When the topic of creativity comes up, most creative people are listed as right brain thinkers that have a big picture view of life. They stand back and look at the forest as a whole. Broad topics like world peace and ending poverty are common. While this broad view is a great place to start, it doesn’t work well when you are creating a book proposal or starting a blog.
One of the biggest problems creatives face is telling other people about their ideas. As a creative if you try to describe this big picture view, it becomes vague and idealistic rather quickly. For example, ending poverty is a great goal, but what specifically are you going to do to end it?
I had the great privilege to sit down with Michael Hyatt, the Chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers last week on the re:create cruise and present a book proposal to him. My big picture idea was to put together a book from the blog posts here at Fire Up Today. I simply took Michael’s book proposal outline and filled in the blanks with an outline of six years of blog posts. I took the category headings and broke them down into sub heads and filled in the blanks. I ended up with 12 widely varying categories.
To make it even more fun and creative, I took the outline and created a picture book in iPhoto with some stock and historic photos based on the category listings. The printed book came out wonderful, and I figured I was sure it would make a big impression. I delivered both a written proposal and a picture book to Michael a month before the cruise.
As I sat down with Michael last Sunday, he took out my written proposal, looked me in the eye and asked me, “Who are you, John?”
I’m sure I had a puzzled look on my face. I stumbled a response, “What do you mean?”
“This proposal is vague and doesn’t tell me much about you. What do you do for a living? What’s your background?”
Wow… I had taken for granted that Michael knew who I was. After all he was sure to have read my about page on my blog and I comment all the time on his blog… And I quickly realized a big mistake. I was suffering from the curse of knowledge. I knew who I was, but I hadn’t put down the details in the proposal.
Michael went on, “This proposal is vague and covers a lot of topics. It’s like everything else in the marketplace. Why would I want to pick up this book? There is nothing new here.”
He was right. I was starting to see things from his eyes. The topic headings were somewhat generic and they certainly covered a bunch of subject areas. Even though I have a lot of unique content on my blog, listing it out in an outline made it seem like a 99 cent checkout book on success.
I then asked Mike about the picture book I sent him. He said, he looked at it and it had great pictures but it wasn’t specific enough and he soon lost interest.
While I had pretty pictures, a successful blog platform, and had filled in the blanks, I didn’t have a proposal that would resonate with a publisher.
He smiled and gave me three suggestions.
1. Find a specific topic that generates traffic and run with that.
2. Aim for a smaller book (60,000 words)
3. Make it unique and worth picking up.
Michael also gave me a great bit of advice.
To get picked up by a publisher, I will need an agent.
He pointed me to a post he did about the subject. While this seemed strange at first, it’s basically a fact of life in the publishing business. His post helped clarify why they are needed and how to find one to work with.
With this knowledge in hand I can now get to work in a focused way. I’m currently doing my homework and getting very specific about my content. I’m soliciting a lot of feedback from others about subjects, titles, and content that really resonates.
To summarize what I learned, I need to focus and get specific.
This picture may help you understand why…
Question: Have you submitted a book proposal before? What was your experience?