Book Proposal – Part Zero

30 Dec
Manuscript or proposal?

Manuscript or proposal?

As mentioned in my recent post on my book’s status, I now begin a series of posts on writing a book proposal. I thought it best to start with a “Part Zero” to establish the context for the series.

Like many here at wordpress, I was once an aspiring writer. While I had written a moderate amount professionally—emails, performance appraisals (a hidden art form!), letters, tactical notes, 10,000 word post-grad thesis, letters, briefing notes, professional journal articles, newspaper articles, etc.-, I had never tackled something as large as a book. I wanted to write a significant non-fiction work.

Before actually starting to write, I did a little internet research as to what writing a book was all about. Self publishing wasn’t on my radar screen at the time, and what I read suggested that professional writers didn’t submit manuscripts to major publishing companies. They instead submitted book proposals.

Put yourself in the place of a traditional publisher. You run a business. You want to publish books that make money, not lose money. You have salaries to pay, rent to pay, equipment to maintain, etc. And you are constantly getting manuscripts from aspiring writers. Which ones are even worth the time (and hence cost) to read and assess? Which are the ones that readers are going to want to buy?

The book proposal communicates to the publisher that you are a professional writer. That is, you understand that publishing is a business, as opposed to the art of writing. The proposal is in fact a business proposal to the publisher to publish your book. It demonstrates that you will (or have) approached your writing in a disciplined and professional manner, and that your book was well thought out in advance rather than you just having hung onto your keyboard by the seat of your pants during NaNoWriMo.

However, the Internet Reformation has radically altered the publishing industry, and the transformation is still in progress. As this recent Canadian newspaper article describes, self-publishing appears to be the new norm for new authors.

From the major publisher’s perspective, there is no longer a need to take a risk on an unknown author. These authors have proven themselves in rising above the herd of self-published authors, and they bring with them an established readership and a degree of personal brand recognition.

The risk to the traditional publisher is that it has become irrelevant to some successful writers. If one becomes highly successful as a self-published author, what value does a traditional publisher add to justify taking a cut of your profits? This is a great article on the topic.

So is the book proposal still relevant in the rapidly changing world of publishing? I think so. It disciplines your approach to writing, and it forces you as a writer to confront the realities of publishing as a business.

In the next instalment, I’ll go over the basic structure of the proposal I wrote. Please keep in mind that I am hardly an expert, as The Mirror is my first book, and it won’t be released until February 2014. And, as the saying goes, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. Alternate views, opinions, or experiences are most welcome.

34 Responses to “Book Proposal – Part Zero”

  1. waitingforprincecharming December 30, 2013 at 11:19 am #

    That’s very insightful and interesting for those who may want to attempt publishing some day, thank you Navigator 🙂

    • navigator1965 December 30, 2013 at 11:23 am #

      You are quite welcome, WFPT. Have I told about this cousin of mine… ? }:-)>

      • waitingforprincecharming December 30, 2013 at 11:29 am #

        Parish the thought, but I may even look into this book venture some day 😉 What do you think? “Dating- what not to do”… Or, “Poster child for the 30s+ Single Person”.. hehe
        And yes, you may have mentioned a cousin, in passing a time or two…

        • navigator1965 December 30, 2013 at 11:53 am #

          Was that a Freudian slip or Divine intervention with your spell corrector? Instead of “Perish” the thought, you wrote “Parish” the thought. As in a church wedding ceremony.

          Might as well give up. Hello, Auntie’s finder fee!

        • waitingforprincecharming December 30, 2013 at 11:55 am #

          Oh dear, not enough coffee rather me thinks.. LOL

  2. cttbbelliott December 30, 2013 at 11:21 am #

    I commend you for your writing efforts. I took it upon myself after completing a manuscript in 2009 and tucking it away for a few years, to go through the self publishing process with createspace and have been very pleased with my choice. I hired a publicist, Substance Books, with Hajni Blasko, and am getting exposure there on FB. My novel, Courage Times Three, is a Christian Historical fiction story and the only thing I have written that’s been published. I would love to have you read my novel and give it a review. What is your manuscript about?

    • navigator1965 December 30, 2013 at 11:45 am #

      What a great comment! First, thanks for the tip on Substance Books. I had a quick peek at their website. I’ve been starting to look at online book marketing/publicist outfits in anticipation for the February launch. What’s been your experience with Substance? Did you recoup the cost of their services with increased sales?

      My book. A bit of Malcolm Gladwell, a bit of human interest, a bit of autobiography, and more than a bit of major scandal. I suffered an evil divorce experience at the hands of feminist social workers, lawyers, and judges. I maintain that there was serious criminal malfeasance, and that there was a government cover up when I identified this. So I am going to expose the system like it’s never been exposed before. I anticipate being the most hated man on Earth once my book comes out.

      I am currently reading Susan Lattwine’s book Arafura and have a couple of more in the holiday reading queue. I plan to start writing my sequel in earnest come 1 January 2014, so I can’t commit to reading another book at the moment. If you can wait, I might get some free reading time towards later January. Feel free to fire me an email at around then.

      • thebufferzoneday December 30, 2013 at 10:43 pm #

        Navigator, I find it hard to believe that you would ever be the most hated man on Earth, based on your helpful and supportive comments on numerous blogs. Best wishes for your book and 2014!

        • navigator1965 December 30, 2013 at 11:03 pm #

          Such a kind comment. Thank you.

          I fear my book will be very socially disruptive, however. This sort of thing tends to not go unnoticed.

  3. jamborobyn December 30, 2013 at 12:07 pm #

    I’ve been thinking about this book-writing thing for approximately half a day now and out comes your post in a most timely fashion. Thank you very much for sharing, I eagerly await the next in the series.

    • navigator1965 December 30, 2013 at 12:24 pm #

      It appears as if my timing was serendipitous, then. I’ll try to get the next instalment out ASAP, perhaps even tomorrow. Glad that they are of interest to you.

      • jamborobyn December 30, 2013 at 12:28 pm #

        No rush, just letting you know I’m interested and I’ll be keeping my eye out for the next one.

  4. Kim Saeed December 30, 2013 at 2:29 pm #

    Standing on the sidelines with pom-poms at the ready!

  5. themathmaster December 30, 2013 at 2:32 pm #

    As one who will probably end up self-publishing I often think about the what it would mean to use a traditional publisher, if any were ever interested in me (unlikely as it seems). I don’t know that I would want to go that route, even if an offer was made to me. I look forward to reading your proposal.

    • navigator1965 December 30, 2013 at 2:46 pm #

      Thanks, TMM. Hey, I’ll have to send you my cousin’s Ph.D. thesis in number theory when he publishes it later in 2014. Very impressive.

      I’ll be certain to keep the book proposal instalments coming.

  6. LindaGHill December 30, 2013 at 5:44 pm #

    Do you think then, the traditional publishers are only going after authors who already have a following? Or do you think there’s still a chance for a first-timer to get a publisher to accept his or her novel?

    • navigator1965 December 30, 2013 at 6:02 pm #

      Not certain – an agent might be a better person to ask. I would say that there is a chance with a smaller publisher.

      • LindaGHill December 30, 2013 at 6:30 pm #

        Good point – an agent is probably the best place to start anyway. Thanks, Nav. 🙂

      • LindaGHill December 30, 2013 at 6:32 pm #

        I will, however, take what you’ve said here into consideration. The workload in promoting your own ebook is much greater, but it could well work out to benefit in the long run.

        • navigator1965 December 30, 2013 at 7:52 pm #

          I hope so. It would be nice to have a popular and successful ebook on my hands.

        • LindaGHill December 31, 2013 at 10:15 am #

          I have no doubt you will. 🙂

  7. idiotwriter December 31, 2013 at 6:50 am #

    Nice write Nav ~
    I would also like to add that through research I have done – alot of publishing houses also ask you for your marketing strategy – ie – they STILL want you to be a BIG part of planning and deciding how to publicise the book.
    A great site I scour through and have learned HEAPS:
    May be of benefit to a lot of folk. Be warned – there is SO much info on this site it is mind boggling – and absorbing. It covers every aspect of writing from setting scenes to opening chapters; to checklists to the editing and publishing point. And then some.

    • idiotwriter December 31, 2013 at 6:50 am #

      …but I have not been visiting for a while other then going to get the link – time I made a trip back there 😉

      • navigator1965 December 31, 2013 at 9:00 am #

        Come to mention it, it has been a little lonely here of late. }:-(>

    • navigator1965 December 31, 2013 at 8:59 am #

      A super resource! Thanks for sharing this, Belinda.

      • idiotwriter December 31, 2013 at 11:57 am #

        A pleasure!! Line up the drinks before diving in THERE hey!? I sat up night after night till about 3/4 in the morning for about a week! Just could not stop myself reading on and on.

  8. suzjones January 4, 2014 at 9:46 pm #

    I’ve finally gotten to this 😉
    I attended a Hay House writers conference here in Australia. It was run by the CEO of Hay House Reid Tracey and the CEO of Hay House Australia Leon Nacson. They also had Doreen Virtue and Deepak Chopra speak as established authors.
    Anyway, to cut a long story short the heavily pushed the writing of a proposal and building a marketing platform. They emphasised that the hard work begins AFTER the book is in print with promotion and marketing. They also stressed that self marketing is now the norm in the publishing business.
    Hay House have a self publishing arm (Balboa Press) and they watch the trends on Balboa in order to determine whether someone may need to be bought into the Hay House fold.
    It really was an eye opening conference and I noticed that previous winners of their writing competition (and indeed this years one) all have strong online presences. In actual fact, they said that the first thing publishes do will google the author to ascertain just how much online presence they have before even reading the proposal.

    • navigator1965 January 4, 2014 at 11:09 pm #


      What a fantastic comment! Thanks so much. You’ve corroborated much of what I’ve read and added extra. Google BEFORE reading a proposal? Wow, building your own online platform and presence is even more important than I thought.

      I really enjoy blogging, but Facebook doesn’t do it for me. Haven’t tried Twitter. Self marketing is not easy for an Analogue Man!

      • suzjones January 4, 2014 at 11:17 pm #

        You are very welcome. Reid Tracey recommended a book (and Hay House took orders at the conference for this and then sent it out) is “Platform – Get Noticed in a Noisy World” by Michael Hyatt. Michael also has a website and sends out newsletters. I know he sells courses but I can’t justify the expense of these just yet.
        I have read the book but I need to re-read it. There is a lot of information in there.
        Twitter confuses the hell out of me though. I have Twitter for Dummies and I’m still working through it. 😉

        • navigator1965 January 4, 2014 at 11:33 pm #

          Just bought the book, thanks for the tip. Now to find the time to read it!

          You’re ahead of me with twitter.


  1. Book Proposal – Part Nine “Sample Chapter” | The Mirror - January 19, 2014

    […] Part Zero – The Book Proposal […]

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