Almost every successful author has a horror story concerning rejections by major publishers. However, you must put yourself in the publisher's shoes. The publisher's business is selling books. The company acquires manuscripts which it hopes will sell…well. A publisher finances the publishing of your book. In the case of self-publishing, you are financing its publication, therefore your book proposal needs to emphasize the ways in which you, as the writer and publisher, will take responsibility for the book's success.
All things being equal, the only way to ensure the success of your book is by measuring the marketplace–working out who the likely buyers of your book might be, and the reasons they will have for paying their hard-earned money for it. You'll assess the competition for your book. You'll develop ways in which you can promote your book, so that people hear about it. You're in partnership with yourself (your publisher). As a publisher, you must objectively ask and answer the question, “Would I invest in this manuscript?”
But let's suppose your manuscript is already written or your book is already published. You'll still need to create a proposal. The purpose of the proposal is to ensure that your book has a waiting niche– a marketplace that is ready and willing to buy it. As you research various components for your proposal, you'll be able to determine whether or not your book is likely to sell or develop ways to make it sell. This is easier to do when the book is at the proposal stage but it is not impossible to do after it is written or even published.
Michael Hyatt, former Chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, is the author of two books, How to Write a Winning Non-Fiction Book Proposal and How to Write a Winning Fiction Book Proposal.
He askes, "How can you secure a book contract from a publisher?" According to Hyatt:
- It’s not about having a great book idea.
- It’s not about writing a literary masterpiece.
- It’s not even about knowing the right people.
The real secret to securing a book contract is knowing how to write a powerful, compelling book proposal that leaves agents begging to represent you—and publishers eager to sign you.
The good news is: Self Publising has tripled five years. The number of self-published books produced annually in the U.S. has nearly tripled, growing 287 percent since 2006, and now tallies more than 235,000 print and “e” titles, according to a new analysis of data from Bowker® Books In Print and Bowker® Identifier Services.”
The bad news is: According to the New York Times “most self-published books sell fewer than 100 or 150 copies, many authors and self-publishing company executives say. There are breakout successes, to be sure, and some writers can make money simply by selling their e-books at low prices. Some self-published books attract so much attention that a traditional publishing house eventually picks them up. (Perhaps you’ve heard of the novel “Fifty Shades of Grey,” which began its life as a self-published work?)
Still, a huge majority of self-published books “don’t sell a lot of copies,” said Mark Coker, the founder and chief executive of Smashwords, a no-frills operation that concentrates on self-published e-books. “We make it clear to our authors.”
So if the likely-hood of your ROI (return on investment is minimum), why am I insisting that becoming a self-published author is the 21st century way of becoming a success? Simply because after 10 years in this business and after personally helping over 150 authors to become published, I've been able to make distinctions between those who routinely sell thousands of copies and those who only sell a few hundred before calling it quits. The biggest difference is determining to see your writing as a business-which it is. The first step is creating a plan or proposal for your book.
Most authors and would-be authors do not have a plan or a proposal. Although the aim of the Birthin' Babies series for writers is to get you to be successful at being your own publisher, the first step is to treat your writing business as though you were seeking a major publishing house. And to do that, you need a book proposal. Not the one that is in your head. Not just what you think, but you need a solid book proposal which essentially is a absolute description of your book: a well thought out title, what your book is about, an outline of chapters, a market and competition survey, and a sample chapter.
Look at your book proposal the same way any entrepreneur views a business proposal. As a businessperson, a business proposal is perhaps one of the most critical documents you will write. It spells the difference between success and failure. With it, you're making an offer to someone you want to do business with. In the book industry, a publisher will read your proposal, assess its feasibility, cost it, and if it looks as if the publisher will make money, invest in it. Yet, you’re in partnership with your publisher to ensure it's success. If you do your part, both you and your publisher will make money. If not, I hope you haven't spent your advance on an Mercedes.
According to author Rebecca Brandewyne, “When a contract is negotiated between an author and a publisher, the author is usually paid an advance. Again contrary to popular belief, this is not a sum that is over and above any agreed-upon royalties, however. Rather, it is an advance against all future royalties, and it must therefore be earned out before any royalties are ever actually paid.
An author signing a first contract can expect to receive an advance of anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000, on average, per book. Naturally, there are exceptions to this rule. However, it would be unwise and unrealistic with regard to your financial planning to assume you will be that rare, unknown author who garners a multimillion-dollar advance. So, let us say the author receives a $10,000 advance, for a single book. That means the author would subsequently need to earn $10,000 in royalties from the sales of that book before receiving any additional income from it.
If the author did not subsequently earn at least $10,000 in royalties from the sales of the book, then the contract would be unearned, and no additional royalties would ever be paid to the author. Further, the publisher might well — depending upon the terms of the contract — also have the right to demand the return of that portion of the advance that was unearned. For example, if the author's royalties amounted to a grand total of only $3,000, then the publisher could request that the remaining unearned $7,000 of the advance be repaid to it by the author (although this rarely ever happens in practice).”
Nearly 30 years ago, during my early career in publishing (although it was in another arena), self-publishing didn't enjoy the reputation it does today. Back then, it was more like, "Oh, no one would publish it, eh?" The unspoken words hinted that perhaps your writing wasn't good.
Nevermind that independent authors (as I like to call them) have probably been around since the beginning of time. After all, before publishing became big business, books were produced and printed by small independent operators. Still, most authors, at one time or another, have wondered what it's like to receive a big advance, accompanied by national, if not worldwide radio and television appearances, not to mention having lines of eager buyers snaking around bookstore corners.
With today's printing technology and available world-wide editorial and graphic design talent, it is not difficult to achieve a New York look on a small budget. Mixed with a good marketing plan and old-fashioned persistence and perservere, it has never been easier to make in-roads in the publishing arena. Now, instead of having boxes of books for furniture, one can use just in time printing to meet inventory for speaking engagements and to fulfill online orders.
Fast forward 30 years and Orna Ross, founder and director of The Alliance of Independent Authors, states, "Half or more of the books on Amazon’s daily bestseller lists are now self-published. At The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi), we have many members who have sold more than 100,000 books and some who have sold in their millions. Many others are producing work of outstanding literary merit. Corporate publishers and agents now scour self-publishing sites, hoping to woo writers away from the indie option."
Ross continues, "Your talented new writer, if he or she took a little time to learn some basic ways to reach readers, would begin to climb the ratings. It takes a little work but it’s not difficult — and many trade published writers are being encouraged by their publisher to use the same methods. From the reader’s perspective, it’s a simple matter to download a sample and try before you buy. They also have independent reader reviews to go on, a book, description and author bio that probably clicks through to the author website. It’s may not be a perfect system but it’s getting better all the time — and it makes good books and authors considerably more discoverable than the old bookshop browsing method."
The bottom line is self-publishing is here to stay. It is a viable alternative for new and established authors. Every business owner, pastor, or ministry leader should have his or her own published material as an extension of their work. The quickest way is via this route but your success is in your hands.