Monday, April 17, 2006

So You Want to Write a Book? Lesson 3

Completely freaked at the idea of writing a book proposal? Got your sample titles? Read on.

First Things First
Yes, you have to write a proposal. Let me duck while everyone throws things at this blog.

Okay, I'm back.

Seriously, folks. You cannot get published without writing up a really good proposal. What exactly is a proposal? It's an outline all fancied up according to how the "industry" wants it to look. Before you panick, no, you don't have to know what a proposal looks like on your own. There are books out there; many books will tell you exactly how to write a book proposal. Here's a list of what's on my shelf:

How to Write a Book Proposal by Michael Larson

Write the Perfect Book Proposal: 10 That Sold and Why, 2nd Edition by Jeff Herman and Deborah Levine Herman

The Art of the Book Proposal by Eric Maisel

Thinking Like Your Editor: How to Write Great Serious Nonfiction--and Get It Published by Susan Rabiner and Alfred Fortunato

You might pick one up if you're serious about this book writing thing. Of course, stay tuned to this blog (subscribe to this blog!) and I'll walk you through it myself.

Onto Titles

Titles make or break your proposal. An agent or editor should be able to look at your title and immediately be interested. Agents and editors also hope that the book's title is exactly what the book is about, but sometimes authors (myself included) tend to go off on tangents. So next up should be your big idea.

Now, how you envision your book project at the beginning may not be even close to the final book proposal you send in to agents. That's okay. This is just your big idea, your nugget, the bullet, telling yourself about your idea. I like to brainstorm and make up a fake table of contents. I let myself realize that this is not the final table of contents and I still have the power to move anything around and to delete anything that I don't like.

Are you realizing the vision an author must have for their book before they even write it? This is such good news for you. If you can sell an agent and editor on your book proposal, you won't have wasted months or even years of your life writing a book that you can't even sell. Many authors I work with have a very hard time with the proposal portion. They get all caught up in trying to re-invent the wheel. Nope. And nope again.

Writing a book is actually about writing what people are asking for and believe me, the consumer audience knows EXACTLY what they are looking for. I have asked questions of my intended customer and have been very surprised to find out I did not have that much work to do in developing a new book idea. I just had to make sure I answered their questions.

And so, to your assignment: Try asking a question to people that you think are your book's target audience. Woman (and men) looking for love? People learning how to knit? People interested in building model trains? Go to a few people and ask them: What one burning question do you have about __________ (insert your topic where the space is)? And then, listen carefully. If you get the right person talking, they may just give you your big idea.

Next up, more on the proposal.

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