Monday, July 7, 2008

The Book Proposal Is Your Business Plan

One of my co-workers asked me if I have a book proposal or business plan I could change the names and post as an example. Well, not really. The essence of a great plan is that it is unique. At the same time there are some fundamental components of every business plan and every book proposal.

The Small Business Administration is a great resource for entrepreneurs. They list and define the essential parts of a business plan and I’ve listed the book proposal equivalent. The order is often different, but the elements are the same.
Executive Summary = a brief description of the book and its market—the pitch
Market Analysis = a description of the target reader, market statistics, and list of comparable titles with analysis
Company Description = an expanded description of the book and annotated outline
Organization & Management = author bio and resume, previous books and sales history
Marketing & Sales Management = marketing and selling activities the author will conduct (not what he expects the publisher to do)
Service or Product Line = possible series extensions, ancillaries, or derivatives
Funding Request/Financials = any specific terms the author will require or known buy-back quantities
Appendix = two or three sample chapters, related articles, news clippings

In my opinion, the executive summary is the most important part of any book proposal. In fact, a great title and subtitle should work as well as an executive summary. While it is generally accepted that titles in most book proposals are considered working titles and most publishers reserve the right to title or re-title a work, we’ve developed a theory that if we cannot title a book, we probably shouldn’t publish it.

Currently, I’m reading a book called Good in a Room: How to Sell Yourself and Your Ideas and Win Over Any Audience by Stephanie Palmer. (Read three sample chapters here.) In our business, the ability to communicate and “sell” ideas is critical. The author is a former Hollywood exec who mastered “the pitch.” She provides some excellent insight and some very practical exercises for developing pitches and titles. I highly recommend it.

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