Lights! Camera! Your Book Proposal! ... and Why You Need One, Even if You're Self-Publishing


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Finally - your questions answered: what book proposals are all about - what you do with them - what's in them, and most of all, why a self-publishing author should go through the hassle of creating one. It's good business!

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Lights! Camera! Your Book Proposal! ... and Why You Need One, Even if You're Self-Publishing

  1. 1. Lights! Camera!Lights! Camera!Lights! Camera!Lights! Camera! Your BookYour BookYour BookYour Book Proposal!Proposal!Proposal!Proposal! … and Why You Need One, Even if You’re SelfPublishingEven if Youre Self-Publishing Melanie Rigney Bay to Ocean Writers Conference February 23, 2013
  2. 2. TopicsTopics What Am I Going to Do with a Book Proposal? Do Self‐Publishers Need to Bother with All This? Elements of a Book Proposal Q L ttQuery  Letter Synopsis/Project Description/Chapter Outline Comparative/Competitive Analysisp / p y Reader Demographics Marketing Plan/Resume/Platform/Endorsements Sample chapters Why Isn’t There a Standard for All This Stuff? How Can I Find Out More?How Can I Find Out More? 2 Please do not reproduce without permission of Melanie  Rigney (
  3. 3. What Am I Going to Do with a Book Proposal?What Am I Going to Do with a Book Proposal? It’s not just about the writing; it’s also about showing that you  know your place in the market (and showing how you’re going to  sell books) Any reputable agent or publisher is going to want to see at least  some of these elements Progressive goal: From query letter to proposal to contract!Progressive goal: From query letter to proposal to contract! 3 Please do not reproduce without permission of Melanie  Rigney (
  4. 4. ?: Why Don’t Agents and Publishers Put?: Why Don t Agents and Publishers Put These Things Together for You?g g 4 Please do not reproduce without permission of Melanie  Rigney (
  5. 5. D S lfP bli h N d t B th ith All Thi ?Do Self-Publishers Need to Bother with All This? Generally, self‐publishers want to sell a few books too! Analyzing the competition and the marketplace helps you see ways  in which you might improve your manuscript (too long, too short,  does or doesn’t meet genre conventions) Developing the proposal elements can help with creation of back eveloping the proposal elements can help with creation of back cover and other “sell” copy, and identification of potential sales  venues Creating a book proposal helps you understand that publishing noCreating a book proposal helps you understand that publishing, no  matter who does it, is a business—and helps you be realistic about  the work required to be successful  5 Please do not reproduce without permission of Melanie  Rigney (
  6. 6. Elements of a Book ProposalElements of a Book Proposal Query Letter Synopsis/Project Description/Chapter Outline Comparative/Competitive Analysis d hiReader Demographics Marketing Plan/Resume/Platform/Endorsements Sample ChaptersSample Chapters 6 Please do not reproduce without permission of Melanie  Rigney (
  7. 7. ?: Wh t b t f tti ??: What about formatting? 7 Please do not reproduce without permission of Melanie  Rigney (
  8. 8. Elements: Query LetterElements: Query Letter Generally, needed for both fiction and non‐fiction proposals One page Th hThree paragraphs Hook (compelling “what if” premise for fiction; compelling  market need for non‐fiction; title) Exposition (how will the book meet the need; how will the novel  answer the “what if,” including basic plotline, main characters,  and resolution; word count)and resolution; word count) Why you’re the one to write it (credentials, connections, etc.) 8 Please do not reproduce without permission of Melanie  Rigney (
  9. 9. Elements: Synopsis/Project Description/Chapter OutlineElements: Synopsis/Project Description/Chapter Outline Synopsis = fiction; generally 3‐5 pages double spaced, 1‐2 single  spaced, fleshes out the story (including plot and major subplots)  and characters; generally told in present tenseand characters; generally told in present tense Project description/outline are among the terms you’ll see in non‐ fiction; for a memoir or narrative non‐fiction, it’ll look like a  synopsis; other genres, provide a rundown on how the book’s  content will be organized (number of how‐to projects, number of  profiles, etc.) Chapter outline: could be either fiction or non‐fiction; generally,  100‐200 words per chapter, high points of what happens (including  key conflict point)y p ) 9 Please do not reproduce without permission of Melanie  Rigney (
  10. 10. Elements: Comparative/Competitive AnalysisElements: Comparative/Competitive Analysis Always a non‐fiction proposal staple and, increasingly, an important  element for fiction proposals At least three (often five or seven) books that are similar to yoursAt least three (often five or seven) books that are similar to yours,  published in the past three years or so by a traditional publisher;  author should be someone at your level; the book should have  done well (based on Amazon ratings, unbiased reviews, any other ( g , , y sales figures or book club adoptions you can find) Identify the comparable titles through online bookstore sales or  bricks and mortar Explain how the books are similar to yours… as well as what your  book’s unique selling proposition/special element is DON’T trash the competitionDON T trash the competition 10 Please do not reproduce without permission of Melanie  Rigney (
  11. 11. Elements: Reader DemographicsElements: Reader Demographics Who’s going to read this book? Hint: The answer is not  “everyone!” Women? Men? Children? Baby Boomers? Generation Xers?  Millennials? Tweens?Millennials? Tweens?  Can you quantify the market size? Research the number of  romances/Civil War histories/cookbooks published each year  th h t d / i l i t t i tithrough trade/special interest associations Remember, a book doesn’t have to sell a million copies to be  profitable; even with a small audience (left‐handed civil engineers),  if the content is compelling and meets a need/desire and the  marketing plan is tactically strong, the right publisher will be  interested 11 Please do not reproduce without permission of Melanie  Rigney (
  12. 12. Marketing Plan/Resume/Platform/EndorsementsMarketing Plan/Resume/Platform/Endorsements Other than your writing, likely the most important part of the  proposal Marketing for first time/relatively unknown authors often is limitedMarketing for first‐time/relatively unknown authors often is limited  to catalog/publisher Web site presence Present what you will do “in concert with the publisher,” not that  b h f kyou expect to be in charge of marketing Include speaking experience Include association/club memberships relevant to the subject ofInclude association/club memberships relevant to the subject of  your book Engage experts/influencers in the area as you write; they’ll be  happy to consider writing endorsementshappy to consider writing endorsements 12 Please do not reproduce without permission of Melanie  Rigney (
  13. 13. Elements: Sample ChaptersElements: Sample Chapters Typically, the first three chapters; don’t cherrypick Make them as strong as you can One typographical or grammatical error won’t doom your chances;  however a general disregard for the rules willhowever, a general disregard for the rules will The first five pages must sing, in particular the first paragraph While you can work on your proposal as you write the manuscript  (and some prefer to write the proposal first), don’t send it out until  those sample chapters are as compelling as you can make them 13 Please do not reproduce without permission of Melanie  Rigney (
  14. 14. ?: Should I send out a proposal before my?: Should I send out a proposal before my manuscript is complete?p p 14 Please do not reproduce without permission of Melanie  Rigney (
  15. 15. ?: Wh t b t i ??: What about e-queries? 15 Please do not reproduce without permission of Melanie  Rigney (
  16. 16. ?: Why Isn’t There a Standard for All This Stuff? 16 Please do not reproduce without permission of Melanie  Rigney (
  17. 17. ??: How Can I Find Out More? 17 Please do not reproduce without permission of Melanie  Rigney (
  18. 18. ResourcesResources Includes sample  proposals you can download and review Detailed guidance http://kimberleycameron com/submission guidelines php: An‐guidelines.php: An  example of what you might be requested to provide in an e‐query An example of a  publisher’s online query engine Write the Perfect Book Proposal by Jeff Herman and Deborah Levine  Herman Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript by Chuck Sambuchino and the editors of Writer’s Digest Books 18 Please do not reproduce without permission of Melanie  Rigney (
  19. 19. Thanks for Coming TodayThanks for Coming Today Melanie Rigney (‐‐editing;‐‐writing) Follow me on Twitter  (, Facebook  (https //www facebook com/pages/Melanie Rigney(‐Rigney‐ Author/133200806702077), and Pinterest (;; 4201 Wilson Blvd., @ g y ; , #110328, Arlington, VA 22203 19 Please do not reproduce without permission of Melanie  Rigney (