The Importance of the Book Proposal

Okay in my last blog, I waxed poetic about ugly crying and the pay off of finishing the thing that’s in your heart to start. For this post, I’m gonna be more practical, since I’ve had a few people ask me where to start as it relates to publishing a book.

Let me start off by saying I am by no means a veteran, I’m just sharing here the practical lessons I learned as a first-timer writing a non-fiction book while the experience is fresh on my mind and before I get distracted gearing up for this week’s episode of Scandal and Downton Abbey. Practicing “his Lordship” in my best English accent and rehearsing my Olivia Pope walk really does take a lot of work.

Here are a few thoughts that may help those of you with book dreams in your heart. Complete a book proposal.

Whether you’ve decided to self-publish or submit your book to a publisher, a book proposal will help you organize your ideas and see if they are really book length. Many people come and talk to me after events with book ideas burning inside of them. They decide this is the time. They are just going to start writing. Without a book proposal, you may be likely to get disillusioned with what seems like an awesome idea from the onset. You may find yourself getting lost in what was your point in the first place.

A couple of my friends bugged, bothered, and encouraged me until I finally gave in and completed my book proposal. Here’s why a book proposal can help you:

1.     A book proposal is like a business plan for your book. The first part will include a chapter outline, description of your demographic, what qualifies you to write the book, and what makes your book different from other books on the market on the same topic. The second part is two sample chapters of your book.
2.     If you can’t finish the proposal, you will know either your idea is more the length of an article than a book or that your idea has been written about well and you have nothing fresh to add to the topic. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing. You could either turn your book idea into an article or blog, or you can move on from that idea and work on another one.
3.     Your book proposal will help you discover who your market is. Before you publish a book, you want to have some sort of readership in mind, other than your mom or best friend.
4.     A book proposal will provide you with a sketch with which you can write your book. It’s much easier to write a book when you have a sketch or outline of some sort. As writers we would love for you to believe that we sit down at our MacBook (I mean all writers use Apple products, right? Right?!) and extemporaneously come up with immediate and unplanned genius for our readers (I get some cool points for using extemporaneously in a sentence, right? Right?!). But this is a myth, a legend, don’t believe the hype. Every great writer you know sat down at the MacBook, notebook, typewriter with a plan. A book proposal will force you to have one.
5.     If you decide to go with a publisher, many publishers are not looking for your finished non-fiction manuscript. They want a proposal because they want a sample of your writing and they want to know how you plan to access readers and succeed in the current market.
6.     For me, writing my book proposal was a microcosm of the book writing process. It required discipline, it wrung me out of creative energy and ideas, it brought out all of my worst procrastination tendencies, but it was so worth finishing. How you complete your book proposal is a fraction of the experience you will have actually writing a book.

Michael Hyatt posted an e-book on How to Write a Winning Book Proposal. It really helped me with the first draft of my proposal.

So with all those tips said, when are you gonna finish that proposal and stop procrastinating?! Writers don’t procrastinate, right? Right?!


A Few Thoughts on Writing a Book

I’ve been writing on a regular basis since I was twelve years old. In all my years of school, studying as an English major, writing vocationally, I never met a writing project that beat me…until I had to turn in the first draft of my book.

I was supposed to turn in 40,000 words. At the end of a few months I had arrived at a meager 27,000, and that felt like someone had squeezed the words out of my veins. I clicked send and emailed the draft to my editor. My husband walked in and smiled.

“You finished your book! Let’s go celebrate. We can do anything you want.”

I disintegrated into a shoulder shaking, ugly cry. Turns out tears was the way I wanted to celebrate.

I shared this with friend, songwriter, and fellow author Candi Pearson Shelton and she told me:

“The difference between poems and songs is the pay off. You know how you feel when you know a poem is finished and you’ve done your best with it?”

I nodded.

“You’ll eventually feel that way about your book. It’s just gonna take a whole lot longer.”

We laughed. And I breathed a sigh of relief that maybe my tears didn’t mean I was a failure. Candi was right. By my third draft, some feedback from friends and writers I respected, plus edits and challenging questions from a great editor, I finally felt like writing a book hadn’t beaten me. I arrived at my word count and felt good about what I’d written.

I had to excavate my past, dig beneath my stories, get honest, and focus more on doing the best I could than comparing myself to anyone else. Breaking Old Rhythms is a result of several coffee house conversations, a few embarrassing moments, honest prayers, and a few stanzas of poetry weaved in.

Whether it’s writing a book, completing a degree, raising kids, starting a business, caring for a loved one, or just simply getting up out of bed and living every day to its fullest, don’t let it beat you. Keep showing up until you figure out its rhythm. Learn to dance with it, until it brings out the best in you.

Next blog: The Importance of the Book Proposal


Breaking Old Rhythms - Book Trailer

I am less than 2 months away from the release of my first non-fiction book Breaking Old Rhythms: Answering the Call of a Creative God on March 1! Thanks to the wonderful peeps at Skor Inc. here is the book trailer. Check it out!

Video by: Brody Harper and Ryan Slaughter of Skor Inc.
Music by: Matt "DJ Opdiggy" Owen
Book Publisher: Intervarsity Press - Crescendo


Amena Answers Your Questions Part 3

My third Question and Answer blog featuring questions from Angeley Crawford on Facebook. 

Question 1: What is "Christian" Poetry?

Question 2: How do I find a writers' group?

Question 3: What are your thoughts on dealing with the hurt or envy that comes with interracial dating?

Have more questions? Find me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Pinterest.