This summer I decided to pursue traditional publishing for my next book—Living Free of Toxic Shame: Learn from Others Who Have Gone Before You. If you want to read about my decision to go the traditional publishing route, you can read about it here.
Navigating the world of literary agents and publishers confuses a first-timer. I have had a few conversations with beginning writers, and most of us are clueless what agents and publishers want. Most writers wanting to get published probably think that the agents and publishers want a manuscript. Isn’t that what happens in the movies?
I have learned, however, that all they, at least the major publishers, want is a book proposal.
A major publisher can easily receive up to 1000 book proposals a month. Many authors send their proposal unsolicited. However, most major publishers prefer to get the book proposals from trusted agents. Needless to say, I need to write a compelling book proposal to catch the attention of an agent and a publisher.
Some of what I share here is from a course developed by Michael Hyatt—Get Published! I recommend checking it out if you are considering traditional publishing and don’t know where to start.
Ready to read some things I have learned from creating my book proposal? Great!
I learned how to decide whether I have a viable book.
Hyatt suggests developing an overview and a chapter by chapter summary for a nonfiction book before the manuscript is finished.
Sometimes a writer will have an idea for a book, but if they take the time to create a proposal that includes an overview and chapter summary, they might find out that what they have is better suited for a magazine article or even a blog post.
I learned I needed to spend time on creating a compelling title.
Initially I want to get an agent’s attention. Obviously the title is the first thing that an agent will look at before deciding to go any further. The title probably will get tweaked along the way anyway, the title needs to be compelling or eye-catching. At the same time, the title needs tell the reader what the book is about.
I learned that I needed to restructure my book.
When I began writing my book, I had an idea where I wanted to go with it. I even wrote an outline that worked as my table of contents. But creating the book proposal forced me to think through more thoroughly the content of the book. Here is an outline of what is included in this section of the proposal:
- Premise – this is a two to three sentence summary of the book’s content. If this is well thought out, it will help me stay on target as I write.
- Unique Selling Proposition – this lays out the benefits the reader will gain from reading the book. And it tells how the book will feature those benefits.
- Overview – this describes the problem or need; the solution; and the application.
- Manuscript – status of writing; special features; anticipated length; anticipated completion date.
I learned that understanding my potential market helps not only communicate to the agent, it also helps me write better to my audience.
Defining the market includes:
- The characteristics – who the audience is that would benefit from this book.
- The motivations – why they would want to buy the book.
- Affinity groups – this describes the type of groups of people potentially attracted to this book.
- Competition – research who else has written on this subject.
Not only does this grab the attention of an agent, it also creates the outline for my marketing plan.
The book proposal goes on to include information about my background, writing experience, marketing platform, a chapter by chapter synopsis, and two sample chapters.
I greatly appreciate the priceless guidance that Michael Hyatt’s course provides. Again, if you are considering getting published, this is a well worthwhile investment.