You’ve finished writing your manuscript and you’re ready to publish. Or at least you thought you were. Think again. Do you have a proposal and a platform?

There’s no book without a manuscript. It’s a necessary, but not a sufficient condition for publishing today. No matter how good the manuscript, it’s only one of three legs on which to step up to publication. In fact, it should be the last leg you put forward. I’ve met too many authors who have written their treatises only to discover there is little or no commercial potential for their book.

The three legs on which your project depends: Platform, Proposal, and Manuscript. These are not steps to be taken in consecutive order but the three legs upon which your book project moves toward publication.

redPlatform = publishing industry lingo for the readers an author brings to the book before it’s even off the presses. Platform explains why so many celebrities, athletes, politicians, and public figures are published authors. The number of friends, family, fans, clients, colleagues, connections, neighbors, acquaintances and associates whom you have convinced to buy your book is your audience platform. Writers often think that once their book is published it will bring them fame and fortune. Wrong. If you are already famous or can afford it, you can get a book published. It may not be a very good book, but you may have already noticed this trend. Especially in the genre of memoir.

redProposal = a business prospectus for an investor to review. Publishers are in the business of making a profit from selling books. Shocking, I know. A book proposal must demonstrate that there is market demand, a niche for a new product, its marketing features, and a plan for reaching your readers. You need to convince the publishers to invest in your property and demonstrate what kind of profit you can deliver. A book proposal is a planning document and feasibility study. Identifying the audience and its size helps you identify which publishers might be right for your book. Those who publish mass market trade paperbacks are looking for manuscripts that can sell more than 100,000 copies. Small and independent publishers generally have print runs under 5,000 and over 1,5000 copies. Waiting until your book is finished to begin your proposal is a recipe for manuscript revisions.  Building a better book begins with planning to publish.

redManuscript = a document prepared for publication as a book.  For fiction, memoir, and children’s books, an author must prepare a full manuscript for submission to be considered by an acquisition editor for publication. The narrative arc, character development, plot points, and literary quality is paramount. For non-fiction, this is less true. Preparing two or three sample chapters is more than sufficient for an author to proceed toward seeking publication with a platform and proposal. The structure of a non-fiction book manuscript might focus on chapters organized around major subjects, topics, or perspectives. So before you write the definitive reference text on an esoteric subject, see if you can find a publisher who will take the financial risk on your plan to pursue this writing project.

You’re not ready to send out query letters to agents or acquisition editors until you have all three legs up and running. Platform. Proposal. Manuscript.

If you need help with one or more legs to your ladder, check out our Writer Resources.

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Other Publications by author-clients of Swenson Book Development LLC

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Cathryn J. Prince
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Amy Pershing / Chevese Turner
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Diane Tober
Rutgers University Press, November 30, 2018

Larry Scheckel
Tumblehome Learning, May 1, 2019