Friday, November 5, 2010

Planning your nonfiction book

As you know, if you have been reading The Writing Life, I teach and coach six steps that take a nonfiction book from concept to completion. It is a huge topic, with much to cover, and there are always questions. I hope to answer as many of them as I can in the upcoming series of blog posts.

What are the three most important questions an author must answer before he or she starts writing?

  1. What is my book about (in one sentence)? Why one sentence? Because if you can't clearly and succinctly explain what your book is about in a way that anyone will understand, you don't know. If you don't know, you can't write it.
  2. What is my book's purpose? Why are you writing this book? What do you want it to achieve? A book needs a mission, a reason for being. The purpose might be to entertain, to educate, or to inspire. Whatever it is, the mission must include providing a benefit to the reader.
  3. Who is my ideal reader? Think about this. "Everyone" or "every woman" is too broad. if you were having a conversation with your reader, who would that person be? To whom are you delivering the benefit you promise?
How do I know if my idea for a book is viable?

If you write a book proposal for an agent or publisher, your job is to prove that your book will sell. You do that by answering these ten questions (three of them may look familiar):
  1. Why are you writing this book?
  2. What is your book about?
  3. How are you qualified to write this book?
  4. Why is this an appropriate and timely topic?
  5. Who are your target readers?
  6. How will they benefit?
  7. How will you reach them?
  8. How big is the market? How many potential readers are there?
  9. What else is out there on this subject? How is this book unique/special/important?
  10. How will you help to promote your book?
Why do I need a proposal if I’m self-publishing my book?

A proposal is your plan. if you can answer the ten questions above, you have the basis for your proposal. If you don't intend to pursue traditional publishing, this may be all you need. Proposals may be organized in various ways, but they must address the basics. When you reread your answers you will know if your book is viable. You will also use all of this information as you write and promote your book.