The Perfect Trifecta

Maybe you have this dilemma. More than anything you want to publish a book. But how do you break the barrier, from unpublished to writer to author?

Seemed like a mystery to me. But I uncovered the formula. What you need is this: Expert + Writer + Rock Star to write the Foreword.

Yeah, you’ll need to add a bit more to the mix, but the publishing world tends to open up once you have that perfect trifecta.

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Tense Matters

Several years ago, I met with an agent, eager for his feedback on a book proposal. He didn’t wind up representing me, but he did give me perhaps the best advice I’ve yet to receive on writing a proposal.

The proposal was peppered with the future tense, as in: “The book will look at” and “This chapter will examine….”

No good, he told me, adding that I should always write in the present tense. Here’s why. The future tense is too tentative, suggesting that I am not confident that the book will see the light of day.

Of course, no proposal may ever see the light of day…but as the proposal’s author, I must brim with confidence, steadfast in its potential. And the best way to do that is in the present tense, as if to solidify the notion that the book is already an actuality. As in, “This chapter examines…”

No hesitancy there.

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What The Agents Say

What do publishers want? I happened to speak with a literary agent today, and he reiterated what I’ve heard and read many times before. Publishers are looking for:

* Celebrity status
* A terrific idea
* Good writing

Can you skimp on any of the above? Probably not. So bring the best you’ve got to your project, and see where you can go one better.

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Why This Book Now

You have an outline. You’ve checked out the competition. It’s time to explain why your book is needed now. Perhaps you haven’t even considered this question before today.

But publishers will want to know. If you’re writing about an area in which you have expertise, you should be able to come up with a good answer. Put together some industry stats. If you’re writing a book about small business, visit the SBA site, where you’ll find all kinds of useful numbers, such as how many small businesses exist today, and how many fail. Why do they fail? Would your book help entrepreneurs better run their business? Are you including proven tips for success in today’s economy, and in an easy-to-digest format?

That’s the kind of information to put in your proposal. The better you can articulate the case for your book, the stronger the proposal.

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Time to Do Your Homework

You’ve written a well-thought-out outline for your book, and are excited to take the next step.

If you haven’t already, it’s time to check out the competition. This is easy to do on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. See which books have been written on the topic, and when they were published. Next, delve into the books’ other features, such as the table of contents, or even the “surprise me” feature that allows you to read excerpts of a book.

How does your book hold up? Jot down how your book would differ. You’ll need these notes in your book proposal, when discussing the competition.

Some folks get discouraged if there are competing titles. It could be an indicator that this is a good subject, and a publisher that hasn’t gotten in the game yet may just view your title as the one to print. If there are few titles covering the subject, it might be an indicator that titles in this field aren’t selling well.

So, where does that leave you? More than likely, in need of some friendly advice. Luckily, Google and email make it easier than ever to find an expert who can offer insights.

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How to Tell if Your Idea is Solid

You have an idea for a book. But has it got legs? The first step is to map out that idea. While there is no strict rule for the number of chapters, I like to have at least seven.

Jot down your seven chapter ideas. Then see if you can write at least three paragrpahs to support those ideas. Are they compelling? Does your brain feel unleashed? Chances are, you may be on your way to building a book.

Most books are at least 30,000 words, if not 50,000. Daunting, yes, but doable! Remember, you can help fill those chapters with colorful anecdotes from the people you interview, and with relevant statistics that support your thesis.

Yep, it’s a lot of work, but if you’re determined and diligent enought, this book idea of yours may one day be printed, bound and ready for purchase.

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The Writers Group

Should you or shouldn’t you join one? Most definitely yes — so long as its members are serious about writing, and that you feel it is a safe place to share.

I’ve settled into two groups — one whose members make their living primarily from writing, and one whose members are committed writers driven to see their works published. In the first group we share best strategies and offer guidance when a member faces new challenges. This group is especially appreciated because writing can be so solitary and it’s wonderful to have a sounding board. In my second group, we critique each others work — constructively, which takes a certain developed talent.

Finding the right group takes time. Some groups may not share your commitment to good writing. Others may simply not be able to meet regularly. And still others may have bad karma in the mix where sharing new ideas is not conducive.

A group doesn’t have to consist of professional writers, but they should all be dedicated.

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