“Deep breaths man. Deep breaths. Now that you’ve met both publishers, the ball’s in your court. It’s time to pitch your book proposal!”
Exciting but nerve-racking to say the least.
Regular readers of my blog would already know I’ve made contact with not one but two book publishers (with a possible third on the horizon). So now the challenge is to draft a book proposal to at least one of them who requested it in a meeting yesterday.
Specifically, he wanted four things in my non-fiction book proposal.
This post will hopefully help me catch my breath and serve as a guide while I muse over what to write for each of them.
Book proposal item #1 — Synopsis
The first book proposal item I’ve been asked to submit is a synopsis or summary of what my manuscript’s all about.
Fair enough. No one in the busy world of publishing will ever promise time to read the draft of any manuscript from cover to cover just because I gave it to them. Especially when we’re still miles from inking any book deal.
So a straightforward one-pager to tell all about my book makes sense. To give the publisher and his team of editors and marketers a quick summary of what the book is about. Hopefully, it will interest them to read the actual manuscript thereafter.
The question of course is how to write a compelling synopsis that captures the essence of the book. Knowing that at least some parts of it might find their way into various places. Like maybe the back of my eventual book jacket (this is me thinking optimistic!) or the short book descriptor that accompanies every Amazon book listed.
Book proposal item #2 – Author’s bio
The second item? An author’s bio. But not, mind you, a full-fledged multi-page curriculum vitae about me.
Just two paragraphs telling the world who I am and why I’m well-suited to write this book.
That’s no mean feat. As any good writer will tell you, writing less actually requires more time!
The first paragraph should talk about me in general. Stuff like where and what I studied before? What job or jobs I’ve done that are relevant to my writing of this book? In short, what makes me qualified to put pen to paper on this topic, or (more likely these days) fingers to clickety-clackety keyboard?
The second paragraph would be akin to the closing arguments of a defense attorney in a court of law. To explain why I’m best placed to talk about the topic of my book. Make mention of my experience with regard to the topic. Highlight any previous publications, speaking engagements, online presence, and media coverage I might have had. Thankfully I do have these, so it’s about putting some of them into something coherent that will assure the book publisher and his team that I’m a credible voice.
Book proposal item #3 — my manuscript
The third item for my book proposal submission is obvious — the book itself! Otherwise referred to as the manuscript.
Clearly, no one’s gonna take my word for it that I’ve written the stuff right? I got to show them a couple of chapters at the very least. If it’s the first contact with the book publisher, then sharing samples of the first one or two chapters would be a good place to start.
In my case, I’ve been specifically asked to submit the full manuscript, having already shared samples of my first three chapters. The rationale? I have the full manuscript, and an at-least-decent first few chapters are still no guarantee to the busy publisher and editorial team that the rest of the book will be too! So call it collateral if you will, but they need to know this isn’t a rabbit hole I’m leading them down.
Again, fair enough. Now that I’ve already had a phone chat and also met the guy, I’m prepared to trust him and his team with my “life work”. The fact he agreed to meet me yesterday when it’s not a normal industry practice (especially for a new author) means in some sense I’ve successfully put half a foot in through the publishing door.
So a quid pro quo in good faith seems only reasonable. But as a precaution, I’m going to review my manuscript again, then send them in pdf. Will include a disclaimer on every page that all intellectual rights to it still reside with yours truly for now.
Book proposal item #4 — USPs
The final item I was asked to include in my book proposal is a list of USPs — unique selling points.
In a nutshell, why I believe my book sells.
I used to teach this stuff when I taught corporate communications and marketing before. So by right, I should be more than familiar with how to do this.
But somehow I don’t feel confident about delivering a compelling list of USPs when it comes to my own life work. I know that sounds odd, but it’s true. Teaching it before doesn’t automatically mean I’m comfortable with sales in general and “selling myself” in particular!
Plus this list of USPs isn’t so much directed at readers. Rather, it’s to appeal to the bookstores or platforms where my book will be sold when (or if) the time comes.
So I need to put myself in the shoes of these good folks to figure out what they consider as worth their time, money, and resources to set aside precious real estate bookshelf space. These could be anything from me being an unknown newbie author (and thus for them a risk to take on), to whether my book’s topic is fresh or overdone. Not to mention the quantity to order and stock, since inventory that doesn’t “move” (sell well or at all!) is typically a major pain point for booksellers.
They might even want to find out if I’m able to front “meet-and-greet” sessions they host. Let’s face it, not every author is a gifted communicator beyond the written word. So bookstores get skittish about whether authors they feature can handle public speaking and appear at least half decent! Especially in this day and age of showy TikTok stars and filtered profiles on social media.
Oh well, as my writing coach once said: “Onward!”
Sitting there yesterday and listening to the publisher eschew the complexities of book publishing, I couldn’t help but feel slightly overwhelmed!
While I don’t think he was trying to deter me, it nevertheless made me realize that at any point from conception to publication, things can go pretty wrong.
For one, my book proposal would take at least six to eight weeks for his team to digest. And it could be dropped faster than a hot potato the minute they find the writing sucks.
For another, even if the book gets published, that won’t happen right away. The whole thing can take at least eight or more months if I’m lucky. The to-and-fro of the editing process alone can take that much time, so don’t even talk about the time for printing, marketing, promoting, distributing, and warehousing.
This is also why I salute self-published authors for taking all that on with aplomb! Me? I think I’ll just stick to what I (hope I) know best.
So it’s back to the drafting board to cough up those four items. Wish me luck ok?