The Mini-Proposal

In recent days I have talked with several impressive author candidates who I had contacted to see if they had an interest in writing a book. Two of these people, who were constantly on the move (flying from meeting to meeting), were interested and had definite ideas on the books they wanted to write. The problem was that they simply didn’t have the time to write the kind of full-length proposal that I have posted on my home page. That’s when I thought of the pre-proposal (or mini-proposal).

Rather than wait the many weeks it would require to write a full length proposal, the pre-proposal would allow an author who is under the gun to put something together in a few hours. It would convey the essence of the book—its theme, approach, unique selling proposition, etc. It would consist of a few pages, but would provide enough information for the publisher to say yes, “I want to see more,” or no, “that’s not for us.” That’s the goal of the mini, or pre-proposal: It tells a publisher if there is a fit between author and publisher. Ideally, a mini-proposal would include: 

* A brief synopsis of the book, describing the book as vividly as possible. Make it sound compelling. Draw a picture of what the final book—the finish line—will look like. This can be done in a single page. 

* The primary benefit of the book: also known as the USP, or unique selling proposition; what will readers get out of your book that they can’t get elsewhere?

* A quick description of the target audience: this is important, since it will tell us who you are trying to reach. Is it a general Wall Street Journal audience, or higher level, such as financial professionals?

* Competing books: tell us of published books, or books that will soon be published, if you are aware of any, that would be in the same ballpark as yours.   

* Books specifications: all relevant specs—the length of the book, number of tables, graphs or other pieces of art, and how long it will take you to write the book.  

We are in the process of testing these mini-proposals, so I will report back on how well they worked. Want to get another perspective on putting together a book proposal? Please go to Tim Bete’s blog, whose work has been featured in the Christian Science Monitor:

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