Thursday, August 16, 2007

Marketing Tip: Write Yourself a Book Proposal

Don't write a book without one: If you're on the hunt for someone to publish your book, you'll send prospective publishers a proposal. If you're smart, that is. (If you're not smart, you'll send them all a manuscript that they'll throw in the wastebasket.) Writing a book proposal is a good exercise--even if you're planning to publish your book yourself. The reason: the book proposal is your primary planning document. Here are the basic steps:

  • Write a short description of your target reader. Instead of using generalities, describe a specific person, or couple, or family. Depending on your book, relevant details might include their appearance, their age, their marital status, their family size, their income, their needs, their desires, their values. If you can picture an actual person in your mind, more’s the better. (Note: if your book’s buyers will be different from your book’s readers--the case for children’s books, for example), you might have to split this exercise in two.)
  • Write a short summary of your message. This is best phrased as how you will change your reader’s life. This is a powerful concept. The change you promise may be modest—maybe you are a mystery writer who only wants to entertain someone sunning herself on a beach—but the more significant the change you can promise, the more likely you are to find readers and the higher price your book can command. If you can’t promise to change someone’s life, why do you expect anyone to buy your book?
  • Decide on a working title and subtitle. Generally, the title and subtitle should clue your potential editor and reader into what your book has to say and to whom. Be descriptive rather than poetic How to Make a Million Dollars Selling Widgets is a stronger title than Widgets Gone Wild. If you must be clever and creative with your title, your subtitle definitely will need to the do the descriptive job. As in: Widgets Gone Wild: How I Became a Billionaire Selling Widgets.
  • Write Your Table of Contents. Again, your Table of Contents should be descriptive. The purpose is to clarify (for yourself, if you’re self-publishing, and ultimately for your readers) where you are taking your readers and what you will do for them. Your Table of Contents is an extremely powerful marketing device, one that may determine whether someone buys your book or not. Writing a good one—it’s basically an outline—also will make it easier for you to finish writing your manuscript. And it will definitely help you stay on track.
That’s it. Now you’ve got a proposal that defines your book from the ground up.--Ken Guentert, The Publishing Pro.

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