I see quite a few book proposals from new authors . And I have to tell you that some of them are spectacular, some are pretty good—just need a little tweaking—and others… Well, some authors just don’t quite get the purpose and intent of the various aspects of a book proposal. This is a shame, because they are probably not addressing the aspects the publisher requires in order to successfully and honestly assess their book project. Nor, in some cases, are they addressing the desires and/or needs of their readers. Does this really matter? Oh yes! It is crucial to your publishing success.
A weak or off base book proposal often indicates that the author does not have a grip on the scope of his or her book. It means that the author may not understand the make-up of his or her audience. And many book proposals I see show that the author doesn’t grasp the concept of book promotion.
What would I advise to these authors? Go back to the drawing board. If I saw the proposal, I would offer suggestions for making it stronger in the eyes of the publisher they hope to attract, of course. But also so that the author him/herself knows more of the basics of writing a book proposal. For example:
• The author needs to know the importance of (and how to) succinctly describing the book.
• She must understand her audience base—exactly who they are and why they would be attracted to this particular book.
• The author has to be able to show what makes his book better or more useful than others on this topic. And this does not mean criticizing the other books or describing them as if you are giving a review. It means simply explaining how your book is different, what it brings to the table that, perhaps, the other book doesn’t and how this will benefit your readers.
• It is vital that authors know something about the publishing industry and how it operates. This includes the fact that the author is the major marketing agent for his/her book. Through your book proposal, you must convince the publisher (as well as yourself) that you have what it takes physically and intellectually to successfully and skillfully promote a book on a particular topic or in a particular genre. If the author does not understand or accept that promotion is his or her responsibility and truly comprehend the full extent of this task, he or she will likely fail.
Over three-quarters of authors today do fail—they sell fewer than 100 copies of their books. The reason is that they were ill-prepared to enter into the vast and excessive competition as a
So what can you do to better prepare?
1: Study the publishing industry.
2: Turn your book proposal over to a professional before you start showing it around. If you wrote the proposal just for your own purposes—highly recommended—still solicit the assistance of a professional to make sure you are on the right track.
Remember that a book proposal is only useful when it is written with at least a pretty good understanding of publishing and the world of book distribution.
Tomorrow, we’ll go over steps to studying the publishing industry. How does an eager author go about this very important step?
A good place to start, by the way, is with a book I wrote expressly for new and struggling authors: Publish Your Book, Proven Strategies and Resources for the Enterprising Author. It’s at Amazon.com and most other online and downtown bookstores. You’ll also find it and my other books on publishing/book promotion, etc. at