Last week, I had the opportunity to meet a celebrated Asian American author, Celeste Ng, who did a reading from her debut novel, Everything I Never Told You at Pages, A Bookstore. The book is about the death of a Chinese American teenage girl in a small town in Ohio, and the family secrets that unfold in the wake of the tragedy.
Celeste talked about the inspiration behind the characters in her book, and how their stories developed over the course of the six years it took her to write it. She didn’t talk much about the everyday life of a writer during those years (although she did mention she had a baby in the middle of it all!), and I wondered if her days looked anything like mine.
My days… Probably Not What You Think
I wish I could say that I sit down every morning with a cup of coffee, open up my laptop, and the words start flowing. That sounds ideal, and admittedly there were days when I was writing Echoes Across Time that I immersed myself solely in the the creative aspects of writing: describing characters, developing scenes, and constructing dialogue. But many days were filled with the exacting process of editing, proofreading, consulting others for advice, and reading other books for inspiration.
I am now finished with the second full edit of my book, and waiting for reader comments. I will do a third full edit incorporating those comments soon.
If I wanted to stop here, I could self-publish, and have my readers order the book from my website, and other sources. But I am interested in landing an agent, and being published by a traditional publishing house.
My dream is to be on the New York Times bestseller list, win some writing accolades, and go on some speaking tours. In order to do this, I must put on a different hat…
Writer Turned Salesperson
Right now I am working on a book proposal – a sales tool to convince agents and editors at publishing houses to publish my book. That’s right, I am a businesswoman starting up my own business. The product is my book, and I have to sell it. The book proposal is a business plan for my book, and it consists of many sections describing exactly why my book should be published.
The book proposal consists of an
- Overview, which is a statement about what the book is about, how it’s structured, who is going to care about it and why.
- The Author Biography is why I am the best person to write this book.
- The Audience Analysis shows how large my audience is, thereby establishing the potential pool of readers for my book.
- The Competitive Titles section shows what other books out there are similar to mine and have done well, to demonstrate that mine will also do well.
- The Marketing Plan proves that I have intimate knowledge of the market, and the right connections to sell my book. It consists of lots of internet research, and brainstorming about who I know, so I can reach my ideal reader. This involves thinking about how I will promote myself via blogs, websites, print publications, social media, radio, TV, in-person appearances and corporate sponsorships.
Putting it All Together
Whew! The book proposal comprises these main sales components, plus a few straightforward sections including a chapter by chapter summary of the entire book, and sample chapters from the book.
I am almost done with this phase. Next, I will do a query of agents who are interested in the genres in my book, and will send them my book proposal with a knockout cover letter.
Then I Will Wait
Needless to say, what I am doing now is very different from what we typically think of as a day in the life of a writer. This is because preparing a book proposal is persuasive writing 101. Fortunately, I have a law degree and can write persuasively. I hope it pays off! I also have a writing coach, Jennie Nash, who I have been working with for years, and I trust her advice and guidance through the editing and book proposal process. It hope that pays off too!