Another audience is crucial to consider as you compose your book proposal—the editor(s), agent(s), and marketing staff who may read the proposal.
You may be so fortunate as to actually know the person or people for whom you are writing. If so, your task will be easier.
If you are writing for an audience you don’t know, it may help to try to characterize him, her, or them to help you focus your writing for this audience. But how do you do this for people you don’t know?
Who’s your audience?
Especially during an economic downturn and at a time when print publishers are trying to figure out what’s next, conceiving and presenting a book proposal that is likely to garner a large audience could be the difference between being published or not.
I think about this in two ways:
1) Writing for some large group – e.g., teenage girls, people who use the Internet, non-native speakers of English
2) Aggregating a number of groups to make a large group – e.g., word buffs + humor addicts + trivia hounds
Consider audience, too, when choosing a title. If you already had a title, consider whether it needs tweaking with your new ideas about whom you’re trying to reach. Since subtitles are popular these days, consider referencing your target groups in the second part of your title.
Additionally, clarifying your audience may change your ideas about which publishers are most likely to have an interest in your book. Recheck your list, if appropriate.
Easley Blackwood, Jr., pianist and composer, was my instructor for an independent study course in composition when I was in college. He once told me that there were two ways to approach any art: one was having made as full a study as possible of all of the details, including what others in the field have done; the second was naively, leaving one free of influence, but also free of what might turn out to be essential knowledge.
If you’re writing the kind of book for which there is competition, at some point, you need to both analyze the genre and also see what your competitors are up to in order to speak to this point in your book proposal.
Of my published books, some have been proposed by the publisher, and I competed with other authors for the opportunity to write them; some have been proposed directly to me with no other authors competing; and some have been based on original ideas of my own, written up in convincing proposals that led publishers to decide that my ideas were worth investing in. This series will provide suggestions from my experience for various elements of your book proposal.
We’ll start with tips to help you figure out how to represent the competition in your book proposal so that you can explain how your proposed book will compare, contrast, and extend the field.