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One of the best things about being an indie author is that the creative control rests with you. You get to write and publish what you want.
But that doesn't guarantee that anyone will notice your book, or that they will buy it. If you take a business orientated view of the publishing and marketing side of things, you'll find your chances to sell and make an impact will be greater. In today's article, Nina Amir explains how to take your book idea to the professional level, giving it more chance to succeed.
For centuries authors, as well as readers, relied on acquisitions editors to determine if a book idea deserved publication. With the advent of indie publishing, today self-published authors decide whether or not to publish their own work.
The fact that you no longer need so-called “gatekeepers,” however, doesn’t make the job agents and acquisitions editors perform less valuable. In fact, the ability to evaluate a book idea for marketability remains an essential step for both traditionally published and indie published authors. No matter how you plan to publish, it behooves you to see your work, and even yourself, through the lens used by these publishing professionals. This is how you evaluate if you have a marketable book idea.
What Agents and Editors Do
If you don’t bother to see your work though the same lens used by an agent or acquisitions editor, you could:
- Produce a book that is too similar to other published books
- Create a book that isn’t necessary in its category
- Write a book that sells only a below-average or average number of copies
In all three cases, this means your book won’t achieve bestseller status.
Create a Business Plan for Your Book
These problems can be avoided if, like an agent or editor, you evaluate your book idea for marketability. The first, and most essential, step in evaluating your idea is to create a business plan for your book. Indeed, agents and acquisitions editors rely on business plans, or the information within them. These plans are typically called book proposals.
The only way you can perform their job, or see your idea through the same lens they use, is to create a plan that includes all the sections of a traditional book proposal. A nonfiction proposal provides the most detail; therefore, it is the best choice for either a fiction or nonfiction business plan. Don’t think of this as a proposal unless you plan to traditionally publish; think of it as a business plan. Ultimately, that’s how agents, editors and publishers use a proposal. If you are an indie publisher, that’s how you, the publisher, will use it as well.
In addition to a general overview of your project, which would include a pitch, a list of benefits your book provides (for nonfiction) and a brief summary of the book, your business plan should include the following:
- Market analysis
- Competitive analysis
- List of additional books you plan to write
- Promotion plan
- Mission statement
- Description of your platform
- Table of contents for your book
- Chapter summaries for your book or a synopsis
- Description of resources necessary to complete your book
- Profit and loss statement
- Resource list (subcontractors, lawyers, etc.)
- To-list, calendar with deadlines or timeline (or all of these)
Change Your Perspective
Whether you want to traditionally publish or self-publish, to produce successful commercial books—fiction or nonfiction, learn to see your book idea and yourself from a business perspective. Here are four ways for you to change your perspective so you can evaluate the information in your business plan as a businessperson.
- Think of your book idea as a product. Don’t make the mistake of thinking of your idea as a creative endeavor, your “baby” or even a book. At first, it is just an idea, and that idea will become a product in the marketplace. Products are produced by businesses, specifically manufacturing businesses, to make money. The way the publishing business makes money is by producing, distributing and selling books. And the publishing business releases more new products than any other—thousands per day! Once your product is released (published), it has to have the ability to capture “market share” and sell.
- Consider yourself a businessperson. If you only see yourself as a writer, you will never be able to wrap your mind around #1. If you plan to self-publish, this is especially important, because you create a start-up business—your own publishing company. You become an entrepreneur! It then falls to you to handle all elements of running a business, including determining what products to release to the marketplace. You only want to release those you feel will make money—unless you possess the funds to produce books you simply feel passionate about.
- Think about your ideal reader and target market. It’s easy to create from a self-absorbed place. You are focused on your idea, experience or story and feel passionate or excited about it. Shift your perspective; consider if you are creating something your ideal reader wants or needs. Create with an eye on what people in your target market seek. Ask yourself: How can I best serve my target market and idea reader?
- See your work from an agent’s or editor’s perspective. Step back and get a big-picture view of your project. Be objective. What would these publishing professionals really think if they read your business plan? Be honest. If you can’t do this, you might have to ask a proposal editor, a book coach or an agent for feedback.
Evaluate the Marketability of Your Book Idea
With this new perspective, evaluate the information contained in your business plan. Determine if your book idea:
- has a large enough target market to ensure good sales
- is unique and necessary in its category
- has strong competition (similar bestselling books in the category)
- represent a sound creative idea
Also decide if your:
- promotion plan is solid and will help sell books over time
- author platform is large enough to support your promotion plan—to help sell books in your target market
- credential give you the authority or expert status to write your book
No matter how you plan to publish, if you produce a business plan for every new book idea and see your work—and yourself—through a publishing professional’s lens, you can produce marketable books—ones that sell to publishers (if you like) and to readers. Before you write a word, just tweak, retool and hone your idea until it is the most viable product you can produce.
Have you considered your book from a professional perspective? What do you think about the things proposed in this article? Please leave your comments and questions below.
Nina Amir, author of the bestselling How to Blog a Book: Write, Publish, and Promote Your Work One Post at a Time (Writers Digest Books) and The Author Training Manual: Develop Marketable Ideas, Craft Books That Sell, Become the Author Publishers Want, and Self-Publish Effectively (Writers Digest Books), transforms writers into inspired, successful authors, author-preneurs and blog-preneurs.
Known as the Inspiration to Creation Coach, she moves her clients from ideas to finished books as well as to careers as authors by helping them combine their passion and purpose so they create products that positively and meaningfully impact the world. A sought-after author, book, blog-to-book, and results coach, some of Nina’s clients have sold 300,000+ copies of their books, landed deals with major publishing houses and created thriving businesses around their books. She writes four blogs, including Write Nonfiction Now and How to Blog a Book, self-published 12 books and founded National Nonfiction Writing Month, aka the Write Nonfiction in November Challenge.