out about these new methods for helping youth with autism, but it is directed towards social workers and teachers, while yours is in layman’s language for parents. Or, perhaps your book is targeted for children and the only books currently available on a particular subject are too advanced for your target audience. If there are no other books on the subject, that actually may not be a good thing as it may indicate a lack of interest in the topic.
Promotion plan: How will you participate in the promotion of your book? Do you have a solid blog following? An extensive social media network? Mention those, for sure. Do you have opportunities to provide programs about the topics in your book, perhaps at schools, libraries, church groups, business groups and/or other locales? A nicely filled out promotion plan is a real plus in the eyes of editors and publishers.
Annotated table of contents: List all of the chapters in your book along with a brief description (perhaps a paragraph or so) about each. This will help the editor and/or publisher envision the completed book and will help you in your planning and structuring of your research and writing.
Sample chapters: Publishing houses typically request 1 to sample 3 chapters. Fulfill the requirements stated in their writer’s guidelines and send your best, most polished work. Consider spending some money to get a professional editor (a “book doctor,” if you will) to review these chapters and provide feedback. You certainly don’t need to accept all of the recommended changes and advice, but a good editor will help to increase your chances of a publishing contract.
It’s impossible to include everything about writing a book proposal in a mere 700 words. In fact, an entire book couldn’t contain all there is to say about writing one. But, this will get you started if you want to explore the possibilities.
Action item: Create an annotated table of contents. When you’re finished with this section of the proposal, you will probably know if this project excites you enough to take the plunge and create the entire book proposal, including the sample chapters. Best of luck!
Congratulations! You’re almost done! Head on over to the wrap-up to finish this course.