In Transition from Blog to Book, bestselling health author Liz Neporent shares the secrets of writing a winning non-fiction book proposal, including how to avoid common rookie mistakes and how to create a pitch package that sells. Liz has published 15 books, with 5 on the best seller list.
Liz started writing in magazines and newspapers, and has since published in Shape, Fitness, NY Times, etc. When she started, mainstream media was the way to go. However, now there are a lot of ways to get noticed. Many bloggers are getting books published- if you have a compelling story, good agent, and a good publisher, it’s possible.
For a traditional book proposal, you would go through a publishing house (such as Random House or Penguin). You need to write a proposal, which is a very specific “formula” which she will share today, and then go to the publishing houses via an agent.
However, if you have a big enough platform or profile, you could explore self-publishing (such as kindle books, ebooks). In this case, you pay more money up front, but then everything made on the book is yours. Explore other options to determine if it might work for you.
- Learn how to write a proposal
- Understand agent fundamentals
- Words of advice
Book Proposal Overview
The book proposal is a specific formula which you must follow in order to get published. It includes: One-line Kicker; Overview; Author; Marketing and PR; Market and Delivery Details; Competitive analysis; Chapter Outlines; and Sample Chapters.
Competitive Analysis: Start here and give a brief, general discussion of your space, 1-2 short paragraphs on 4-8 similar books (2-3 pages total.) If you can find sales figures for some other research (best seller, etc,) try to quote sales numbers and find books that sold well to help sell your case. NEVER say you’ve never seen anything like this before, this is the “secret” – it will go right in the garbage. The truth is, it has been done before, and publishing houses don’t want to take a chance on something that wasn’t done before. DO say why yours is different and better.
Author: Always write the competitive analysis first, then go to the author (you) and make it impressive. Include everything you’ve accomplished in your life, along with a small professional head shot, and keep it to 1-3 pages.
Author Marketing and PR: Your “platform” includes your blog, twitter numbers, youtube numbers, facebook numbers, any sponsorship opportunities, interaction with your fans, speaking engagements,or anything that shows that you have a high profile (tv, radio, other books). Explain how these vehicles allow you to market in the future and describe what you have planned for your book. You may have a series of blogs, series of videos, speaking tour to promote book, or may plan to hire your own publicist to promote the book with your money. (Publishers really like to see that!) This is the most important section in the proposal by far! If they think you can sell it, they will publish it.
Tip: You could reach out to your college/university and the alumni program might put you in the newsletter, tweet you out, invite you to speak, or offer facilities for free. Think creatively but be truthful.
Market/Delivery Details: This should be a quick half page describing who will buy your book. Bloggers have an advantage because you know your unique voice and who your audience is. Include your word count, generally 40,000-80,000 words for 120-230 pages. Keep your range to 20,000 words.
Tip: Think through the photos and illustrations and where they come from. For example, color photos cost more. It’s better if you own the photos, as it will be your responsibility to find them and pay for them.
Chapter Outlines- Include a table of contents, overall theme, 1-3 paragraphs on each chapter (make it interesting but cover entire chapter- possibly hook in with a mini story). It’s all about how you prevent it.
Start with the table of contents to think through your order.
Overview: Write the overview last – keep it exciting and informative. Explain what it will be about, maybe start with a story or surprising stat, and include who you are and how you’ll sell it, but keep it to 2-3 pages. It’s challenging to write! Include all the information but also keep it exciting.
One line Kicker- This will be the first item; but think it up last. It might change at the very end, so think long and hard about it.
Sample Chapter- You have to write at least one chapter. Don’t write the whole book and don’t submit the whole book. It’s important to know the “unwritten rules.” Be prepared to scramble and write a second chapter within a few days, if asked.
Other: Make it pretty! Put it in a pdf template. Find three people to read and critique it, and get honest feedback. The process can take anywhere from 2 weeks to six months. You also absolutely need an agent: without one, it’s much less likely to be read by a publisher.
1) Learn to love, accept and embrace criticism! Editors don’t have time to “stroke your ego” – they’ll give it to you straight. Find out what’s wrong so you can fix it. No just means not right now… so just keep going. If you really believe in what you’re doing, you’ll find a way to do it.
2) Sometimes you can be so in love with what you do or say but it may not actually go anywhere. You may need to “shoot the baby”- you have to let it go.
Finally, Liz has a new fitness book coming out that she has worked on with Jessica Smith, and it’s coming out Oct 15, 2012- Ten Minute Increments on Getting Fit!
This post was written by Laura Peifer, from Mommy, Run Fast.