February 2010

I’m gearing up to teach at the Florida Christian Writers’ Conference in early March. Doing so made me think that a lot of writers are also getting ready for the busy writing conference season ahead and are preparing to put their best foot forward when they meet with editors and publishers.

With that in mind, I’d like to address one aspect of preparation: the one-sheet proposal. The one sheet is just that–one sheet geared to a specific book idea. This is obviously quite different than a full proposal, which can be upwards of fifty pages or so.

The idea behind the one sheet is to present your idea, not your actual writing. One sheets are great for conferences or anytime you only have a few minutes to present your book idea to a prospective buyer. Most publishers discourage bringing an entire proposal to a conference because (1) it’s rather cumbersome to carry everywhere; and (2) they won’t have adequate time to read it anyway.

An effective one sheet, however, can serve the purpose of getting an editor interested enough in your idea that he or she requests a proposal from you. So let’s take a look at what a one sheet looks like…

Add the working title of your book front and center toward the top of the page, just below your contact info. Keep in mind that eventually your title will more than likely get changed by the publisher, so don’t get too attached to it!

Next, write two or three sentences maximum for your book’s concept. What you write could also be referred to as your “elevator speech”: What would you say to an editor if you met one in an elevator and wanted to pitch your book idea? If you can’t summarize your book in two or three sentences, it probably isn’t clear enough in your own mind yet.

You’ll also want to include a brief (one paragraph) synopsis of your book. Here, you’ll expound on your concept and offer specifics on what your book is about and what purpose you intend for it to have: How will it affect your audience? Why is it important? If you’re writing a novel, give a basic overview of your plot line, the main characters, and the book’s theme.

Your next section will be market potential, where you define your target audience, offer statistics and research on the size of your market and why your book is important to this market, and how you plan on reaching your audience. You can also include your platform in this section–what will you do to help market your book? If you have an extensive platform that you know will be a huge selling point for you, you’ll want to create a separate section just for that.

After market potential, add a section on comparative titles or the marketing edge your book has over other similar books on the market already. Do your homework and list a few titles that are like yours, yet give specifics on how your book will differ from what’s already out there.

Final sections include a short bio of your writing experience, especially as it relates to your book, along with any other relevant experience you may have; the proposed length of the book; and the completed time frame of when you can finish writing the book if you were offered a contract (most publishers would expect the book to be completed in 6-9 months).

This seems like a lot to fit on one page, but it can be done. Make sure every word counts and that you’re only including information that is absolutely necessary to help sell your book idea. A well-written one sheet should be very readable so that it can be quickly scanned by an editor, with all the important aspects easy to find.

I realize this was a quick overview of a lengthy topic, so if you have any questions on constructing a one sheet, please share your comment!

“[Fear of success] is definitely a sign that we’re running out of fears.

A person suffering from fear of success is scraping the bottom of the fear barrel.”

— Jerry Seinfeld

Is this true? Should fear of success be validated as a genuine fear? For many, it certainly is enough to stop their dreams dead in their tracks. Where does fear of success come from, and why is it so damaging?

I’m certainly not a psychologist, but from hearing other writers’ stories of how fearing success has slowed their writing progress, I think I can maybe shed some light on this interesting phenomenon.

It seems one of the biggest reasons people fear success is that it means they’ll have to take on more responsibility and more work. I believe there’s something built into us that wants to take short-cuts whenever possible, and we realize that when we’re successful, there’ll be more work involved. As writers, this may mean we have to hire others to help with the administration, financial, or marketing aspects of our job. Or, it could just mean that we’ll have more clients and more people requiring our services, which in turn translates into more responsibility. Although this is a good thing financially speaking, for some, they don’t want to have to put forth the effort required to maintain this level of responsibility.

Another issue I’ve heard from writers is the fear of the unknown. Most people are not big risk takers, yet they realize they must take risks to reap rewards. Success is never risk free. The reason something is considered a risk is because we have not experienced it before or because we feel our investment in it may not pay off. In terms of writing, if we do become successful with our novel or by becoming a sought-after article writer or speaker, what then? We’ve never been there before, so we have no idea what it’s going to take to keep up the status that others have bestowed upon us. What if we don’t live up to their expectations?  What if we can’t follow up our bestselling novel with another?

A third reason for fearing success is the thought that success may change us negatively. While this is certainly true for some who have achieved success, it does not have to be the norm. I know people who have said they’re afraid of wealth because they don’t think they could manage it wisely. Others feel success would bring out the worst in them.

While these are all valid fears that people have, it seems like they’re all symptoms of deeper root issues. If you are one who struggles with a fear of success, it would probably help to dig deeper into your fear to uncover the true root of the problem. Is it that you don’t want additional responsibilities that success may bring? Is it that you need to honestly evaluate your risks involved to see which ones are hindering your progress? Or, maybe you lack confidence in yourself in specific areas, which leads you to believe  your character would somehow become damaged if you were successful.

Fear of success can be just as paralyzing and real as the fear of failure, only for different reasons. If you are one who has experienced the fear of success, I would love to hear your story and how you’ve learned to overcome it.

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