May 05 2009

How to lay out a proposal: sell the strengths, address the weaknesses

Published by at 8:51 am under Concept Creation,Writing Articles

Your proposal needs to accomplish two main goals:  1) show that there are readers out there and 2) show that you are well-poised to grab them.  First, sell your strengths, the factors that make your concept more likely to succeed.  Second, cover your weaknesses.  There probably will be some, particularly if you’re a first-time author.

To get you started, I’ll run you through how I would go about planning a proposal for a nonfiction book about how to write fan-fiction. (If you’d like to write such a book, go for it).

  1. Even if you’re really short on writing credentials, I don’t think that FF readers would mind very much.
  2. The target audience (FF writers) is very large and easy to identify.
  3. Many fan-fiction writers are driven and regard their writing as a serious endeavor.  So some might be interested in instructional resources.
  4. According to a brief Google search, there are no competing titles.
  5. There are easily forty or fifty thousand words worth of material.
  6. On a marketing level, I suspect that it would be very easy to reach the target audience online.
  7. It would be easy to start up an authorial platform, like a website where you could get readers interested in your advice before you start to publish.   For example, Superhero Nation is my platform for a book about how to write superhero stories.

Here are a few causes for skepticism.  You’d want to tackle these in your proposal.

  1. Would FF authors actually be willing to spend money learning how to write FF?
  2. Most books about writing pitch themselves to readers with an argument like “if you read this book, you will learn how to get published!”  In contrast, there’s no obvious financial reason people would want to buy a book about FF.  Why would people care about writing FF better?   What do they have to gain?
  3. It will be difficult to come up with books for your “comparable books” section.  If there aren’t any comparable titles that have sold well recently, a publisher will probably regard it as a very risky project.   There’s little evidence that prospective readers will actually shell out money for this.  If I were writing this proposal, I’d focus on how well hobby books have sold in the last few years.
  4. Fan-fiction is a broad topic that covers a lot of genres.  Presumably, that would make it harder to cover everything to an adequate degree.

One response so far

One Response to “How to lay out a proposal: sell the strengths, address the weaknesses”

  1. Ragged Boyon 10 May 2009 at 2:04 pm

    Hmm, seel the strengths and address the weaknesses. I’m glad I read this before I finished the synopsis. Now I have to map out the strengths and weaknesses of my story.

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