Hello, awesome readers!
I was speaking with a former colleague recently who is thinking about writing a book.
I dislike the word “guru” *insert eye roll* but if I were to use that word, this individual has certainly earned it. Not just because of his many years of experience and level of expertise, but especially for the way that he engages with people. He is sincere, compassionate, and listens with interest – no matter who he is speaking with. I’m not saying he’s the Dalai Lama. I’m just saying he’s the closest I would ever come to calling someone a “guru”. (But how cool would it be if this post was about my conversation with the Dalai Lama? Imagine, l’il ol me on a Zoom call with the highest spiritual teacher in Tibet!)
I share this with you because ever since the release of my two recent books SUPERWOMAN: A Funny and Reflective Look at Single Motherhood (Cynren Press; March 2021) and LEAVE NOTHING TO CHANCE: 15 Principles for Success and the Stories that Inspired Them (Tremendous Leadership; September 2020), I’ve been having this conversation more and more.
So here I am sharing with you what I told
the Dalai Lama someone I’m proud to call my friend.
While there may be eleventy thousand other books on your topic out there, there’s only one you. Only you can tell your story the way that someone else needs to hear it.
AS YOU WRITE, KEEP YOUR READER IN MIND.
In other words, don’t write for the masses; write for ONE person. This will help with the voice and tone of your writing. As well, visualizing one specific reader (your mother, your uncle, someone you’re mentoring) will help you to make the content more engaging and impactful as you think about what that person needs or wants to know and how they want to read it.
BEGIN WITH PREPARING A BOOK PROPOSAL.
I’ve written about this before. A well-written book proposal is so worth the time and effort. Apart from helping you plan your content and define why the book needs to be written, it will serve as your roadmap during the writing process. Whether you realize it or not at this point, writing a book – a full-length manuscript – is a HUGE undertaking. Think about building a house. You wouldn’t – couldn’t – attempt that without a blueprint. Well, your book proposal IS your blueprint. Plus, it helps you to visualize the end-result of your intention for the book.
Following are the six sections you need to include in your book proposal:
The overview section explains why the book needs to be written, who the target audience is, and why YOU need to be the one to write it.
BOOK’S TABLE OF CONTENTS and SUMMARY FOR EACH CHAPTER
For me, this is actually my first step. I just find that listing all the topics that I want to cover helps me determine if I have enough material for a book-length manuscript. The summaries can be anywhere from one paragraph to several pages for each chapter.
You need to know what’s already out there. Researching other books in your niche will help you evaluate any holes in the market. For example (except it’s not really an example because I’m about to make this up): there are 177,000 cookbooks on Amazon. But do any of them talk about the health benefits of individual ingredients (ginger helps with respiratory problems, they say) or how the recipes originated, and all from a child’s perspective? What will set your intended book apart? My recommendation is to include up to five other books, depending on the industry and genre.
Yes, I’m talking about YOU because once you write a book, you are an author! This isn’t a resume but rather an opportunity to list your background, experiences, and other relevant (and sometimes irrelevant) information about yourself. Using the cookbook as an example again, perhaps you spend your Saturdays as a volunteer chef in a women’s shelter and have inspired the children to help you in the kitchen where you get to speak to them about nutrition or your great aunt Mathilda who invented the chicken pot pie recipe that the kids are rolling out the dough for.
This is where you get to talk about your crazy ideas for creating awareness for your book, pre- and post-publication. I say “crazy” because in today’s world, much of the marketing depends on you, the author. And don’t let this scare you. Engaging with readers and thinking up ways to get your book in the hands of people who need to read it is fun! True story.
This is especially important if you’re planning on sending your proposal to literary agents or publishing houses. Otherwise, you can skip this and simply (except not simply) build on your chapter summaries.
Keep in mind that your book proposal is an evolving aspect of your book idea. It will change as you go deeper and deeper into developing your idea for a book into an actual book. When I look at my original book proposal for SUPERWOMAN: A Funny and Reflective Look at Single Motherhood, it has changed so much from the first version to the version that actually got picked up by my publisher. This is because I kept working on it until someone finally shared my vision. The idea just kept growing and becoming more clear, even to myself.
Creativity breeds creativity and the more time you spend on any project, the more clear you get as your labor of love consumes you.
I hope this helped and happy writing!
PS. The book, LEAVE NOTHING TO CHANCE: 15 Principles for Success and the Stories that Inspired Them, was a collaborative project that I worked on with two industry leaders. It was a ghostwriting project except that I can share this with you because my name is on the cover. So technically, I wasn’t a ghost. I was more of a unicorn that helped bring this vision, and legacy from two experts, to life.
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Allia Zobel Nolan says
Great info. It’s especially helpful to write out the TOC and a short summary of the chapter. I do this first, get it all down on paper, then put that in manila folders.
Thanks Mona – I think I needed to read this today to start planning out my book (and TV series!) 🙂 hahaha