How to Write a Book Proposal, Part 2

Book sales grew by 9.1% last year, according to the Author’s Guild. That could be attributed to the pandemic, which kept people at home. It could be that the turbulent social and political climate of the past few years has driven folks to look for answers in books. But that’s only part of today’s publishing story. An Author’s Guild survey reports that respondents – authors – estimate that their income has declined by almost 50% from its pre-pandemic average.

That’s bad and doesn’t even take into account inflation…which you may have heard about.

Publishers certainly have. According to Publisher’s Weekly, paper costs rose 10% last year and are predicted to continue to rise this year; shipping costs have increased a lot more, and supply chain woes (you’ve probably heard about them, too) are extending time to market, which means, simply, that publishers have less cash and are taking on more debt.

For writers, that means that advances will be lower, press runs will be smaller, and getting published may be harder.

Here’s what you can do about that.

These days, publishers think that where they add the most value is in marketing and promotion. (They don’t do much editing.) So, when an editor looks at your book proposal, she wants to know that she can market the book and promote you.

In terms of your book proposal, that means telling the publisher that you are willing to:

  • Travel to Topeka (or anywhere else) to sign books, give readings, and sit in empty, lonely bookstores to sign copies if anyone shows up.
  • Talk to anyone who wants to talk to you. If you’ve given speeches, appeared on television or radio, or worked in the media, say so. Present yourself as a skilled professional communicator.
  • Network day and night. If you belong to any groups – churches, mosques, political parties, neighborhood organizations or clubs – name them. If you don’t have your own web page, build one. If you don’t Tweet, start. Use your Instagram and Facebook pages every day to let everyone know about your book, and ask your friends to say that it has changed their lives.

In reality, publishers that publish a lot of books won’t have a big investment in yours. They’re not going to spend a lot of money or knock themselves out for you or your book. So, if you want your book to succeed, you’re going to have to do a lot of the promotion yourself. And letting the publisher know that will help you get that advance.

Remember: As Samuel Johnson said, “No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.”

For more on how to structure your proposal, read on for Part 3.

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