Why would an author who is self-publishing want to write a book proposal?
Aren’t book proposals the tools authors use when seeking an agent or an acquisitions editor at a traditional publishing house to guide their book into print? Self-publishing eliminates those gatekeepers.
Before we dismiss the need for a self-publishing author to write a book proposal, let’s take a moment to think about what a proposal is.
Editor Jane Friedman, in her blog post How to Write a Book Proposal, says, “A book proposal argues why your book (idea) is a salable, marketable product. It is essentially a business case or a business plan for your book.”
A nonfiction author must address three questions says Friedman:
- So what? This is the reason for the book’s existence, the unique selling proposition that sets it apart from others in the market.
- Who cares? This is your target readership. A unique book is not enough—you must show evidence of need in the marketplace for your work.
- Who are you? You must have sufficient authority or credentials to write the book, as well as an appropriate marketing platform for the subject matter or target audience.
In addition to a compelling two-page overview that captures your book’s content, you’ll need to discuss the comparable books likely to be your competitors on book store shelves or Amazon, and why readers will choose yours instead. Who will the people likely to buy your book be? (The more specifically you can answer, the better.) You’ll need an author biography that establishes your creds. Finally, you’ll need a plan for how you will market and promote your book.
If you’re writing fiction you’ll need a synopsis of the novel’s conflict which introduces us to your characters and why we will care about them. We’ll need to know what motivates them. You’ll want to capture your story’s emotional tone. You’ll need to tie it all up by showing how the conflict is resolved. The synopsis needs to sparkle. It needs to be clear. Most of all it needs to be brief. Try for a single page, but keep it under five for sure. (Take a look at Jane Friedman’s Writing a Novel Synopsis or more ideas.)
A fiction author also needs to be able to analyze market comparables, his target audience, and the best ways to publicize and market his book.
A self-publishing author can avoid potential missteps by taking the time to write a book proposal even though he’ll never send it to an agent or editor. The nonfiction overview or fiction synopsis may reveal flaws in the book which need to be addressed before publication. Thinking carefully about who is likely to read your book and how you will be able to successfully get it into their hands is essential if you hope to be commercially successful. If you don’t know, don’t expect readers to beat a path to your book.
I’ve thought about all of that, you’re saying to yourself. Good! But, capturing our thoughts on paper (or at least our digital device of choice) can help us sharpen and clarify them so that they are much more effective when we finally implement them, and that’s a key to your book’s success.