Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Why Every Book Needs a Proposal


By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

I've read thousands of book proposals as an acquisitions editor and a former literary agent. I've taught on this topic of book proposals for many years because I believe many writers don't understand the critical nature of this specialized document called a book proposal.

On the traditional side of publishing, editors and agents read proposals. It doesn't matter whether you've written nonfiction or fiction because this document includes information which never appears in your manuscript yet is critical detail in the decision making process. I wrote my first edition in 2004 as a frustrated editor who wanted to help writers send better submissions. Book Proposals That Sell has received over 100 Five Star Amazon reviews and helped many writers. Publishing has changed a great deal since I wrote this book and now the revised edition is going to be released on October 5th.

From my perspective of working in book publishing for over 30 years, every author should create a book proposal for their book—whether eventually they publish the book with a company where they pay to get it published (subsidy or self-publishing) or whether they find a traditional book publisher. In the proposal creation process, the author learns some critical elements about their book concept plus they are better positioned in the marketplace.

Here are four benefits of proposal creation (and I'm certain there are many more):

1. You Define Your Target Market. Many authors believe their book will hit a broad target—everyone. No successful book is for everyone. Each book has a primary target audience and the proposal creation process helps you define, pinpoint and write about this audience. It is important in nonfiction but it is also important in fiction. For example, romance is the largest fiction genre yet there are many divisions within the romance genre. Every proposal needs a target which is defined—yet large enough to generate volume sales. You learn and achieve this balance when you create a page-turning book proposal.

2. You Understand Your Competition. While creating a proposal, the writer has to take a hard look at which books are competing with your idea. This process helps you understand the marketplace. Many new authors believe they are writing something unique with no competition. It's not true. Every book competes in the marketplace and you will be a better equipped author if you understand your competition.

3. You Create A Personal Plan For Marketing. Whether you like marketing or dislike it, the reality is every author has to market their own book. It doesn't matter who publishes your book—whether you self-publish or go with a large traditional house. As you create a book proposal, you will be including practical, specific and measurable ideas that you can execute when your book enters the market. The proposal will be a valuable reference tool for you because you've done this important creation process.

4. You Possess A Valuable Tool To Pitch Agents and Editors at Traditional Houses. I've written it a number of times but it bears repeating here. Literary agents and editors do not read manuscripts. They read book proposals. Even novelists need a book proposal for their initial pitch to an editor or agent. And if you self-publish and are successful with selling your book, because you own everything, if you receive an attractive offer from a traditional house, then you can move the book. Without a proposal you can't properly pitch the concept and you've eliminated this possibility.

I believe writers should explore every option and keep their possibilities open. You've narrowed the possibilities rather than expanded them if you don't have a proposal.

If you make the effort to create an excellent book proposal, then you will be ready to pitch your book at any time and any place.

W. Terry Whalin is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. His work contact information is on the bottom of the second page.  He has written for over 50 magazines and more than 60 books with traditional publishers.  His latest book for writers is 10 Publishing Myths, Insights Every Author Needs to Succeed. Get this book for only $10 + free shipping and over $200 in bonuses. 
On October 5th, his classic Book Proposals That $ell (the revised edition) will be released. At the book website, you can get a free Book Proposal Checklist. Watch his 60-second book trailer hereHe lives in Colorado and has over 190,000 twitter followers

Why does every book need a proposal (even if you self-publish)? Get the details here from this prolific author and editor. (ClickToTweet)

7 comments:

Karen Cioffi said...

Terry, this is such helpful information for authors. I think the toughest, even if it's for a query letter, is knowing your book's competition. It takes a lot of thought and research to figure this one out. Thanks for sharing!

Terry Whalin said...

Karen,

Writing the competition section can be a challenge for writers. I encourage them to envision their book in a bookstore and then look at the titles around them (their competition). Also like I said in my article--understanding that most editors and agents are going to roll their eyes if they say there is no competition. So remove those words if you have used them. Every book competes and has competitive titles.

Terry

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

I love all your books for writers, Terry! I believe authors should keep reading no matter how successful they are. In other words, “Reading one book on any aspect of book marketing is never enough!”

Terry Whalin said...

Carolyn,

Thank you for this comment. Reading is essential for every author whether they are beginning or bestselling. I believe every author can profit from the information in Book Proposals That Sell--and other writing how-to books (like the excellent ones you've written).

Terry

deborah lyn said...

Thanks Terry - this article is full of strategic planning with related benefits so important for every writer!

Terry Whalin said...

Deborah Lyn,

Thank you for this feedback. I'm eager to help other writers as they create proposals.

Terry

Suzanne Lieurance said...

Hey, Terry,

Great post, which I will share with all my coaching clients.

Many writers are hesitant to write up a proposal. They usually get stuck on identifying the competition, but they don't have to worry about listing every single book they think might be like theirs.

Thanks for the great info.

Suzanne

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