Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Birth of the Mini Book Proposal

By Divina Infusino

Of all the questions would-be non-fiction authors ask me about the publishing process, the most difficult to answer is: Should I write a book proposal?

If you intend to submit your book to a major publisher, or even a mid-level or small one, the answer is unequivocally yes. Just the slightest bit of research on the publishing world indicates that unless you are Rihanna or George Clooney with a tell-all in your hip pocket, you cannot sell a book on an idea. Even Tina Fey had to write a six page proposal for Bossypants.

But non-fiction publishers also aren’t looking for a full book submission either. They want a proposal that nails the concept in the overview, thoroughly summarizes the chapters, positions the book and analyzes it for the marketplace,  provides a practical promotional strategy and offers one or two sample chapters.  (The one non-fiction area where publishers often do ask for the entire book is memoir.)

The book proposal question is getting harder for me to answer because so many new authors are increasingly becoming self-publishers by default. They begin with dreams of Random House waving a six figure contract in front of them. But once writers get the news via agents or other professionals on what it takes to get a book deal these days (Hint: Are you already famous in another field, with at least 15,000 Facebook followers?), they start checking out the myriad of self-publishing platforms.

So if you think you may self-publish, should you just skip the time-consuming book proposal process?
My response is a qualified no.

The book proposal is a sales tool, but it is also a plan that can only make any publishing endeavor better. The questions that large publishers raise are the same questions you should be answering if you are self- publishing.

*What does your book offer that other books do not? 

*What makes you an expert on the topic?

*Do you have a solid outline in place before you start writing the book?

*How do you expect to market it anyway? Magical thinking does not work in book publishing. You must have a realistic plan for letting people know it exists.

So if you are contemplating the self-publishing route, my suggestion is to write a mini-proposal. Include all the elements but without the formality that a full book proposal requires.  Use your mini-proposal as a strategy for publishing a book that you will not only write, but people might actually read.

You will save yourself a lot of time and frustration. And if, in the end, you decide to look for a publisher instead, you are already on your way.


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