I know there are some writers who visit the blog so I thought I would share how the Beautiful You idea went from concept to contract. In the spring of 2008, the idea for Beautiful You came to me, but I had already completed a book proposal for another idea (Let’s call it The Field Guide) and was shopping it around to publishers. I am an unagented writer (which is possible as a non-fiction writer but much more difficult for a fiction writer). Because the other idea was getting some positive feedback (and because I had put a whole lot into writing out a comprehensive book proposal for it and I, thus, believed in the book even more) I decided to shelf the Beautiful You concept until I saw what happened with the book I was shopping at that time.
The Field Guide was getting great feedback– the timing, to me, seemed right with the upcoming election– but, ultimately, the small publishers I approached liked the concept but weren’t sure if it would move thousands and thousands of copies off the bookshelf. Since publishing is ultimately a business, projected sales matter. And the publishers I approached didn’t have the faith that I had that people would be compelled to buy this book, especially after the 2008 election season as it dealt with some of the concepts of community brought out in the long election season.
Beautiful You was still on my mind, but we were also in the midst of the adoption so I put the concept on hold until all the paperwork was in and we were just in the wait for our court date. Ultimately, the book proposal spanned over 20 pages and covered these areas:
1, About Beautiful You
2. About the author
3. What’s missing in the marketplace?
4. Main ideas
5. Content overview
C. Market Analysis
1. Who will buy this book and how big is the market?
2. Why is it the right time for this book?
D. Promotion & Publicity
1. Book Promotion Events
3. Author Generated Marketing and Material
E. The Author
F. Sample Chapters
We soon found out that we would be traveling to Ethiopia at the end of January, and so I decided to wait until after we returned home and settled down a bit before I sent the proposal to any publishers. In April, I approached Seal Press, my publisher for Hijas Americanas, and, ultimately, we went to contract at the end of July.
I try to write a book proposal that has a strong voice and has been well-researched in terms of what’s already available in the marketplace, how the book I am proposing fills a void, and how I anticipate marketing this book effectively (yes, the average author really tackles the marketing of her book). There are several great books out that that walk a writer though drafting a book proposal and publisher web-sites often tell you what they are looking for in a proposal. It is always important to make sure that you give a publisher what they request (an easy way to get a no is to not follow the very first instructions you’ve been given). With some time spent really brainstorming the book you want to write and preparing the proposal, it’s possible to land a contract. That said, also know that finding a publisher is a lot like dating. It’s subjective– not everyone is going to feel like they can sell your book to the public. But you don’t need everyone to feel that way. You need to find the one that will feel that way. Now, it might take 20 pitches (or more) to find that one, but finding the one is always worth the journey.