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?!