When ghostwriting a book, I am sometimes asked to also write the book proposal.
I remember the first time I was asked to do this. I had no idea, so I did my research. A book proposal is a plan to convince either an agent or a publisher that your manuscript should become a book. It includes several parts, including:
the book’s overview,
a summary of all chapters and a few completed ones,
the author’s biographical information,
the case for why the author is the one to tell the story,
identifying the target audience,
similar books that already exist and how your book fits and is different from those, and
a marketing plan.
The overview wrote itself because the story was so compelling. The chapter summary came out of the outline, so that was no trouble. I had written some early chapters, so I just had to insert the ones the client wanted. The biography also was a breeze because I had interviewed the client extensively in the months we had worked together before reaching the point of writing a book proposal.
The client provided a list of similar books, which made the target audience easy to identify: It was the same as the people who read those titles. I researched, wrote summaries and explained in no more than a paragraph how her book would complement and/or be different. Examples included how particular experts were to be included in this story, how my client found spiritual health through different routes than other authors, and how her story took the theoretical of the other books and put it into the real world, which people could certainly relate to.
But the marketing plan I had never heard of. I did more research. A marketing plan is what it sounds like: a strategy to detail where and how can the book be publicized, marketed, sold; and the author’s role in doing that.
As a ghostwriter, the marketing plan is beyond my expertise, so I told my client what I needed to complete this part of the proposal. Her response: “I don’t have a marketing plan.”
I reached out to several contacts and asked them how important a marketing plan is as part of the book proposal. Here is what they said.
A publisher: “No agent will take it on without a marketing plan.”
A PR professional: “An agent wants it all laid out for them.”
A book editor: “The marketing information in a proposal is absolutely a critical component. It can make or break a deal, and can also influence how large of an advance is offered.”
A book coach: “Publishers are not even looking at unsolicited manuscripts. And some agents won’t look at you unless you have proven you are well-connected socially. It is harder than ever to get an agent or a publisher.”
I sent some of these to the client. Then I tried to impress upon her the importance and made some suggestions: Are there groups you belong to that include your target audience? What specific sales skills do you have? How much time, money, and effort are you willing to put in?
She responded, “I don’t have a marketing plan. Not sure I will have a marketing plan. If they don’t accept that, then I guess it’s on to the next one.”
She then instructed me to abandon the proposal and continue ghostwriting the book. I did, but I jotted down ideas. The relevant one was:
Have a website, blog, or social media account devoted to selling the book. I heard this from the PR professional, and I’ve seen others online say the same thing. Think of it as a movie teaser trailer: It isn’t done yet, but the target audience gets to see or hear about the upcoming work. Since I also ghostwrite these, I could have done them if asked.
I wasn’t asked to complete the proposal. I also haven’t seen the manuscript in print.
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