Posts Tagged ‘contents’

Your book proposal for your first book is among the most important documents you’ll ever prepare. It often represents the formal beginning of your journey to a published book.

Book proposals serve two primary, and several secondary, purposes:

  1. Sales piece. If you’re hoping to have a conventional publisher sell your book through online and through bricks-and-mortar retail bookstores, your book proposal functions as a direct-response sales letter intended to them to invest time and money into your project. It has to spell-out the inevitability of your book’s success to skeptical readers.
  2. Marketing plan. Regardless whether you are looking at trade publishers, or intend to publish your book yourself, your book proposal must describe how you are going to market and promote your book before and after it’s publication. Your proposal has to describe the market your book addresses, the benefits it offers, how it differs from existing books on the topic, and the specific steps you’re going to take to sell it to its intended readers.

Secondary purposes include providing a sample of your ability to communicate in print. In many ways, the style and detail of your proposal are as important as the contents of the proposal. A professionally written and presented proposal communicates to literary agents and acquisition editors that you’re an author worth paying attention to. Even if the proposed book doesn’t meet their current publishing needs, a proposal can open doors to other opportunities.

But, a rambling proposal that hasn’t been thoroughly edited and proofread can close the door to future possibilities.

Elements included in book proposals

A book proposal includes seven sections. These provide the structure needed to communicate the details of your project. The sections include:

  1. Engagement. The proposed title and the first paragraph of your book must immediately engage the interest of your agent or publisher in the first paragraph, or two. The title and opening paragraph must communicate at a glance, describing what your book is about, how it differs from the competition, why it will sell, and how you’re going to market and promote it. The first sentence and paragraph of your proposal must “hook” your prospective agent or editor’s interest and “sell” the importance of reading on. Each sentence and paragraph must continue selling, providing details that support the premise, or big idea, behind your book. If the initial sentence and paragraph fail to convince, the remainder of your proposal probably doesn’t have a chance, either.
  2. Description. The second section, sometimes called an overview, provides an opportunity to step back and provide the details necessary to support the promise offered by your book title and first paragraph. Think of this section as the 30,000 foot view of your project, your qualifications, and how you came to propose the book.
  3. Market. Next, you have to prove that a market exists for your book. You have to describe the characteristics of the market you’re writing for and their goals and objectives. You have to prove that you know how to reach your prospective readers and tap into their urgent need for assistance solving a problem or achieving goals. In addition, this section must include a review of existing books, so you can show how your book provides a fresh, needed perspective that goes beyond any currently available book.
  4. Contents. After you have proven the existence of a market and the need for your book, you have to prove how your book will live up to the promise expressed in its title and the premise described in the opening paragraphs. It’s not necessary to completely write your book, but it is necessary to show that you have put a lot of work into organizing your book into sections and chapters. Each chapter should be described in a couple of sentences, followed by 7-10 bullet points corresponding to the main ideas you plan to include in each chapter.
  5. Author platform and promotion. This section begins with an overview of your current online presence, and goes on to describe how you are going to market and promote your book before and after its publication. Limit your marketing plan to the print, broadcast, public relations, and social media that you realistically expect to employ for marketing and promoting your book, and list the marketing affiliates and professional services you intend to work with. Remember that your marketing plan will be judged on both its detail and its creditability. Avoid unrealistic promises or a laundry list of media alternatives, but do emphasize your network of professional connections in your field.
  6. Qualifications. Why should a publisher trust you with their money? How do they know you will deliver. Rather than list your academic credentials, family situation, or employment background, place the emphasis on your accomplishments and achievements. It’s not important that you “love to write” or have “great passion for your topic.” It’s more important to communicate that you are driven to succeed and do whatever it takes to accomplish your goals. (Note: you don’t have to say you’re a good writer, because the writing in your proposal should speak for itself!)
  7. Details. This section, like the previous, can be relatively short. In this section, describe the anticipated size of your book and the number of pages you’d like to see in the printed book. Describe the number of colors and illustrations, or photographs, you intend to include. And briefly mention topics for follow-up topics that will expand the book into a series. Finally, provide a realistic date for completing the manuscript, following receipt of a publishing contract.

Your proposal is an investment

If the above sounds like a lot of work, it can be!

However, your book proposal is an investment that doesn’t have to be repeated! Once you have your proposal, you have done the hard part—you’ve identified a book that needs to be written, and you have identified the information needed, and you have organized that into a logical order.

You’ve also created a marketing and promotion plan for selling your book.

Many authors find it harder to prepare a book proposal than it is to complete a book!

Writing is easy when you know what you’re going to write, and marketing becomes easier when you know what you want to happen, and when.

Writing a book proposal can be a lonely proposition, unless you’re working with an experienced book coach. But, when you’re actually writing your book, you typically have access to editors and proofreaders who will provide the feedback and support necessary to create a successful book.

Prepare your book proposal as carefully as you’d prepare a marketing plan for your career. Your book proposal can be the catalyst that transforms your career and, with it, your life!


Roger-Step1-PlanOne of the most important decisions you should ask yourself during the planning process is, “Who is my intended reader?”

Your answer to the question will have a lot of bearing on the overall profitability of your book publishing project as well as help you make faster progress. Your response will influence your book’s title and subtitle, your book’s contents, as well as how you market your book.

More important, by carefully answering the above question, you can not only serve your most target market better, but you might also be able to write a shorter book and get it to press faster!

All readers are not created equal

Roger-Parker-Post-2-Reader-IDentif-Plnr-TWO.jpgThe market segments you want to sell to in the future should determine the readers your book targets. As every business owner and marketing professional knows, some segments are more profitable, more loyal, and easier to deal with than others.

By identifying your most desired clients as early during the planning process as possible, you tailor your book to your A-list prospect’s needs, rather than “spinning your wheels” with more B-list and C-list prospects.

Thus, start to plan your book by analyzing your firm’s past and current clients. I recommend creating a worksheet similar to the Published & Profitable Reader Identification Worksheet shown at left. Worksheets make it easy for you to answer questions like:

  1. What characteristics do my most profitable, A-list, clients have in common?
  2. What are their problems and goals?
  3. Why is this reader segment important to me?
  4. What problems and services do I hope to sell them in the future?
  5. What keywords do they use when searching for information online?
  6. Who are the experts this market segment trusts?

What your answers will reveal

Your responses to the above questions will help you get started planning a profitable book, one that will open doors of opportunity by attracting qualified prospects and search engine traffic.

Let’s analyze each question and the information your answer will provide:

  1. What characteristics do my most profitable, A-list, clients have in common? Your response will help you better understand the readers market segment most likely to turn into profitable long-term clients.
  2. What are their problems and goals? By focusing on your most profitable market segment, you can tailor your book’s contents and marketing message to their particular needs. You can “go deep” and better address this market segment’s needs, without diluting your message by attempting to appeal to the needs of every market segment.
  3. Why is this reader segment important to me? Your answer will reinforce the reasons for focusing your book to appeal to a few, key, marketing segments. You can state your answer in terms of average cost per sale, frequency of purchase (i.e., cash-flow), the number of referrals they generate, the promptness of their payments, their long-term loyalty, or ease of dealing with them.
  4. What problems and services do I hope to sell them in the future? Knowing what you want to sell them in the future helps you identify the content needed for your book. You’ll be able to subtly plant the seeds of future purchases in your book, highlighting areas of your expertise and describing the benefits of taking action with the help of your tools or your qualified assistance.
  5. What keywords do they use when searching for information online? Knowing the terms that attract appropriate search engine traffic will help you choose the right title and subtitle for your book as well as the right section titles and chapter titles. Book titles that contain relevant keywords enjoy a great advantage over their more creative, but less SEO-friendly, competition.
  6. Who are the experts this market segment trusts? Your answer will help you identify your competition, existing books in your area as well as the blogs and websites that are competing for your ideal client’s attention. Addressing this question now saves you time in the future when you are preparing the “competing books” section of your book proposal.

As you can see above, there are numerous benefits to beginning your author journey by identifying your most desired readers. In addition to doing a better job of serving their needs, by focusing on your ideal prospects, you might be able to write a shorter book. A book that serves “everybody” has to be encyclopedic, but books that target specific markets can focus on just the desired market’s information needs. Thus, a shorter book that can be brought to market faster.

Take action now

Your Reader Identification Worksheet doesn’t have to be fancy. You can create one by simply taking a sheet of paper and dividing it into three equal columns.

  • Ÿ  Left-hand column. Label the left-hand column “A-list” or “Most Desired Prospects.”
  • Ÿ  Center column. Label this “B- and C-list” or “OK prospects.”
  • Ÿ  Right-hand column. Label the remaining column “Least desirable” or “More Trouble Than They’re Worth” prospects.

Then, thinking about your client and customer experiences over the past few years, look for commonalities shared by your best clients and ways they differ from your “just OK” and toxic clients.

The business of books

If all this sounds familiar to your previous experiences preparing business and marketing plans…that’s because books are businesses!

Just as a strong business plan begins with identifying the intended market and their needs, nonfiction books should begin the same way. Books have to be sold–that’s the bottom line. It’s a waste of time to write the perfect book, only to find out after it’s been published that nobody wants it.

So, as you begin your author’s journey, identify your ideal prospects and plan to write the book they want to buy!

Offer

I’ll send the first 10 readers who e-mail me at Roger@Publishedandprofitable.com a copy of the Reader Identification Worksheet shown above. Please mention Reader Identification Worksheet in the subject line