If you have a have a nonfiction book project or a completed fiction manuscript and you want to publish it traditionally, you need a book proposal. To get a publisher’s interest, you need to provide information about your book, your audience, and yourself. Though introduced by a query letter, the book proposal explains the nuts and bolts of your book: number of chapters and their summaries, information about the author (you!), and more.

In my experience, most authors struggle the most with the audience and marketing section of their proposal. They can go on and on about the book, its characters, its plot, its agenda, and much, much more. But who their audience is, beyond family, friends, and Oprah? Nope. They’re stumped.

And here’s the kicker: a marketing strategy is the most important section of a formal book proposal you will need to provide a potential publisher. In this economy, it is critical. Publishers look to the author to convince them the title would sell and that it fits into their catalogue of offerings. The more thorough your research, the more sophisticated your strategy, and the more evidence you deliver proving that there is profit to be made on your book, then the more likely your proposal will undergo serious consideration by a publisher.

This is an outline of the contents in the marketing strategy portion of your book proposal. Follow it closely:

  1. Identify your reading audience. This must be as specific as possible. “General audience” is not specific. Find a variety of niche markets who will be interested in your title. You need to be very precise in your description of who will buy your book.
  2. Audience demographics (and psychographics). Who do you think your readers are, what else do they read, what do they buy, and where do they live? Again, you want to draw a bull’s eye target for the publisher. You identify the inner circle and the audiences which appear in each outer ring of the dartboard. But you want to show the publisher you know how to hit the target.
  3. Describe how to target your reading audience/target markets. What are their sources for information, consumer preferences, associations and organizational affiliations? Where would you sell excerpts, expect your book to be reviewed, or see an advertisement for your forthcoming title?
  4. Promotion and publicity opportunities. Describe how your book will find its way into the marketplace of ideas. News releases? Conferences? Special events? Speaking engagements? Special exhibitions? Book signing tour?
  5. What will the author contribute to the marketing and sales of the book? Describe the role you will play in promoting your book. Will you sell excerpts to consumer magazines which give you a byline that plugs the book? Write news articles or editorials about news events that plug your book? Share your email/mailing list of potential customers?
  6. Who do you imagine endorsing your book? Who would you like to review it? Be realistic.
  7. What opportunities for cross-promotion, synergy, and new social media technology promotions do you envision? Are there products or services related to your subject who would support and endorse this project with funding?

The most important concept to keep in mind as your prepare your pitch is that a winning book proposal depends largely on convincing the publisher you have a business plan. If you are convinced your book will sell, you must share your convictions and your formula for its success with publishers. Authors are in the book business.

Evaluate your book project or completed manuscript like a business; develop a winning marketing strategy.

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