9 Tips to Catapult From Proposal to Published

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Tip 6: Be prepared to write, then rewrite. Buffing your book proposal will be an iterative process. “Don't wait until everything is just right to write,” says Manisha Thakor, co-author of Get Financially Naked (Adams Media, Dec 2009). “If you want to write a book, let the SFD (stinky first draft) be your new best friend. Many of my chapters were revised 15-20 times, with the end result much better and not looking anything like the first draft. Let go of perfection and you'll be amazed at what ultimately appears.”

“How much you need to write depends on your experience as a writer,” adds Thakor. “Having published dozens of pieces in my field, I skipped writing even a single chapter and instead included a 2-4 paragraph summary by chapter. If you have more work to do to prove your writing chops, consider including a full chapter or two with your proposal.”

Like Thakor, I had published dozens of articles prior to writing a book. I skipped writing even a single chapter but included a two to three paragraph summary of each proposed chapter. I included a list of articles and one full piece within the proposal to show my writing style.

Tip 7: Networking is a numbers game. When it comes to stumping for an agent and a publisher, you never know who will be helpful. I was introduced to my now publisher by a virtual stranger I met in an MSNBC greenroom for two minutes; we traded cards and I followed up by phone to pick his brain on getting published. Not only did he give me incredible insight, he offered to connect me to the acquiring editor that green-lighted his book.

Moral of the story, don’t be shy about seeking advice, sharing what you are looking for and adding value to others around you where you can; the good karma goes around.

“Talk to as many people from in and out of the industry and ask them for help, for introductions, references and advice,” says Ruma Bose, author of Mother Teresa CEO (Berrett Koehler, 2011). “You never know who can be most valuable. Action equals reaction. If you have focus, passion and determination, and you have an interesting concept for a book, your book WILL get published.”

Tip 8: Skip the agent. Unless you’re writing about scarred boy wizards or sparkly vampires, there’s a good chance the advance you finally land will underwhelm. It’s not just advances that are lower but royalty percentages offered from subsidiary sales (international, electronic formats etc). Writing a book with a traditional publisher is not about the money.

If the financial compensation associated with writing the book won’t be head turner for you, imagine how motivated the agent that makes 15% of the number will feel to pound the pavement in search of your book deal. Instead of wasting 6-12 months wooing an agent, only to wait an additional 6-12 months (or more) for that agent to find a suitor, network with other published authors to seek introductions to the publishers directly. It’s exactly how I landed my deal. When it’s time to talk contract, cover your legal bases by hiring an entertainment lawyer to negotiate the deal.

Tip 9: Get comfortable with rejection. If you decide to go the book agent route, prepare your mental psyche for a whole lot of no’s but know all you need is one yes. “You only need one agent and publisher to give you the Yes,” says Nina Godiwalla, author of Suits: A Woman on Wall Street (Atlas, Feb 2011). “When I got a no, I followed-up with the agents and publishers to better understand their rationale. I started to get some of the same thematic advice from several agents and used that to improve my manuscript.”


Monica Mehta is small business and finance expert specializing in small business. She is a frequent contributor for Bloomberg BusinessWeek, INC Magazine, Fox News, Fox Business, MSNBC and ABC News. She is the author of The Entrepreneurial Instinct: How Everyone Has the Innate Ability to Start a Successful Small Business (McGraw-Hill, Sept 2012). Read more from the author at monicamehta.com @monicamehtanyc

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