(This post on the proposal process was the Nov. 9 Write Nonfiction in November blog post; sorry...seems not to have been posted here in Red Room.)
As the number of books published each year increases, the number of people who buy them decreases. The average nonfiction book sells less than 250 copies per year and less than 3,000 copies over its lifetime. Yet, millions of aspiring nonfiction authors continue to dream of self-publishing or traditionally publishing a nonfiction book. If you are one of these writers, it behooves you to look at the big publishing picture and to discern the steps necessary to ensure you write not just any book but a book that sells more than the average number of copies per year.
How do you guarantee you write a successful nonfiction book—one that actually sells to readers and to publishers? By using what I call the “proposal process.” You don’t need to actually write a nonfiction book proposal. You just need to put your idea through the magnifying glass of each section of a proposal. In other words, compile the information required for a nonfiction book proposal. In this way you evaluate your book idea and come up with a clear understanding of whether or not it is a viable one.
As you go through each section of a nonfiction book proposal with the intention of evaluating your book idea, you conceptualize both the creative and business aspects of a self-published or traditionally published nonfiction book. By going through each section with the intention of using it to conceive, gestate (write) and then give birth (publish) your book, you hone your idea and ensure its market viability. By putting in the time and effort to go through the proposal process before you write your book, you avoid discovering too late that your manuscript—or your independently published book—has no market, too much competition, or in some other way will not achieve the success you desire.
You can use any book on how to write a book proposal to discover what sections are included in a typical nonfiction proposal. Literary agent Michael Larsen, author of How to Write a Book Proposal, includes these (but not in this order):
- Subsidiary Rights
- Competing Titles
- Complementary Titles
- Resources Needed to Complete the Book
- About the Author
- Mission Statement
- Author’s Platform
- List of Chapters
- Chapter Summaries
- Sample Chapters
I suggest you use this list (and his book) as a guide. Or you can use my workbook, How to Evaluate Your Book for Success! A Step-by-Step Guide to Conceiving a Successful Book Before You Give Birth To It, which will guide you through the process of evaluating your idea and compiling the information necessary for a nonfiction proposal. When you have completed the process by using my workbook or going through the parts of a proposal discussed in Larsen’s book, you will have developed a book hook or pitch and an overview of your book including its benefits and features; created a table of contents, or figured out the basic chapter format for your book; decided if you have an author’s platform; designed a book promotion plan; written a mission statement; looked at the competition and market; and compiled the information necessary to write a nonfiction book proposal.
At that point you can use the information you have gained to hone your content, title, and angle to make sure your book provides the most benefit or added value for readers, targets the largest market, and stands out from the competition. Additionally, you can decide what you need to do to develop the best promotion plan and to create the largest platform possible, making you the most attractive business partner for a publisher or the best person to run your independent publishing company. Taking a big-picture look at your book and yourself also helps you decide when you should attempt to get published. If you’re platform is small, you may need to wait. If your book needs to be reangled, this make also take time. If everything seems in place, you can move ahead.
By going through the proposal process, you’ll also discern if you have what it takes to produce a successful book. It takes more than just a good idea and excellent writing skills to accomplish this feat. It takes the willingness to be a good business person and the perseverance to promote yourself, your writing and your book (idea) 24/7.
The best time to evaluate your idea’s ability to succeed as a book and your ability to succeed as an author comes before you begin writing. You can do this once you have written a manuscript, a proposal or a published book as well, but you can save yourself a lot of wasted time by going through the proposal process before you put one word down on paper.
About the Author
Nina Amir is a speaker, author, editor, and writing and author coach, and the founder of Write Nonfiction in November. She has five blogs, including Write Nonfiction NOW, How to Blog a Book, and As the Spirit Moves Me, and an on-line Examiner.com column, plus two of her blogs are carried at VibrantNation.com. She uses her 30+ years of experience in the publishing industry to help aspiring authors turn their passion, purpose and potential into publishable products and to navigate what can feel like the long and arduous path to getting published. Join Nina’s mailing list and get a FREE special report (a $10 value), “What's an Author's Platform & How Do You Build One?” For more information on Nina’s products or services or to hire Nina as a coach, editor or speaker, go to CopyWright Communications.