On Writing

A book proposal- AND a 10,000 person online platform

My last day at work was last Friday. My fixed term contract came to an end, and I’m currently waiting on a start date for new employment.

This is all extremely exciting and massively nerve-wracking but I want to leave that for another post; the roller coaster which has been my “return to the world of work” after fourteen years recovering from schizophrenia definitely deserves its own article.

I’ve been lucky enough to be able to take a few weeks between jobs, and I hope that in this time I can finish the book I have been working on for the last three years, put together a kick-ass proposal for it and then get it sent off to as many appropriate literary agents as possible.

I’m expecting to have about another two and half weeks off; my estimated start date at work is Monday 1st April, though this hasn’t yet been confirmed. They are waiting on references, DBS checks and other such technicalities, and I’m trying not to stress over all of this too much.

Right now, at least for another week, I need to keep my focus elsewhere.

If I don’t get this book sent off to agents I think it may kill me. It’s a loose self-help/memoir based around my experiences with severe mental illness, and it charts the course my life took after I was sectioned and hospitalised back in 2004.

This is obviously a really personal subject matter, one which see’s me picking scabs which are probably better left alone now. I’ve been picking these scabs for the last three years, and whilst a lot of it has been cathartic, and I have definitely processed a lot of my own s*** writing it- the time has definitely come for me to leave it alone and move onto another project.

I need to finish this dam book- it’s become an obsession and the only way I will draw a line under it now is once it’s been sent off to agents. I do not care, at this stage, whether it goes anywhere. If it does I will be over the moon, and of course this is what I dream of, but if I doesn’t I can put it away for a little while, re-focus on other projects and come back to it in the future. I just need closure, now, from something which has been a heavy drain on my energy for much too long.

It’s almost there though. I sat and re-read the whole thing yesterday, edited about five chapters and did some work on the introduction. I estimate it will take about another three days of work to get it into a state I’m comfortable with, and then it will be ready for submission.

However, that isn’t the end of the work which needs doing! I now need to put together a proposal for my book, and having done quite a bit of research over the last week or so it appears that this is going to require quite a decent chunk of time and energy in itself.

I need to research the market and then write a statement differentiating my book from competitive titles; I need to put together a sales pitch, specifying who my target audience is, why they would want to read my book and then detail why there is a market/demand for my book generally and back all these arguments with statistical data; I need to put together a detailed chapter summary, author bio and choose sample chapters.

I won’t go on, but basically this is going to be a lot of work. The thing is, I’m not actually put off by this- I knew that the proposal would be a massive piece of work in itself. What has kinda thrown me is that I’ve just read the following statement on a web-page covering how to write a narrative non-fiction book proposal. The statement is as follows:

“You typically need to be visible to tens of thousands of people, with verifiable influence, to interest a major publisher.”

“The most common problem leading to rejection: no author platform.”

Haaaaaa.. ah.

This has kinda knocked me off my motivation train. I mean, I’m having the whole- “this is ridiculous, we live in a day an age where the writing and the book itself is secondary to how popular someone already is on twitter and wordpress/blogs, and isn’t this a rather sad state of affairs” thought-process.

Doesn’t it make more sense that someone would generate that kind of following after releasing a book or something which gets big? How, on earth, is an unknown person supposed to generate that kind of following before that?!

I know that this is just the way that the non-fiction publishing process works, and that this is just the way of the publishing world nowadays. So, I swallowed all my nerves, got on twitter and ranted a little bit, as you do, and a couple of wonderful people came back and suggested it may be possible if I literally start stalking twitter- and approach communities on there focused around writing, publishing and submissions.

And that is where I am now.

I am a part of twitters #WritingCommunity, and so will send out a few messages and see what comes back, and continue to blog and work as hard as I can, but I guess I’m facing the hard truth that unless I can generate this 10,000 person strong platform, this book which I think is really worthwhile might never get published. I’m trying not to become discouraged, and telling myself that with enough work anything is possible, but it’s been a bit of a blow.

What can you do though?! Pick yourself up and carry on.

Just keep writing.


2 thoughts on “A book proposal- AND a 10,000 person online platform

  1. I just googled “publishers of mental health books” and quite a few came up, I wouldn’t worry too much about what “online experts” say, many of them are useless sad gits! Lol, Ok, being a bit rude there, but who knows? They might be! Thing is to be positive, and try the easy way before the hard way grinds you down, thats my official opinion! Good luck 😀


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