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Yes, writing a book proposal takes fortitude.
I’ve been eating, breathing and dreaming book proposals lately.
In the thick of it, this week, it kept my spirits up to hear from one client who just signed with Hachette (congratulations Dr. Lynelle Schneeberg!) and one who won the Silver Nautilus Award in the Multicultural category (Yay to Karin Esterhammer, author of So Happiness to Meet You: Foolishly, Blissfully Stranded in Vietnam).
The publishing process takes time and patience. We started on Karin’s proposal in October of 2014. We worked on her proposal through several rounds of editing. I encouraged her to do some platform building activities to grow her list to make the book proposal as compelling—and attractive to publishers—as possible.
Karin signed a book deal with Prospect Park Books in the summer of 2016. Her book was published in July 2017. It won the Nautilus Award May 1, just a few days ago. So, just under 2 years of writing a book proposal and submitting it to get to a book deal and another year (almost) for the award. It’s a long game but well worth it.
Sometimes, aspiring authors want to rush the process of writing a book proposal. They do a bit of work on platform and get tired. Or they revise the proposal a couple of times and feel they should be done. This is a competitive field and you don’t want “good enough.” You want chapters that sing—award-worthy chapters. You want to write a book proposal that stands out for how compelling it is. You want publishers to see how well you’ve developed your connections and community when it comes to your intended audience. Yes, the sometimes dreaded “platform” (but platform is your friend; I promise).
When you feel frustrated, tempted to rush the writing of a book proposal, remember the long game. Write yourself a vision statement or create a vision board. That can help you keep the big picture in mind. With The Ultimate Guide to Transforming Anger, it took me and my co-authors seven years to go from having the idea, and writing a book proposal, to holding a published book in our hands.
Our vison boards not only reminded us of the big picture but helped us see each challenge—in writing the book proposal and pitching it—as a gift. Each setback helped us examine where we were holding ourselves back. Each rejection helped us ask the tough questions and get answers from the generous agents who took the time to answer. When our book first came out we hit a huge setback
when bookstores weren’t willing to stock more than one copy of the book due to its odd dimensions.
We could have thrown in the towel once again. Instead, we pushed our publisher (HCI) to re-publish under a new title and with the right dimensions for a self-help book. It worked. And we got to use a blurb from our earlier review from the Chicago Tribune on the cover of our new version. Our lemon did end up as lemonade but not overnight!
Dr. Schneeberg’s book proposal and consequent book deal also took time (though, thank goodness, not the seven years ours took!). She had already written a version of it in April 2017 when we began working together. I encouraged her to work on her platform, as did the literary agent she sent it to, Linda Konner. A year after we started, when I saw her at the Harvard Medical School CME publishing course, she announced that, with Linda’s excellent representation, she’d just signed a book deal with Hachette Publishing Group.
So, what’s your best bet? Listen to your book coach. Don’t rush it. Be patient and persistent. Work your sample chapters till they sing. Get creative with your platform and promotion plan. Brainstorm with brilliant marketing minds. Network for commitments of blurbs and promotion support. Put everything you can into writing a book proposal before you send it out. Obtain the edge that positions you for success.
I’m holding a free Q&A call to answer your book proposal questions this Thursday, May 10 at 1 pm ET, 10 am PT. Sign up here.
And feel free to read more about my upcoming program, Fast Track Your Book Proposal, here. (there’s still one day to get the early bird savings!).
And here is an index to my free articles and posts on how to write a book proposal.