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8 Tips for Pitching Your First Book Proposal
Written by
Susan Walters
December 2017
Written by
Susan Walters
December 2017

So, you have a great idea for a nonfiction book. You know what you want to write, you have personal experience and expertise in your subject matter, and you are absolutely passionate about your topic. You believe in your writing talents. There’s just one catch. You’ve never actually written a book. What do you do? How do you make publishers confident enough in your abilities and your ideas to give you a shot? Here’s the answer; you write a compelling book proposal and then you begin the task of pitching that proposal to any publisher who will give you a few minutes of their time. Then, when you get that time, you capitalize on it by making every minute count and utilizing the following 8 tips for selling them on your first book idea.

1. Make Sure your Proposal is Spot On

You cannot pitch a book proposal that is incomplete or that doesn’t meet the publisher’s requirements. Do your homework. Read up on how to write a book proposal. Learn all of the required elements in a book proposal and how to write them. Then, write your proposal. Once that is done, research each publisher you plan to contact. Find out their specific requirements for book proposals and make the necessary adjustments. You may very well end up with a slightly altered book proposal for each publisher. This is fine. It is certainly better than submitting a proposal that doesn’t adhere to guidelines.

2. Let the Publisher Know what you are willing to do to Promote your Book

This is extremely important. You won’t be able to rely on name recognition to generate book sales, and your publisher isn’t going to invest significant money in promoting a book for a first-time author. This leaves the task of promoting your book almost entirely up to you. In your pitch, let the publisher know that you understand this, then present them with actions that you are willing to take to promote your book. Are you willing to go to trade shows, do book signings at small book sellers, interact with readers on social media, or pitch your book via your own website? If so, include this in your pitch.

3. Do Your Market Research

You are already facing a tough battle selling yourself as a new book author. Because of this, you must convince publishers that your book idea is marketable. The best way to do this is to find other books that have been written about your topic of choice or similar subjects. Then, demonstrate that these books have earned a respectable amount of money. However, you cannot stop there. You must also find a way to show that there is an existing demand for more books in that niche. You don’t want potential publishers thinking that your niche is saturated.

4. Sell the Writing Experience that You Do Have

Okay, you have never published a book. That does not mean that you do not have writing experience that you leverage to make yourself more appealing to publishers. Have you written articles that have been published in any magazines, e-zines, or journals? Have you written guest posts for any well-known blogs or websites? Do you have work experience that strongly relates to writing (e.g.: technical writing, PR, corporate communications)? Have you self-published or e-published anything? The more you can demonstrate that you have writing experience and that you have at least some understanding of publishing, the better off you will be.

5. Come to your Publishers with an Established Platform

Your platform is simply the name recognition and following that you have already established. You establish your platform by creating a brand for yourself as an author, and by developing a strong online presence. If you can show publishers that you have established a great platform, they’ll be much more confident in your ability to sell books based on your name recognition. So, create a blog that ties in with your book idea and work hard to earn followers. Create a website and social media accounts. Produce great content. Interact with your followers. Offer guest posting services to other bloggers in your niche. The bigger the following you have the better, because these are the people who are most likely to purchase your book.

6. Research the Publisher

Your goal, when pitching your book proposal, isn’t to convince the publisher that you have a marketable and profitable idea. It is to convince them that your idea is marketable and profitable for them. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to review other nonfiction works that they have published that have been profitable for them. Then, you can add that to your pitch. Don’t assume that a publisher will remember that they have successfully published a book in your niche or that they will associate your topic with one that has been profitable for them.

7. Be Prepared to Demonstrate your Expertise or Connections with Experts

In order to sell yourself as a viable author of your book, you will need to do one of two things. You will need to demonstrate to the publishers that you are a respected, experienced, professional in a field that relates to the topic of your book, or you will need to demonstrate that you have access to experts who are. The first is most ideal, because it means the publisher will only be dealing with one entity. The second is still workable for many publishers, and is definitely a great alternative to you pitching an idea without demonstrating any professional experience or connections.

8. Be Prepared to Answer the Question: Who Cares?

There is no guarantee that the person you are pitching to has any knowledge of your subject matter or any understanding about why others would be interested in reading what you have to write. Don’t be offended at this question, and don’t let it fluster you. Look at it as your opportunity to demonstrate a great idea to yet another potential customer. If you can convert a skeptical publisher, your chances of getting published increase significantly.


* This post was originally published in July 2016.

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