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by Patricia Fry

8 Things You Can Learn From Your Book Proposal

There are a couple of ways you can look at a book proposal. Most first-time authors, see the book proposal process as intimidating—an unpleasant task that they’d rather avoid. However, you’ll have a much greater chance of publishing success if you look at your book proposal as a learning experience.

Whether you decide to develop a book proposal by yourself or you hire a professional to help you, there are enormous opportunities in the process.

So what can you learn from your book proposal?

1: Do you have a viable product? The research you do for your proposal will help you to determine whether or not this book is actually a good idea or simply a frivolous fantasy. Your honesty here could save you money and heartache. If you use a business head instead of a typical writer’s mindset, you might be able to develop a valid book project from one that started out a bit weak.

2: What is your competition? In order to determine whether you have a book at all, you need to check out other books on this topic/in this genre. What’s out there? Who’s writing them? Who’s publishing them? Which books are selling? To whom? How are they being marketed? This information is important now—in determining whether you should come out with this book at this time. And it is important later to help guide you along your book promotion path.

3: Who comprises your primary and secondary audiences? Is there anyone out there waiting for this book to hit the market? Who needs it? Who wants it? How widespread is your audience? Where will you find them? Understanding your customer is primary to planning your marketing strategy and, if you don’t think that this is one of the most important aspects of producing a book, then you really have a lot to learn about publishing.

4: What’s it going to take to promote this book? Once you have established your potential audience, and you know where they are, you can begin thinking about promotion. What is the best way to approach your particular audience? How do they purchase books? Where do they buy them? In order to succeed as an author, you must go where your customers are and make the book available according to their comfort zone, not yours.

5: What do you have to offer toward the process of promoting your book? What are your strongest marketing skills—public speaking? Writing ad copy? Doing cold calls? Arranging for presentations, book signings and book reviews? Take inventory and note all of the qualities and personal assets that you could use in promoting your book.

6: What skills do you need to improve in order to successfully promote your book? Note, also, those skills and personality traits that you could improve upon. Start planning your strategy for strengthening these important skills.

7: What does a publisher truly want/need to know about your project? Most new authors, when left to their own devises, give potential publishers a bland report about their book and call it a book proposal. Instead, you must get into the publisher’s head—understand where he’s coming from. What does he want? He wants to make some money. Your job is to convince the publisher that your book has value, that it is marketable, that you are credible in your field or genre, that you are more than qualified and willing to promote it—that your project is a good investment for the publisher. And you don’t do this by making a statement, rather by presenting a complete and fascinating book proposal.

8: How do you summarize your story or nonfiction book? Another weakness that most new authors share is the ability to describe their book succinctly and, even, accurately. Working through the book proposal process, particularly if you are working with a professional, will help you to improve in this area.

Yes, an author can learn volumes about the publishing industry, the project and him or herself through the book proposal process. It’s just a matter of doing the work with an open mind.


Patricia Fry is the Executive Director of SPAWN (Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network) and the author of 35 books. See her most recent books in the left column of this page.

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