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What You Need to Know Before You Write a Book

What You Need to Know Before You Write a Book

Many people want to write a book.

I think it’s great.

Books are a fabulous way to document your philosophies, share your beliefs and experience, build credibility around your expertise, and drive leads for your business.

But there is one important realization that virtually all first-time authors completely overlook.

Before you write a book, you need to build an audience.

Before you create the book, you need to create the audience that is going to buy it from you.

Before you think about what your book is going to say, you should first think about how you’re going to sell it.

Every author loves to write but very few know how to sell.

And this creates a conflict because…

Writers write.

Editors edit.

Publishers publish.

Distributors distribute.

Retailers retail.

But no one actually ever SELLS the book!

And what good is all of the work of creating a book if it never gets sold and never gets into the hands of those it was intended for?

Which is a good reminder of why Robert Kyosaki said “Remember, it’s not called New York Times best writing author; it’s New York Times best SELLING author.”

And in order to sell it, you have to have someone to sell it to.

You have to build the audience for it.

You have to build a sales plan for it.

You have to do the work that most people aren’t willing to do.

You have to “Take the Stairs.”

So, before you start daydreaming of all the pearls of wisdom you’d include in your life’s work, spend some time thinking about how you would sell it.

Pretend for a moment that the book is done and you’re holding the first copy in your hands. Then what would you do?

Who would you tell about it?

How would you tell them?

What would you do to compel them to buy it from you?

If you don’t know how to sell, or are afraid to, then you might consider getting a sales coach.

If you have a book and you don’t know how to market it then you might like this free 1 hr training on doing book launches.

But if you’re an aspiring author, build an audience first.

Develop fans and followers first.

Construct a platform first.

Create a sales plan first.

And then once you have it, write the best book ever that captures everything you believe in and go out and sell it like crazy!

How to Write a Book Proposal

How to write a book proposal is the wrong question to ask. The better question is “why do I need to have a book proposal?”

Many authors get disappointed with the vast amount of rejection they experience in trying to get their books accepted by literary agents and publishers – trust me, I’ve been there. And the ones that do get the chance to work with publishers are often disgruntled about how seemingly “little” the publisher did to promote their book for them once it was finished.

I too have had some of those same feelings and challenges. But I finally figured out that publishers weren’t the problem. I was the problem. And I needed to change my thinking.

The mistake I made when I first started pitching my book ideas to literary agents and publishers was that I assumed they cared most about my ideas and my outline for how I would write the perfect book.

So I wrote about how passionate and experienced I was on the topic. I tried hard to convince them that my ideas were unique and different than what was already out in the market. I worked to show them my credibility and my intelligence. And most of the proposal was about what I planned to say in this “amazing” new book.

What I’ve come to realize – and it shouldn’t have taken me as long as it did but hey, maybe I’m a little slow – is that writing and publishing books is a business. And just like any other business, the business has to make money! So when it comes to companies who are in the publishing space,

They don’t care about your passion.

They don’t care about your ideas.

They don’t even really care all that much about you.

What they do care about is this:

 

How many books CAN YOU SELL?!?!

 

And you should too. Because whether you are working with a commercial publisher, a hybrid publisher, or you are self-publishing, you need to know how in the world are you going to sell this book?!

Actually, I have found that many of the companies and people in this business do care about your passion. They do care about your ideas. And the good ones really do care deeply about establishing great relationships and partnerships with their authors. (I’ve been lucky to have an agent, editor and publisher that all really do!)

But they simply can’t care as much about those things – or at least can’t make business or financial decisions based only upon those things – as they do about how many books are you going to sell. In order for them to survive and thrive the book has to sell to generate money. It’s not personal; it’s just the natural state of the way people are incentivized to operate.

So, what is a book proposal? A book proposal is a business plan for your book and a sales pitch on paper. How do you write a good one? The same way you would write a good business plan: with a detailed plan of how you are going to market and sell the product once it exists. Show them what you are going to do to create sales.

Here are 2 tips:

  1. Create a “Hot 100 List” – Regardless of how experienced you are as an author or what type of publishing you are doing, I would encourage you to create a list of the 100 action items you are going to take once this book is in your hand to actually sell the book (you probably will only include the top 5-7 in your actual proposal but you need the full list). Assume that you’ve written a great book and that you have it in your hand right now – what will you do next? That is what you need to think through. (If you have questions about ideas on this just leave me a comment and I’ll write more on this specifically in the coming weeks.)

    In addition to your 100-item “to-do” list, the other thing I’d advise you to make is a list of (at least) 100 people who are prospects to buy your book. And develop a plan to reach out to them.

  1. Say it with pictures; not words – My first several rounds of book proposals were lots and lots of words. People even told me, “It doesn’t need to be pretty; just show us you’re writing and ideas.” That was a lie. Selling is transference of emotion. And a book proposal is a sales pitch on paper where you are selling your idea to an agent or publisher. And pictures typically create emotions better than words do.My early proposals said things like “Rory speaks regularly on stages to audiences of hundreds of people” and “Rory appears frequently in the media as an expert”. Then I got lucky and met a branding genius by the name of Robert D Smith and he taught me what a book proposal was supposed to look like. The proposals that we later sold included a picture of me on stage in front of hundreds of people and it had screenshots of the actual articles I had been cited in. Don’t say with words what you can say with pictures.

The book proposal is as much for you as it is for the team working on the book. It gives you clarity about the direction of your book and your plan for launching your new business. Every book is a new business that needs to a launch plan. And it really is important to also think through the content and conceptual outline of your book, your idea, and your writing.

Just remember, it’s not called New York Times best-writing author; it’s best-SELLING author. It’s our job as the author to generate demand. And it’s our job as the author to make sure people hear about our work. In the social media generation, we authors are not only going to have to be great writers, we’re going to have to become increasingly better marketers. And that applies regardless of what type of publishing you are doing.