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5 things you should do before writing your next book proposal
Right - let’s start with the basics, because there’s probably a burning question on the mind of any aspiring novelists reading this post…
What is a book proposal?
A book proposal is a bit like a business plan that’s designed to engage investors and bank managers. Only, swap the latter for ‘book publisher’, and you’re along the right lines.
Many professional writers create their proposal before starting work on the book itself, and use it as a way to argue the reason for the novel’s existence. While they vary in length, some proposals can reach as many as fifty pages and usually include sample, draft chapters.
In the world of self publishing, writing a book proposal acts as a brilliant way to convince yourself that what you’re about to create is worthy of your time.
Before you put pen to paper, however, make sure you do the following:
1. Check out the competition
There’s no getting away from it - you’ll have some competing titles out there, no matter how niche you believe your niche to be!
Spend a good amount of time researching any existing titles that are similar to yours. Do so online, but head to the local book store or library, too. Study the books that most closely resemble your idea and, rather than being put off entirely - take notes. What opportunities have they missed?
2. Look beyond the books online
When researching the competition online, look beyond the pieces themselves. Instead, search on social media for mentions of the work, authors and subject matters.
What are people saying? Remember - if it appears as though you’ve stumbled upon a topic that lots of people have already covered and are actively discussing - you really are onto something.
Hit YouTube and podcasts, too. Expand your horizons and surround yourself with as much content as you can about your chosen subject or genre.
3. Check out ‘influencers’
An influencer is someone who resides within a particular industry, niche or interest group and who has a sizeable following. They’re perceived as experts, regularly approached for their thoughts and could provide superb insight into whatever it is you intend to write about.
You may see a lot of yourself in the influencers you find, too, which is a fantastic sign, because it means you’re most definitely the right person to write this book!
4. Find your audience
When all is said and done, we write books for very specific audiences, and if you know the characters your audience consists of from the start, you’ll stand a far better chance of creating something that will be cherished.
Again, it pays to do your research online, and if you’ve already followed step 2 above, you’ll doubtless have stumbled across Twitter threads, blog comments and YouTube debates that have been posted by people who will most likely make up your readership.
What sets them apart? What are their key concerns, likes, dislikes and habits? What kind of people are they?
Make as many notes on your audience as you can. The more you know your target reader, the more relevant your book proposal will be.
5. Work out how you’ll reach your audience
Chances are, your self-published book will reach its audience via one or several of the following channels:
- an online store (be it one of the biggies like Amazon, or the independents);
- your website;
- social media;
- speaking events;
- memberships or industry affiliations.
Spend as much time as you can working out where your audience resides and how they’re most likely to discover your work. This represents the grunt of the book’s marketing effort, and if you know in advance the channels in which you need to invest the most time, you’ll be forever one step ahead of the game.
Writing a book proposal should never be a chore, but if you fail to follow the building-block steps above, yours will be.
Don’t take any shortcuts - this will be one of the most important and enjoyable documents you write during the production of your novel.