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Write a Book! Questions to Ask Yourself Before Submitting a Book Proposal

Resource Center - Foundation

(May 22, 2012) Having access to the experience of various mentors and teachers is as important to those working in the nonprofit sector as any other professional discipline. It is in this way that we are able to grow and advance philanthropy as a voluntary action for the public good.

Currently, one of the great professional resource partnerships is the AFP/Wiley Fund Development Book Series. At the recent AFP International Conference in Vancouver, Susan McDermott, senior editor for John Wiley & Sons, shared this helpful list for anyone considering submitting a proposal to the AFP Publishing Advisory Committee or directly to Wiley.

#1: Is your 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 fundraiser, nonprofit manager, staffer, board member, etc. Does your book offer a solution to a persistent problem or issue that someone working in a nonprofit organization faces every day?

#2: Do I have all of my SOCIAL MEDIA bases covered? It's very difficult these days to promote a book or reach a large audience without having a social media presence, and we cannot consider prospective authors who are not active on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, etc. If you have an e-newsletter, website, or blog, that’s even better.

#3: What is the real COMPETITION? Many prospective authors who submit a proposal either don't know the competition or they say "there is no competition." See #1 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 Or, maybe existing books on the topic are outdated and it's time for a fresh approach.

#4: 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?  

#5: What is my CONTENTS PLAN? It's really important to have a fully-fleshed out table of contents when you submit your proposal so that your book can be evaluated against the competition as well as books we already publish.

#6: Should I bring on a CO-AUTHOR? Working with a co-author 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.

#7: Who is the PRIMARY AUDIENCE and how big is it? It's critical that you know the size and scope of your audience.

#8: Do I have the TIME to write this book? Writing a book can take up to a year and most 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 fifth, time is truly of the essence and deadlines matter.

#9:  Is my FAMILY on board and supportive?  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!

#10: Do I know anyone who has written a book and can I get their advice? Some authors reach out to their author-friends for advice on marketing their book or about the publishing process in general. Talking to someone who has published a can help you decide whether this is something you want to take on.

For more information, contact Ben Mohler at ben.mohler@givingthree.org.

Visit the AFP Bookstore for a look at all the AFP/Wiley Fund Development Series titles and many other books of value to fundraisers and nonprofit leaders.



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