Guerrilla Intelligence What about Royalties

Before you even consider writing a book, understand the full commitment of resources required. Although the rewards of publishing can be enormous, only a few books make money for their authors. Unless you're a best-selling author, your royalties may not even cover your book promotion expenses. The direct income you receive from writing a book may not be as great as you expect, but then again, the client projects you win can far outstrip any royalties you might receive from sales of the book.

Once you've done your preliminary research and settled on an idea, you're ready to start writing your book proposal. Even if you plan to self-publish your book, the rigor of preparing a book proposal will shorten the time you'll eventually need to write the book while giving you a good idea of the level of effort you'll face.

Many fine books have been written about the art of preparing a winning book proposal, and you should study them. You can ease the effort of preparing a book proposal by following the guidelines set forth by the publishing world. A fairly clear set of steps guide your way, so follow them. Buck the system too much and you'll find yourself rewriting your book proposal more times than you revise a controversial client report.

At a minimum, a book proposal must include seven major topic areas.

1. The idea: What is your subject and how will it grab readers? What's new or different about your treatment of the subject?

2. The market for the book: Who will buy the book? How large is the potential market for the book? And, how many books do you estimate you can sell?

3. Comparable and competitive books: Who else is writing on your subject? What are the strengths and weaknesses of those books and how will your book add to the subject? What books complement your proposed book and how will your book add to what's been written?

4. Potential spin-offs: What other avenues exist for publishing your material—book summaries, audiotapes, or companion field guides?

5. Your qualifications to write the book: Agents and publishers will look at how qualified you are to complete the book and how aggressively you will push it into the market. A professional chef who wants to write about the joys of making pottery had better have some real qualifications on the pottery wheel. Demonstrate your expertise by identifying a problem and showing readers how to solve it.

6. Your plan to promote the book: Agents and publishers place the lion's share of the promotion burden on the author, so show how you'll support the marketing of your book to meet the forecast you've set earlier in your proposal. Many agents and publishers view this section as the most important part of the proposal. A great book idea with a lackluster promotion plan will come back to you for revision.

7. The details: A book proposal must also contain the book's proposed table of contents, a brief summary of each chapter, and one or two sample chapters.

Painful though it can be, writing a proposal forces an author to define and state what the book is about and why a publisher should buy it. Many authors think this task is the most difficult part of writing a book. But once it's done, you have a running start on drafting the manuscript, so you won't spend as much time staring at a blank computer screen wondering what to write.

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