I used to hate book proposals.
They felt like such a colossal waste of time—especially when all I wanted to do was write!
But over the last year, I’ve had a complete change of heart.
In the process of helping clients create strong book proposals, as well as developing four of my own, I’ve become a huge fan.
What’s made the difference?
I’ve finally figured out what a book proposal is really about.
For decades, I thought a book proposal was all about me and my message.
But I was wrong.
It turns out your book proposal isn’t really about you or what you want to write about.
It’s about your audience.
Your book proposal is documentation of how well you know and serve your readers.
A Pivotal Moment
One practical way to document your connection to your audience is to imagine a pivotal moment that encapsulates your book’s target reader.
Here are a few examples:
- For her book Made to Crave, Lysa TerKeurst imagined a woman who struggles with making healthy food choices standing in the grocery store, holding a bag of potato chips in one hand and a bag of carrot sticks in the other.
- For Exhale, the book Amy Carroll and I wrote together, we imagined a woman lying wide awake in bed at 2:37 AM, rehearsing everything she didn’t get done yesterday, worrying about all she needs to do today, and wondering, What on earth am I doing wrong?
- For the mother-daughter memoir I’m writing, I imagined a woman rushing into Target to buy bread, milk, and eggs only to be hijacked by the enormous Mother’s Day card display, which mocks her for never ever finding the perfect card for her mom.
Notice that in just a few lines, each of these pivotal moments
- takes you into a familiar scenario
- gives specific visual details
- evokes a core emotion
Your pivotal moment can come in handy for at least three purposes.
First, you can use it to keep yourself focused on your target reader. Print it out and keep it in front of you while you work on your proposal. Re-read it often!
Second, you can refer to it as you write the “Felt Need” and “The Market” sections of your proposal.
Third, you can flesh it out into several pages and include it in the proposal as one of your sample chapters—the Preface or Introduction.
The Process is the Point
I don’t hate book proposals any more.
I’ve come to love them, and not just because my last four proposals have led to contracts.
I no longer see a book proposal as some arbitrary hoop I have to jump through, but as a creative journey that leads me to a better understanding of my readers.
Your next book proposal can do the same for you.