9 Tips to Catapult From Proposal to Published

BlogHer Original Post

Getting a book published is exciting, exhausting, emotional, and eventually fulfilling. I officially graduated to that last phase in September when my first book The Entrepreneurial Instinct: How Everyone Has the Innate Ability to Start a Small Business(McGraw-Hill) finally hit stores.

As a first time author, I sought the advice of many. Now that I’ve been down the road, I have some pearls of wisdom of my own to share. I’ve summarized the collective experience of seven published authors for you below:

pile of paper and books

Image credit: Pile of paper and a book from Shutterstock

Tip 1: Recognize how the publishing business has evolved As traditional imprints see ebook sales rise and competition from self publishing platforms flare up, overall revenue for individual titles is declining. There are many related implications for authors. Advances are dropping, lowering incentives for agents to sell your proposal to get 15% of a reducing number. As publishers make less from each title, they have reduced incentive to throw financial support behind even the titles they green light. These trends should govern how you write a proposal and go about finding a publisher.

Tip 2: Your proposal must prove you can promote. The single complaint I heard most from first time authors was the lack of marketing support they received from their publisher once the book was out. Authors know this. Publishers know this. You should know, because your proposal must convince others that you have the capability get the word on your own.

Treat the marketing section of your proposal as the single most important portion, dedicating time accordingly. Showcase your ability to promote by highlighting your press contacts, email and twitter following, speaking opportunities, membership with organizations that can band together to help you get the word out.

Tip 3: Explain why you’re the one to write this book. Publishers aren’t just taking a chance on your book concept, they’re taking a chance on you. “For nonfiction writers, the most important thing to convey in your book proposal is why you are the ONLY person who could write your book,” suggests Erika S. Olson, Zero-Sum Game: The Rise of the World's Largest Derivatives Exchange (Wiley, Oct 2010). “You must prove that you have unique insight and experience—or an established platform—that positions you as an expert on the subject. Otherwise, why would someone pay to read your thoughts on the topic?”

Tip 4: Point of difference matters. Make sure you have one. Your book must not only cut through the clutter of the thousands of proposals agents and publishers see each year but an ever widening sea of books at retail. Your book needs a solid point of difference. Make sure your proposal communicates this loud and clear.

“Just walk into a Barnes & Noble or peruse Amazon and you'll see hundreds of books on your subject. You need to find an ironclad hook that's different from the rest to not just sell your book to a publisher but readers as well,” says Dara Cook author of My Life and Freaky Times, Uncle Luke (Virgin, Feb 2006).

Cook recommends authors explore finding a celebrity hook. “They work well, and not just in the endorsement quotes. We are an increasingly celebrity-driven culture, even in the book-world, so wherever you can organically tie-in a celebrity angle can often be to your advantage.”

Tip 5: Make up for a lack of experience by blogging. Like anything else, experience matters. If you don’t have a writing resume and fan base to point to, create it for yourself by blogging. “Five years ago, because I had no track record, it would have been nearly impossible to attract the attention of an agent, let alone publisher. As a consequence, I pursued a disruptive course, the low-end, push-button approach to publishing – blogging,” says Whitney Johnson author of Dare, Dream, Do: Remarkable Things Happen When you Dare to Dream (Bibliomotion, May 2012). “As I wrote, I discovered my voice, socialized my ideas, crowdsourced stories, built an audience: three yeas later, in 2010, a publisher came to me.”

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