You'd be forgiven for thinking book proposals are reserved for the traditional publishing world. But Michele DeFilippo, ALLi Partner member from 1106 Designs, thinks we should all be writing a book proposal to ourselves to save time, effort and money in the long run.
How to Write a Book Proposal to Yourself
Over the years we’ve emphasized the importance of treating your self-publishing project like a business. Your book is the primary product of your business, and like any new business, a business plan is key. Within the indie publishing world, the equivalent of a business plan for books is a book proposal, and thus I suggest writing a book proposal to yourself.
A book proposal is often submitted to a traditional publisher. Primarily used for nonfiction, the book proposal makes the business case to the publisher, telling them about your book and convincing them as to why they should publish it. Accompanied by a sample chapter and/or book outline, the book proposal should entice the publisher to read further.
When you self-publish, you are the publisher, and as both author and publisher, you need to make the business case to yourself.
The process of writing a book proposal forces you to think through some important questions. The success of your project and your decision to move forward may hinge on your answers to these questions. For example, you may ask:
- Why is your project important and worthy?
- Why would a reader purchase your book?
- What are the expected results and benefits? Will the book further your career, help you build your business, or facilitate your growth as a writer?
- Can you demonstrate that you will be able to complete the project as described and within the timeframe you provide?
- Why is now the right time?
- What factors give you a reasonable chance of success?
By answering the above questions, you’ll gain clarity on your reasons for writing and publishing, and establish realistic goals for your book. Asking yourself honestly if now is the right time for publishing your book, if you have the resources to complete the project, and if you have a fair chance for reasonable success, causes you to do a reality check before going any further. For these reasons, I suggest writing a book proposal to yourself whether your book will be fiction or nonfiction.
When to Write a Book Proposal to Yourself
In truth, the best time to write a book proposal to yourself is any time before you sign a contract with a publishing services provider.
Remember: as an indie publisher, you will hire the services you need to prepare your book for publication. These services may take the form of a self-publishing company that promises to “publish” your book, a series of independent freelancers that will look after book design and editing and who you will manage yourself, or a publishing services company that offers all these services under one roof. The important thing is to make the business case for yourself before you invest a dime, and to be fair, before anyone else invests any time in your project for which you owe them money or gratitude.
You can write the book before you prepare your proposal. For example, what might start off as a hobby can turn into a book with potential for publishing success. By writing a book proposal to yourself, you can prove or refute your book’s potential before investing any of your hard-earned money. You may also decide to seek outside funding—for example, crowdfunding—and a book proposal will help you prepare for selling other people on your idea.
What to Include in a Book Proposal
The key here is to clearly define your book and publishing project to someone who does not know you and who knows nothing about your book. This might seem silly as you’re writing a book proposal to yourself. Try focusing on writing a proposal to someone who is not you. By dropping any assumptions about what you know about yourself, you can avoid skipping crucial details in your plan. You’re also giving yourself the gift of time to refine your ideas.
Someone else might read your book proposal at some point—even if it’s just a family member or colleague who’s wondering what you’re up to. In truth, you might need to make a business case to someone close to you if writing and publishing the book will take time away from other responsibilities such as running your business or spending time with your family.
As such, I suggest you include the following sections in your book proposal:
Book overview: Introduce your book with one or two brief paragraphs. Include a description of the project. What are you proposing to do? What is the book about? What is its working title? Why do you want to publish this book? What is unique about it? Include an estimated word count and a description of the book’s design (e.g., size, color, illustrations, tables, graphs).
About the author: Who are you are as a writer? What are your goals? Why are you the person to write this book? What are your qualifications? Why are you pursuing this project at this particular point in time? Why is this project important to you?
You can really go to town by including accolades, reviews of previous books, degrees, certificates, awards, letters, and articles about you. Why go to the trouble? You’ll feel good about yourself, and you’ll have backup material should you apply for funding.
Categories/keywords: What keywords might someone use to find your book on Amazon? In what category would your book belong? For example, would your book be categorized as “business communication,” “business writing,” and/or “business writing guides?” Take a look at the books under those categories on Amazon and think about what need these books fill. Doing so might give you some ideas for how to differentiate your book from the competition.
Competing titles: List between five and ten books that you consider to be competitors to your book. These are books in the same genre, on the same topic and in the same categories on Amazon, and which appeal to the same audience. Explain how your book differs from each title. What makes your book unique? Why does the world need your book?
Describe your audience: Who will buy your book? What research have you done that proves this audience needs your book? Be as specific as possible in describing your audience; what are the demographics?
Your approach to self-publishing: As mentioned previously, as an indie publisher you will hire the services you need to prepare your book for publication. The route you choose to self-publish will impact your budget and your timeline. This is a good time to start putting out feelers to self-publishing companies and service providers for preliminary quotes. Even if you don’t have a finished manuscript, you can use some of the information you’ve included in your draft book proposal to help you get some rough estimates on cost and length of time to publish the book.
Timeline: Your timeline is largely dependent on how you intend to self-publish the book. Break down your activities into manageable components. Here’s a sample timeline at a very high level. Yours may be more detailed, and likely you will revise your timeline once you choose your route to self-publishing:
- Weeks 1-2: Finalize manuscript.
- Weeks 3-4: Choose publishing service provider(s). Submit manuscript and obtain final quotes.
- Weeks 5-7: Cover design and copy editing. Develop author website.
- Weeks 8-9: Review edits and make revisions to manuscript. Set up social media accounts.
- Weeks 10-11: Typesetting. Start promoting book on social media.
- Weeks 12-13: Produce Advance Reader Copy and ship to reviewers. Proofread book.
- Weeks 15-16: Add endorsements to book. Finalize cover. Make any last edits to book.
- Week 16: Upload files to print-on-demand platforms and launch!
Questions to ask yourself include: What is the launch date for your book? What are the reasons for choosing that launch date? For instance, are you planning on holiday book sales?
Budget: Knowing ahead of time what your expenses are will help you decide the retail price for your book. (Note that the retail price should reflect that of your competition as well.) You will also know what expenses to expect and reduce the number of unpleasant surprises, and better answer the question: how will I support myself and pay for the expenses?
When preparing your budget, divide your expenses up into two categories: fixed and variable. Fixed expenses are those that stay the same no matter how many books you print. For example, cover design, interior page layout and typesetting, editing, proofreading, author website design and title set-up on the print-on-demand platform are all fixed expenses. Fixed expenses are spread over the books produced; the more books you sell, the lower your fixed expense per book. Variable expenses are those costs that can be assigned directly to each book sold, for example: printing costs, Amazon’s fee, and any portion of your royalties claimed by a self-publishing company.
Marketing: What specific media or promotional strategies will you use to connect with your book’s audience? Does your marketing activity involve travel for a tour, readings, special events, or other appearances that promote you and your book? Have you included these expenses in your budget? How strong is your author platform (i.e., your list of people who subscribe to your blog or receive your newsletter, plus followers on social media)? How will you build your platform? Will you create an author website (if you don’t have one already)? What is your strategy for obtaining endorsements and reviews ahead of launch time? Will you hire a company to help with PR and marketing in general?
As you can see, as an indie publisher you have a lot to think about. Writing a book proposal to yourself will help ensure you think through the process of publishing your book carefully and not miss any steps. You’ll be better prepared and have few surprises throughout.Learn how to write a proposal for your book to save you time and money while publishing @1106Design #selfpublishing #IARTG #ASMRG #amwriting #writingcommunity #writetip Click To Tweet
OVER TO YOU
Will you write yourself a book proposal? Have you already written one? Did it help you during your publishing journey?