Recently, an acquaintance of mine finished a six-book non-fiction series of interviews and published it on Amazon. It was a tremendous achievement. His covers were informative and interesting and his titles aroused curiosity. He had transcribed and edited many lively and provocative interviews. But as we talked, I suddenly realized there was one problem.
He had no plan for selling the books.
In publishing, that plan is called a book proposal and an author prepares it before he writes the book. For decades, agents and publishers asked for book proposals in order to know to whom, why and how the author expected to sell a future non-fiction work. A book proposal calls on the author to identify her readers or “target market” in real numbers and explain where those readers are as well as why they will want to buy her book.
Not surprisingly, on the basis of a good book proposal, an agent often persuades a publisher to pay an author the advance the author needs to write the book.
In 2011, I recall seeing a projection that four thousand books a day would be published. With that kind of competition, writing well and having a unique idea or presentation is just the first step in creating a work that sells. Bottom line, a book’s success is still measured by the number of copies sold, and those sales seldom occur without a well-executed marketing plan. Every serious non-fiction author, whether they seek a traditional publishing contract or intend to self-publish, should have a well-organized and researched book proposal that includes a marketing map for their work.
In the business world, we take it for granted that entrepreneurs spend months and sometimes years to create a business plan that will lead to products or services that interest customers and perhaps investors. But they don’t do it in a vacuum. Many take classes, read extensively, and consult with experts to develop the best plan possible.
Today’s serious non-fiction authors are also in business–the business of writing, publishing and marketing books. The first question an author must ask himself about his book is the same question an investor asks the new entrepreneur—who will buy and why? It should be no surprise that money and time spent on instruction, advice or research that answers that question for the author is money well spent for the future.
According to the New York Times, some 81% of the US population harbors at least the thought of writing a book. A few of those people will actually write a book and fewer still will have done a substantive book proposal with a marketing plan.
What about you?