10 Reasons to Use the Proposal Process Before You Write a Book

red pencil with red lightbulbMany writers simply dive into their book projects as soon as the proverbial light bulb goes off. That’s really not the best plan of action. It’s much better to spend some time evaluating your idea to discover if it’s a viable one. Not only that, it’s important to evaluate yourself to see if you are the best person to write and publish that book and if you are ready to do so.

The Book Proposal as an Evaluation Process

The best way to evaluate yourself and your idea is with a process already used by the traditional publishing industry: a book proposal. However, you don’t have to write a book proposal. Simply use the sections of the proposal as evaluation tools. I call this the “proposal process” and teach people to use it prior to beginning to write their books. I discussed this in my book, How to Blog a Book, I offered the process in How to Evaluate Your Book for Success, and I’ll be writing about it at length in my new book, The Author Training Manual. The proposal process helps you determine the publication readiness of you and your idea. You learn what you still need to do to make both you and your idea marketable—and you learn this before you write. Becoming marketable, of course, means you and your idea have a higher likelihood of selling—to readers and to publishers.

It’s easy to understand that your idea must be marketable. If your idea isn’t marketable, you won’t produce a manuscript that sells. It can be more difficult to understand that you, as a writer, need to be marketable, too. You are selling yourself to agents and to publishers if you want a traditional publishing deal. Even if you don’t, you need the same qualities these publishing professionals seek to become a successful indie publisher. So, you must evaluate yourself, as well as your idea, through the eyes of an agent or acquisitions editor. They read book proposals when deciding on the viability of a book project and the attractiveness of an author as a publishing partner. By evaluating yourself you will know what you need to do, and what you need to do to your idea (or manuscript), to attract publishers and readers.

Why You Should Evaluate Yourself Using the Book Proposal Process

If I haven’t already convinced you to take the time to evaluate yourself and your book idea before actually writing, here are 10 reasons to use the proposal process.

  1. You can avoid spending time writing a manuscript that will never sell—to readers or to publishers.
  2. You can determine if you have a large enough market to make your book a viable business proposition and write for the largest market possible, increasing the selling potential of your book.
  3. You can angle your idea to make it unique in its niche.
  4. You can find out how your credentials stack up against authors of similar books and brand yourself in such a way that you stand out as the best person to write this book and the thought leader in your subject area.
  5. You can create a content plan for a book that will be highly marketable because it meets readers’ needs.
  6. You can discern the correct time to publish your book based on your ability to best promote it.
  7. You can create an action plan consisting of concrete pre- and post-publication promotion steps to help you ensure that you and your book succeed.
  8. You can make sure you know what type of publishing best suits your personality and your situation.
  9. You can create a business plan to help you produce a successful independently published book.
  10. You can write a solid and intriguing book proposal that convinces agents and publishers you are an attractive publishing partner with a viable book project.

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  1. Nina, do you think this plan of attack would work equally well for fiction writers? I’m curious how I would implement this prior to starting a novel, but I can totally see how it would work for a piece of non-fiction. What do you recommend?


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