How to Get Your Book On the Shelves

By Julie Clark Robinson

The first step in getting your book sold to a publisher is putting together a proposal so that potential publishers know why they should invest their resources in bringing your idea to the marketplace. Here's what you need to communicate:

1. The 'overview' or need for your particular book on the crowded retail (or online) bookshelf. Why would readers reach for it versus other books on the same topic? Why is this book concept timely and relevant to today's reader? Why are you the author to write it as opposed to others? What makes you the expert on the subject or why would readers relate to your particular point-of-view?

2. The Table of Contents and Chapter Outline: You'll need at least ten chapters. Have you thought about the different purpose of each chapter? Once you have, write engaging titles for each chapter and then a lead paragraph to demonstrate your unique writing style.

3. The Introduction. Start by studying Introductions of other non-fiction books to get a solid understanding of the purpose of this section. In short, it sets up the entire book for your readers. This is where you qualify what you are about to do within the chapters and explain yourself and your intent. For example, "I'm not a doctor, but what I'm about to share with you are ways that I've learned to"

4. Target Markets. No more talking to readers here, this is where you tell publishers that you completely understand the demographics of the audience you intend to sell to. Who are these people? How old are they and how do they spend their free time? If you're writing a book about parenting, for example, give statistics about how busy your readers are and how eager they have proven to be when it comes to seeking advice.

5. Competitive Titles. There are undoubtedly already several published titles on a similar subject to yours. Find them and write a paragraph or two about them. Then, explain how your book's 'hook' offers something completely different to the shared audience.

6. Author Background. Assuming that you've convinced a publisher that your book needs to be developed, why are you the best author for the job? This is where you stop selling the book and start selling yourself. What is your background and who do you know that could lead to book sales? Publishers want to know that at least 10,000 copies of your book will sell. Using the example of a parenting book, are you the PTO President? If so, there's a strong likelihood that you'd be invited to speak to large groups when the book comes out (which in turn leads to book sales). Do you have a radio show with a built-in audience for book sales? Are you a blogger with a proven record of unique hits per day? This section of the proposal is where you convince publishers that you are the only person qualified to write this book and help with its success.

7. Promotions. Gone are the glory days when authors were sent on posh book tours and the marketing was done by a department. Unless you're already a best seller, that is! You need to think outside of the box and help your publisher spread the word about your book. This is the section where you share your brainstorming ideas for book promotion. Would you print the title on #2 pencils and offer them to students on test days? Would you offer parents a forum on a web site to ask questions about parenting? Think outside of the box here and convince publishers that they would have a marketing partner in you.

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