Ron Pramschufer: This is Ron Pramschufer, and welcome to Publishing Basics Radio, where weekly we help you navigate the self-publishing minefield. Publishing Basics Radio is sponsored by selfpublishing.com, the Internet’s only self-publishing superstore. Think you’re ready to publish a book? Try selfpublishing.com. Now, on with the program.
Today we’re talking with Patricia Fry, the author of “How to Write a Successful Book Proposal in 8 Days or Less.” Hi, Pat, and welcome to Publishing Basics Radio.
Patricia Fry: Hi. Thanks for having me.
Ron Pramschufer: So this may sound a little bit silly, but what exactly is a book proposal?
Patricia Fry: Well, that isn’t silly. A lot of people want to know what a book proposal is, and I tell them that it’s a business plan for your book. And that’s when I get a scrunched up face. A business plan related to writing? It just – it does not compute for most people. But people need to understand that a book is a product, and your book proposal is your plan for producing and s elli ng your product.
Ron Pramschufer: Okay, so when do you – like when do you start writing? When do you start working on a book proposal?
Patricia Fry: I recommend that people start the book proposal, write the book proposal first, before they ever start writing the book. And this is especially true for nonfiction books. And the reason is that you want to make sure that you – well, one reason is that a publisher is going to at some point request that book proposal. Even if you aren’t planning to go with a publisher, you want a book proposal for yourself to help you write that book. And you want to write the right book. And a book proposal can help with that as well.
Ron Pramschufer: Okay. Now, one thing, I did read your book. I thought it was great.
Patricia Fry: Thank you.
Ron Pramschufer: Okay. And that’s one of the main reasons why we’re talking here today. I mean, I, you know, highly recommend it to people. What is your definition of self publishing?
Patricia Fry: Well, self publishing, that’s another term that people are confused about these days, because sometimes a fee-based POD publisher will say that they’re going to help you self publish your book. I was in St. Louis this weekend doing a book festival and a workshop there for writers, and a gentleman kept using the term, “I’m a self publisher. I self published with” blank blank POD publishing company.
And, but to self publish, the original term and the standby term that I stand by is that you set up your own publishing company. You are the business manager. You purchase the International Standard Book Number, which you’ve probably also heard referred to as ISBN. You purchase the bar code. You arrange for your book design and the cover design. And you set the price. You choose the title. You’re in charge. It’s your company. And that is the definition that I use of self publishing.
Ron Pramschufer: Okay. In other words, you, self, are the publisher.
Patricia Fry: Yes.
Ron Pramschufer: Self publishing.
Patricia Fry: Absolutely.
Ron Pramschufer: All right. Now. If – say, now, I’ve already made up my mind. I mean, everybody knows how hard it is to get a book produced by a traditional publisher, so say you’re _____________ and you’ve already made up your mind you’re gonna self publish. Why would I bother writing a book proposal if I’m gonna self publish anyway?
Patricia Fry: That’s an excellent question, and something else that confuses people a lot of times. A book proposal helps you to decide, as I said earlier, whether or not you actually have a book. Whether or not you have an audience for your book. If this book – if there’s a market for this book, is the market saturated with books on this topic? If it is, you might not want to produce the book the way you originally envisioned it. You may, instead, want to tweak it a little bit so that it does – it is a book with an audience, and there is a market for it, and there isn’t so much competition that your book’s going to be unnoticed. A book proposal has a lot of facets. A book proposal will tell you whether or not you have a book..
Ron Pramschufer: You know, you were talking about, oh, basically, the book proposal’s a marketing plan. Okay. And I teach a little learning annex course, where the first line of the course is writing’s a love, publishing’s a business. And the idea of having a business plan for your book is – I mean, you have a business plan for any other kind of business you get into. Like, why wouldn’t you as a self publisher?
Patricia Fry: Exactly. You can waste an awful lot of time and money if you don’t have that plan in place before you start.
Ron Pramschufer: Mm-hmm. I mean, like _____________. But it’s nothing wrong with it if there’s only a market for, you know, 100 books, only do 100 books. I mean, if you think you’re gonna go on to fame and fortune, you better, you know, you’re the publisher. You, self publisher, are the publisher, so you’ve got to look at you, the author, as you would if any other publisher would look at you.
Patricia Fry: Yes. And this weekend, when I was talking to someone about a book proposal, they said, well, how can a book proposal tell you all of those things? And I said, well, once you understand the components of a book proposal and what you need to – the questions you need to answer, the research you need to do in order to put this book proposal together, then once you have accomplished all of that, you will understand whether or not you have a book.
Ron Pramschufer: You spoke of components. So what are the main components of a book proposal?
Patricia Fry: They’re a little bit different for a nonfiction book as opposed to a fiction book. There are fewer parts to a book proposal for a fiction book. And not all publishers are going to want to see a book proposal for a fiction book. But I still recommend that you put one together for yourself. For a nonfiction book, the book proposal should include a cover letter, which is kind of a given, a title page, just so you have something – which includes, by the way, your projected number of words. Usually, you’re going to determine your projected number of words. That’ll be on the title page. You’ll want a table of contents for the book.
Ron Pramschufer: Okay.
Patricia Fry: You’ll want a synopsis, which is an overview of the book that you plan. A promotional plan, which would include who you feel is your target audience and what is the best way to reach them. And if you can come up with some statistics. For instance, you’re writing a book related to dog grooming. How many dog owners are there? How many pet groomers are there? How many people take their dogs to groomers? You want to have some statistics to show the publisher and for yourself. So this is where that information would go.
Market analysis. You’re going to compare your book idea with other books that are out there on the market. An honest appraisal analysis is going to be very important to a book proposal. This part you probably don’t need so much for yourself as you do a publisher, about the author. What makes you the ideal person to write this particular book? And what is your writing experience?
Ron Pramschufer: Okay.
Patricia Fry: Then you’ll want a chapter outline. And this would be tiny synopsis for each chapter. And possibly sample chapters.
Ron Pramschufer: All right, now, is there any one part that’s more important than the other?
Patricia Fry: That would probably be the promotional plan and – the publisher, in particular, and you, if you are the self publisher, should also want this information. Publisher will want to know what his bottom line is on this. This is what he’s concerned with. He wants a book that is going to make him money. And so whether or not there’s a market for this book will help him to recognize whether or not he can make money on it, how widespread that market is, and what you are willing to do to help promote the book. What your background is for promoting the book.
Ron Pramschufer: So that should give not only him, it should give you a good idea whether you can make money with the book, then, too, if you do it correctly.
Patricia Fry: That’s true.
Ron Pramschufer: Now, what is – you mentioned the synopsis. What all goes into a synopsis?
Patricia Fry: It basically is an overview of your book. It will tell the publisher what kind of a book this is, what the book’s about, what kind of a story your book is t elli ng, for instance, what the focus and scope of your book is, who’s your audience, why you decided to write this book. In the case of my book on youth mentoring, I decided to write this book because I saw that there were – there was a real need for it. And I explained to the publisher why I felt there was a need for this book. So that’s an important element to have in your – written into your synopsis. You’ll also want to share with the publisher what the tone you’ll be using with – what tone you will be using throughout your book. What style, what is the tone of the book.
Ron Pramschufer: To try to – and the idea is to try to have him have a feel of what the book is gonna be like without you actually writing it first.
Patricia Fry: That’s right. And you’ll embed this within your synopsis. Why do you think people will be interested in this book is another – something else that you’ll want to include in there. And what makes your book different, interesting and worthwhile. Of course, some of these questions will be answered in other parts of the book proposal, but if you can touch on those in your synopsis, I think you’re ahead of the game. And I think – if the publisher goes no further, at least you have that information there for him.
Ron Pramschufer: Now, how long is the synopsis. I mean, it sounds, just listening to you tell me what’s included there, it seems like I could go on for like thousands of words.
Patricia Fry: Well, it does sound like it. But you want it to encompass probably a page and a half to two pages. However, some people think that you should have as many as ten pages in the synopsis. I suppose it would depend on the complexity of your book. But you do have, remember, your chapter outline, which is going to have a small synopsis of each chapter. So you really don’t need to go on and on. And if you are just going on and on, then you definitely want to shorten it.
Ron Pramschufer: Okay. I mean, the idea is just like this radio show, we don’t want people turning it off cause they’re like falling asleep.
Patricia Fry: There you go.
Ron Pramschufer: I mean, you don’t want to lose the editor before you’ve gotten to the meat. Right? Now, you refer to the one sentence challenge. What’s that all about?
Patricia Fry: Oh, my gosh. I think this is so important. So many times, we just don’t have a lot of time to talk to someone about our book. And this would be whether you are approaching a publisher with your book idea, and you want to hook him without spending a lot of time, because he may not have a lot of time. This also comes in handy when you are promoting your book, and somebody says well, what have you been doing lately. Or what is your book about. You want to create one sentence that – or in some cases a 30-second little spiel, so that you can quickly get the point across what your book is about. And if that person is interested, they’ll open it up so that you can tell more. But this is going to be your hook to grab that publisher or that customer.
Ron Pramschufer: Okay. Like you mentioned you wrote a book, or you had published a book, on mentoring. What’s your one sentence challenge on that book?
Patricia Fry: The books that I am promoting really heavy right now are my writing-related books and my publishing-related books.
Ron Pramschufer: How about “How to Write a Successful Book in 8 Days or Less”? What’s the one sentence challenge on that one?
Patricia Fry: Well, this book is a definitive, no nonsense, easy to follow guide to writing a winning book proposal. That’s one thing I could say. For my book on book promotion, I have a little book called “Over 75 Good Ideas for Promoting Your Book”, and I say for that book it is a collection of low and no cost ideas for promoting your book.
Ron Pramschufer: Oh, there we go. Well, that brings back to the next question, the promotion plan, speaking of promoting your book. What all goes into the promotion plan?
Patricia Fry: Well, you’ll want to explain to the publisher what your expertise is in promoting. For instance, if you are a Toastmaster and you are constantly giving speeches as a Toastmaster and as a book promoter. If you give speeches as part of your work. Perhaps you have a job and this is one of your elements of your job is to give speeches. Then that’s something you’ll want to explain in your promotion piece for your book proposal.
I worked with a woman recently who had a book that she was getting ready to bring out. She put in her book proposal that she was gonna put on a huge conference and have – about the topic of her book – and have celebrities there, because this was such a hot topic. She said that she was going to go around and teach all over the United States, and so I said okay, now we need to – this is really good stuff, but now we need to let the publisher know your experience along these lines. How many people came to your last conference? Oh, well, I’ve never had a conference. What about teaching? How many students do you teach when you travel around and teach? Well, I haven’t done that before.
Now, these are the things – in fact, if you have a book that you’re going to promote in some way that is not familiar to you yet, you may want to establish yourself in that area before you write the book, so that you have that credential to show the publisher.
Ron Pramschufer: Okay, cause I’m a little confused. Isn’t one of the reasons you want to get the publisher to publish your book is because you don’t know how to do promotion, or you don’t have promotion, sales, marketing? Everything – it almost sounds like you’re describing like if you successfully write this promotion plan, you might as well forget the publisher and just do it yourself.
Patricia Fry: Unfortunately, in today’s publishing climate you need to be prepared and take responsibility for promoting your book, whether you go with a traditional royalty publisher, a fee-based POD publisher or whether you self publish. Publishers today, even the traditional royalty publishers, sure, they’re gonna spend money and effort promoting their top sellers. And when you get to that place then they’ll put that effort into your book, too.
But basically what they’re going to do for you is they’ll make sure that your book gets a few reviews. They have a certain list of reviewers that they will send your book to. They will put your book in their catalog and send that out several times a year. They will put your book on their web site. So there may just be certain amount of promotion that they do for your book, and you get to do the rest of it.
Ron Pramschufer: I’ll be. So it really just comes down to who pays the printer. If you pay the printer, you’re a self publishers. If they pay the printer, then you’re being traditionally published. It seems like you’re doing all the work anyhow.
Patricia Fry: Yes, you are. Yes, you are. And so that’s why you sometimes may decide that self publishing is better for you, because you get all the profit. You don’t have to wait for a royalty check every quarter that is only anywhere from 5 to 15 percent of the face value of your book, or what your book sold for. So if it sold at a wholesale price, that may be the price, the percentage that you get.
Ron Pramschufer: Now, how important is this marketing analysis? That was, I think, the next one in the line. Now, what all is that? It’s like if I write a book about golf, I want to tell you how many people play golf?
Patricia Fry: The market analysis? That would be comparing your book with other books that are on the market. And so what you want to find for this section are books that are as close to the book that you’re coming out with as possible. And most of us will say oh, but there’s nothing out there like my book.
Ron Pramschufer: Yeah, I was just gonna say that. Is that good? I mean, is it good if there’s nothing out there like it?
Patricia Fry: Not necessarily. It could be that there isn’t a market for that book, and that’s why there isn’t a book out there like that book. However, if you have a book that you want to write on learning how to golf, for instance, you mentioned golfing, then find other books on how to learn how to golf. And if there are several, and there really aren’t that many readers to go around for another two or three books on this topic, you might come up with another idea. For instance, you may decide that there is a market for a book, because nobody has done a book, on pro golfers once they retire. I don’t know. Or golfing in a certain community. You might do some regionals. Golfing in . Golfing in Florida . And these may be regional –
Ron Pramschufer: Where there just isn’t – there’s some competition but not a lot.
Patricia Fry: Yes. I don’t know what the answer would be, but you need to do the research to find out what the right combination might be.
Ron Pramschufer: And, again, you need to do the research because the publisher is not going to?
Patricia Fry: Oh, yes, that’s true. And I wonder, in the early years, we used to not have to write a book proposal. I’ve been writing for publication for 30 years, and it used to be that – it seemed that the publisher did that work, or just knew what was out there. And probably that’s because we didn’t have the multitude of books that we have now. Competition, for a writer, for an author, is tremendous. And that’s another reason that it’s really important to have your ducks in a row as far as promotion goes.
Ron Pramschufer: All right. Now, about the author, now, how do I go – it’s easy if you’re like Hillary Clinton, or maybe it’s easy where you’ve been writing for 30 years. How do I as like a first-time author convince the publisher like I’m the one?
Patricia Fry: Well, one way is your expertise in the subject. And if it is a nonfiction book, probably you have some expertise in this subject. So that would be one way to convince the publisher. You have information and experience as far as the subject matter goes that no one else has.
The other thing that he’s going to want to know is that you can write. And one way that you can show him that is through any correspondence that you have with the publisher. Whether you send him a quick little email or you send the whole book proposal, everything should be at a professional level, a professional writing level.
Ron Pramschufer: Okay. Now, we get down to the chapter outline. Okay, is that like what it sounds like? Is that obvious, or is there something we need to know there that goes in the chapter outline?
Patricia Fry: It seems obvious to me, and to you, that, yes, you would start with chapter one, you would give your title. And for a nonfiction book, the titles of your chapters as well as the title of your book, or at least your subtitle, should say what the book is about. Chapter titles should say what that chapter is about. If you use fancy words, fancy titles, like you would for fiction, perhaps, it’s going to be confusing, and it just doesn’t work well. So titles are important.
Ron Pramschufer: Okay.
Patricia Fry: So you have your title. And then you’re going to describe that chapter, what’s in that chapter, what it includes. If there’s something quite unique in that chapter, well, go ahead and offer bullets to tell exactly what is included in that chapter that is particularly unique.
Ron Pramschufer: Okay. That sort of leads into the next question there, as far as the sample chapter that you pick. Do you just automatically do the first chapter, or the one that’s most exciting, or the best, or the most unique, or –
Patricia Fry: I like to usually do the first and maybe the second chapter. If there’s an introduction, I like to include the introduction, perhaps, in my book proposal, and the first chapter. And then whatever chapter seems to really tell the story that you’re trying to tell, or make the point that you’re trying to make in your book.
Ron Pramschufer: Okay. Now, you know, you mentioned introduction. Now, it just came into my mind that say you’re not the most famous person in the world but you happen to know somebody that’s very famous that would be willing to write an introduction. Is that something that goes into the proposal?
Patricia Fry: Sure. Yes, it certainly could. I like to include what I call an enhancement page in my book proposal, and this would include any well known people that I’m going to be interviewing for my book, organizations that’ll be mentioned in my book, and, of course, anybody who’s going to write the testimonials for the back cover, and anyone who would introduce the book for you. And if you have something in mind. For instance, I wrote a book on fathering and fatherhood. And I wanted to have a picture of a father with his child at the beginning of each chapter. So I would mention that in my enhancement page.
Ron Pramschufer: Now, what do you do once you get this all done? Here I’ve got – just out of curiosity, before that, how long does a book proposal usually take to write?
Patricia Fry: Well, the book I just wrote that you mentioned, I indicate that it can take eight days. And the reason I did that is I taught an online course, eight-week course, and each element of the proposal, well, some elements of the proposal were combined into a session, but others took up one session. And I thought, you know, if you worked on this proposal for eight days straight, you could actually finish it. Especially if you’ve written one before. Once you write a book proposal then you have pretty much a template for other proposals. And they will fall into order much quicker.
Ron Pramschufer: Okay, so, then, now, what do we do that this is – it’s all complete. I’ve got everything here, 1 to 10, 1 to 20, whatever it is, I’ve got nice stationery, I’ve printed it all out, I’ve got big envelopes and everything. What do I do now?
Patricia Fry: Well, I’d say you’d better send it off to the publisher. But hopefully you have pinpointed your publisher before you even started writing the book proposal. Publishers, there are thousands of them now, and a lot of people don’t realize that. They don’t think that they could get in with the big six publishers, so they give up. There are thousands of publishers out there, and many of them are looking for good solid s elli ng books, not necessarily blockbuster books, but books that are going to sell and make the author and the publisher some money.
Publishers also specialize, and you are going to want to find a publisher that absolutely publishes and is interested in books of the type that you’re writing, of that topic or of that style. Or both. It would be even better if it was both. Probably want to pinpoint that publisher before you write the book proposal so that when you’re writing it you have that publisher in mind.
Ron Pramschufer: But now we get to the point where the letters start coming back, and it’s – every place you read people get rejections, rejections, right? I mean, like some people aren’t even – some of the publishers aren’t even polite enough to send a letter back to you rejecting you.
Patricia Fry: That’s true.
Ron Pramschufer: How many rejections are enough? And how many are too many? Like when do you like call it quits and say look, I’m either gonna do it myself or I’m not gonna do it. I’ll just come up with another book.
Patricia Fry: That’s a good question, and the answer probably lies within each author. And I say that because we all have a point where we have to go with our intuition and decide when it is enough. I think that if you’re getting letters back and they are somewhat encouraging, for instance, in fact, I’ve been getting them for a book that I’ve been sending around recently, and I am told this is well written, this has all the elements that it needs for this type of a book, however, we’ve done something similar. Or our publishing list is full, or something like that. So that is encouraging, and I would say keep looking.
If you’re not getting that kind of feedback, and you’re getting rejections, you may consider revising your book, refocusing your book. Maybe you need to have an advisor or an editor take a look at it. Hopefully you’ve already had an editor look at it before you sent it to the publisher. Of course, we’re talking about manuscript when I talk about editor. Your book proposal, it wouldn’t hurt to have an editor, but not as crucial as your manuscript.
Ron Pramschufer: Now, tell me a little bit about SPAWN. That’s actually how I ran into you initially.
Patricia Fry: That’s right. I am the president of SPAWN, which is Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network. It’s an organization nine years old already, about nine and a half years old. And we started out in face-to-face meetings in communities, and the Internet started taking over, so we had to go that route. Nobody was coming to the meetings anymore. So now we meet online. And we are kind of a trade organization for people who are interested in publishing, whether they’re artists, authors, freelance writers. And we offer information, resources and a lot of support, yes.
Ron Pramschufer: All right. Now, just – we’ve been talking about your book, let’s see, “How to Write a Successful Book Proposal in 8 Days or Less.” Where do I go about getting a copy of this book?
Patricia Fry: Well, you can get it from my publishing – or from my web site, or from Amazon.com. And my web site address is www.matilijapress.com. Matilija is an unusual word, so if you just type in my name, Patricia Fry, you’ll probably be sent right to my publishing company web site. That’s probably the easiest way.
Ron Pramschufer: Okay, well, thanks a lot for coming on the show today, Patricia. I know I learned something here today. And hopefully we’ll have you back on another day.
Patricia Fry: Well, thank you for having me.
Ron Pramschufer: Take care now. For Publishing Basics Radio and selfpublishing.com, this is Ron Pramschufer. See you next week.
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