Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Five Secrets of Winning Book Proposals

Working in the publishing industry comes with a high expectation, especially from complete strangers. After the causal hello progresses to what do you do, and my answer is I am a publisher, the words, like fairy dust, work magic; and in the eyes of my conversation partner, I m transformed into a glamorous Advice Goddess would I mind reading this stranger s book proposal?

Cornered in frozen foods at the grocery, black-tie events or at the bus stop, I ve been pitched as we say in the business, with such book proposals as: A Cat s Tale of Christmas; Old Testament Aphrodisiacs; Break Out (after being committed to a mental institution by jealous relatives, the story of one man s quest for revenge); and Suck it and See: A Guide to Tropical Fruits.

Admittedly, I chose to share with you the more colorful examples. My point being that the purpose of a proposal pitch is not to motivate the publisher to love the idea as much as you do. That s the misconception. The publisher is listening for signals that you understand the process of transforming a book concept into a business plan. It s not just about your passion for the topic: it s how well you filter your passion through the publisher s prism of marketing and distribution. That s the difference between a contract and a polite rejection letter.

Let s take a look at five typical questions that an agent or a publisher will ask in their submission guidelines.

Question #1: Please provide the title that best captures and conveys the essence of your book and briefly explain why you chose it.

What the publisher is really thinking:

  • Will the book buyer for Barnes & Noble recognize the section to shelve the book by its title alone?
  • Is the title s message succinct and snappy so the publisher s sales representative will remember it easily?
  • How does the rest of proposal support what the title says?

Question #2: Briefly describe the primary audience for your book and how they will benefit from reading it.

What the publisher is really thinking:

  • The book cannot be all things to all people. Do you demonstrate focus?
  • Are you confident about who the customer is and the primary (most appropriate) category where the book should be placed in the bookstore?
  • Do you provide three distinct benefits that relate to the book s core premise?

Question #3: List competing books that you are aware of on this topic and explain how your book differs.

What the publisher is really thinking:

  • How do you demonstrate that your premise is solid in relation to existing books?
  • Will the publisher s sales representatives understand where your book fits among five other books in the same category?
  • Do you contradict what the book is or is not elsewhere in the proposal?

Question #4: What are your expectations for the project?

What the publisher is really thinking:

  • Do you sound like you expect to make a million dollars and plan to retire on your royalty earnings?
  • Is your goal to raise the level of topic discussion and to advance your profile as a thought leader?
  • How realistic are you about the work involved to write the book from start to finish?

Question #5: Describe your qualifications for writing this book and include your latest curriculum vitae or other relevant factors.

What the publisher is really thinking:

  • Several proposals are discussed during a publisher s editorial board meeting. Why say yes to yours?
  • What is your media platform? How are you going to be an asset in marketing and promoting the book?
  • What s your track record?

If you are now thinking about you book concept as a business plan, bravo! This is the foundation for a solid beginning; and, I encourage you to continue forward. High-quality books written by people who are committed to excellence (in any sphere of living) are in short supply. Adopt the publisher s perspective how will it sell and to whom and you will not only become a published author. You will make a difference in the world.

About The Author

Melissa A. Rosati is a co-active coach, whose clients are writers, authors and creative artists. Prior to her coaching career, she was the Director, Editorial & Production for McGraw-Hill International (UK). She now resides in New York City. Her forthcoming book, The Essential Publisher s Handbook shows readers how to publish profitably. Register for a complimentary subscription to her newsletter, The Essential Publisher at http://www.melissarosati.com.

© 2005 Melissa A. Rosati. All rights reserved.



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