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“Friday I signed my book contract! Thank you Lisa for helping me to get to this place. I still can’t believe this is happening. I have a feeling this will open so many doors for me, things I never even thought possible. Thank you so much Lisa for all your thoughtful guidance!”
This is “Jane’s” first book and she received a healthy advance on the high end of the five figure spectrum with a dream publisher.
And also “Whew.”
It took a lot of hard work on her part to get to this point.
It took “platform building” as well as brainstorming, writing, editing, rewriting, coming up with a marketing plan and more. It took learning to become a stronger writer. It took experimenting and trying new things.
Let’s break down our analysis of what Jane did right into these categories:
While Jane was in the enviable place of being contacted by journalists and documentary producers about her research, she still had a modest platform. So we went to work:
I suggested that as a university researcher, Jane let the PR department of the university know she was interested in speaking to journalists about her research and in brainstorming ideas for pitches to the press, without necessarily giving away all the juice that was in her book.
This is usually important–to leave some of the exciting research or information for when the book launches, yet get some publicity for tangential work now and develop relationships with journalists before sending a proposal out.
One of the best ways to sell books is in person at a speaking or training gig. Jane had spoken at a couple of conferences to very large audiences in the past. I encouraged her to contact the conference organizer to discuss being a keynote speaker in 2021, mentioning the topic of her book. I also suggested she line up additional speaking gigs. She did!
During our discussion, Jane mentioned some grants she planned to apply for, including one to be a national model for cities. Seeing how this could help her platform, she moved this up in priority and has already been approved for one of the two new grants, and is eagerly awaiting to hear from the second.
As an academic, Jane needed to learn how to write for a trade audience in a conversational style. Early on, she had told me two very funny stories about herself that painted a picture in my mind. I added these two stories to her introductory sample chapter and helped her tell the stories in a humorous way. Here are the elements that helped make these stories so entertaining that publishers and agents could envision a very popular book:
They painted a very funny picture. The descriptions helped readers see the scene unfold.
Jane’s original research included extensive interviews. Being a researcher with very fresh information definitely added to the cachet of her proposal. If you don’t have your own fresh research, perhaps you can identify new research by others and highlight several scientists or medical researchers. Or you can have a researcher contribute to each chapter.
There are other ways to be fresh though:
Originally, Jane targeted a more general market. After I introduced Jane to the woman who became her literary agent, the agent suggested she address some general market publishers with one proposal and tweak the proposal slightly for the Christian market, a natural fit for Jane’s book. Jane did so and ended up signing with a Christian publisher.
When addressing markets for the book or audience in your book proposal, be sure to include the size of each primary and secondary market. I often use census data for this section.
If an acquisitions editor wants to acquire your book for his or her list, they will bring your proposal to an acquisitions board meeting. The board will attempt to estimate the number of copies they expect to sell and the expected income from your book sales. If
This is not a time to be modest. Jane struggled a bit with “bragging” but she learned the importance of it quickly enough.
Another client I worked with this summer during a VIP Day with me had a similar struggle. It came up in our conversation that she’d won a prestigious award, yet nowhere in her proposal or her “About the Author” section did she mention this. “I didn’t even think of it,” she told me.
This is your time to brag. Include awards, honors, achievements (even those that are tangential but impressive), famous people you’ve shared the speaking stage with, original research you’ve done, anything you can think of.
Share your book proposal and book writing questions as a comment below.
And please join me for an absolutely free, information-rich, enlightening and fun teleseminar “Fast Track Your Book Proposal” on September 18 at 8:30 pm ET, 5:30 pm PT.
Sign up here! (it’s free!)
On the free teleseminar call, you will learn to…
Increase Your Chances of a Book Deal.
Start Your Proposal for Maximum Impact.
Avoid the Dreaded Slush Pile!
Include 3 Must-Haves Every Publisher Wants.
I’ll also share the strategies that just helped my client sign a high 5-figure book deal.
PLUS: Learn 2 top platform-building tips!