Twice a month, editors Susan McDermott and Alison Hankey share the latest details of what the Nonprofit Community Team is working on to help you navigate your career as a nonprofit professional.
As editors, we review a lot of book proposals but only a handful of these proposals become books which isn’t a surprise because a lot of the proposals we receive are for projects that don’t fit our publishing program. The primary audience for our books is professionals working in the nonprofit sector and/or students in graduate level nonprofit/public management programs. If you have an idea for a book and are considering submitting a proposal to Jossey-Bass or Wiley, here are ten questions you should ask yourself before doing so:
ONE: Is the book a nice to have or NEED to have? There might be a good reason why there isn’t already a book out there on your topic. Think about the day to day practice of the nonprofit manager, staffer, the public manager. Does your book offer a solution to a persistent problem or issue that someone working in a nonprofit or public organization faces every day? In a previous post we mentioned specific book topics we’re looking for.
TWO: Do I have all of my SOCIALbases covered? It’s very difficult these days to promote a book or reach a large audience without having a social presence and we don’t consider prospective authors who are not active on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, etc. If you have an eNewsletter, website or blog, even better. Connecting with your audience anytime everywhere is the name of the game.
THREE: What is the real COMPETITION? Many prospective authors who submit a proposal don’t know the competition or they say “there is no competition.” See the need versus nice to have question above. There might not be competition because it isn’t a topic that warrants an entire book. When you think about the competition, consider books you’ve used personally in your professional life relative to your book topic and what their strengths and weaknesses are. Or maybe existing books on the topic are outdated and it’s time for a fresh approach.
FOUR: Besides me, my family and close friends, is there an audience who will PAY good MONEY for my idea and can I prove it? Have you been consulting on the topic for a while and are you getting paid for your consulting engagements? Are you a contributor in another book currently for sale? Have you self-published on the topic and are you selling copies or downloads? Have you been blogging and writing on the topic and do you have a measurable audience? If you’ve answered yes to the above, that’s good proof that people will pay for your idea (s) with their money or their time.
FIVE: What is my CONTENTS PLAN? It’s really important to have a fully-fleshed out contents when you submit your proposal so that we can evaluate your book against the competition and books we already publish. It also shows us that you’ve put a lot of thought into the project and have a solid game plan for writing.
SIX: Should I bring on a CO-AUTHOR? Working with a co-author who can help shoulder the writing burden is a great option if you are time-crunched or if this is your first book. Other reasons to work with a co-author: their platform combined with yours is twice as powerful, a co-author brings expertise and knowledge that you might not have, a co-author can be an objective sounding board for your ideas and vice versa. A note of caution: make sure you get along with your proposed co-author and that you are truly compatible or it can be painful for both of you!
SEVEN: Who is the PRIMARY AUDIENCE and how big is it? It’s really critical that you know your audience and the size of the audience. If you don’t have a clear vision of your audience, your book will be very difficult to sell because weand sell to a specific audience (professionals/graduate level students in nonprofit and public management).
EIGHT: Do I have the TIME to write this book? Writing a book can take up to a year and all of our expert authors have day jobs. It may seem like a no-brainer, but when you undertake to write a book, whether it’s your first time or your fifth, time is truly of the essence and deadlines matter. It’s even written into the publishingalong with specific due dates for manuscript delivery.
NINE: Is my FAMILY on board and supportive? I worked with a couple of authors recently who confided to me that the writing and subsequent promotion of THE BOOK (for these particular authors, their respective books became THE &**%%$ BOOK and THE BOOK THING to their families) – eats into family time and creates tension. Family support is a very important part of process so make sure your family is prepared and supportive when you undertake the exciting book-writing adventure. You will need them.
TEN: Do I know anyone who has written a book and can I get their advice? Some of my authors have reached out to their author-friends for advice ontheir book. Others have reached out to other authors about the publishing process or the industry in general. Talking to someone who has published a book or has worked with a publisher, can help you get clear about whether this is something you want to take on.
We hope this information helps in your decision-making process. If you have additional questions, feel free to contact us or leave a comment below. Either way, we’d love to hear from you!