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Surviving a Book Proposal
by Teri Brown
When the editor of EI asked me to write an article on book proposals, I thought, “Why me?” Just because I wrote a book proposal and actually sold a book with it doesn’t make me an expert. Experienced, maybe. But not an expert. So now you’re wondering why you should bother to read an article on book proposals by someone who isn’t an expert. I’ll tell you why…. because I survived it and I can tell you how you can too.
Survival Tip # 1
Believe that you can do it. There are quite a few extremely good books available on how to write a book proposal. However, even the best can portray the process of writing a proposal as confusing and rather daunting, if you’ve never done one before. Take a deep breath, tell yourself over and over that it isn’t that hard and that you really can do this. Millions of people do them. The trick is to do a really, really good one that will garner you a nice advance and a big sale. But don’t think of that now or you’ll be to overwhelmed to even begin.
So start on the proposal and remember to breathe.
Survival Tip #2
The library is your best friend. I know you think it’s your computer, but for now it’s the library. While you’re there pick up Elizabeth Lyon’s excellent book, “Nonfiction Book Proposals Anyone Can Write: How to Get a Contract and Advance Before You Write Your Book”. This is a great book and fairly non-threatening to the novice. Get to know your library as it will come in very handy for.
Survival Tip #3
Research, research, research. Don’t scrimp on this one. Not only will the research you do now help you to write a great proposal, but it will help you write a great book. You will need to research your subject, your competition, your market and how you plan on marketing your book. Even if they have a top notch PR person they are still going to want your ideas and input and so they should… if you have done your research, no one will know the market like you.
Survival Tip #4
Set a deadline. If you are a major procrastinator you might want to set several. I will have x amount of work done by such and such a date, and then I will have this part of the proposal done by the next date. Even if you miss the deadlines it will give you something to shoot for. It will also help you to work at a steady pace.
Survival Tip #5
Warn your family that you will be rather preoccupied the next few months. If you walk around muttering about statistics or “that other book”, ask them to understand and tell them you will be fine once you send it off to the publisher. Right. Uh huh.
Remind them that there are perks to having a famous author in the family (…can anyone suggest any?).
While these five tips don’t guarantee that your proposal will garner big sales results, they will help you to maintain your sanity while you write it.
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