Savvy Author Book Proposal Checklist: Considerations of You, the Author

Updated: Oct 15, 2021

How do you fare as a writer, a thought leader, a promoter, and a promotable figure?

This article is part of a series that adapts and excerpts my entire book, Pitch What’s True: A Publisher’s Tools for Navigating Your Best Path to a Published Nonfiction Book* (Everything Goes Media, 2019). Find an index to the series here.


The Author

The Savvy Author Checklist continues. [See here for Publishing/Publisher Knowledge, The Book, Sales & Marketing pieces.] A reminder: The boldface questions below are not simply the summarized knowledge of a veteran publisher rehashed for you somehow. These questions are from the actual assessment tool that my editorial team and I have used in-house when evaluating possible projects.


Have you done your best in writing your book in terms of content, style, and mechanics? Is your best good enough?

What are your book’s weaknesses in this area? Who can give you objective feedback? If you can’t get impartial assessments from friends, family, or fellow writers, who can you hire for this job? When will you address this? ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

What are your overall credentials and the general experience level conveyed by your résumé? Are you qualified to write this book? Have you been published before? Where?

Answer the above questions for yourself. How do you feel about your overall qualifications? Which will you emphasize when interacting with potential publishers? Are there any obvious deficits you’ll need to account for? ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Are your credentials appropriate for your topic…and obvious to those who care? Are you credible? Knowledgeable? An expert? Hobbyist? Insider? Does it matter for your topic?

Answer these questions below, and then re-read your answers as if you are a publisher.

What sense do you get of author-topic fit? Where do you shine? Do you have any new insights that will help with your proposal? ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Are you passionate about your work and your subject? Will you ever get tired of it? Can you sustain a high level of enthusiasm for and devotion to it?

Can you answer these questions with a resounding Yes!? If not, what do you need to get there? Are you sure this is the right subject for you? What are some ways you might be able to sustain a fitting level of commitment to your book over time? ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Are you a professional? Do you approach your work and the publishing process professionally? Will you treat the publisher’s staff respectfully?

Considering the above questions, make some notes for yourself on what to keep in mind going forward. ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Are you appropriately attentive to details, deadlines, commitments, and pre- [1] and post-production [2] responsibilities?

How will you fit these things into the life you already have? What things will have to change to make it all possible? ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Do you have an awareness of what those details, commitments, and responsibilities are?

If not, how can you find out what you need to know? ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Will you be easy to work with as an author? Are you honest? Reliable? Personable? Can the publisher trust you with their reputation? To represent them? Will they be proud to have published you?

What are your best relationship and business skills, and how can you enlist those talents on behalf of your book? In what ways will publishing you enhance a publisher’s reputation? ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Will you be easily accessible to the publisher? The media? The public?

How responsive are you currently to those who call you on the phone or email you? Will your current level of responsiveness bring the results you want when it comes to replying to a publisher, the media, and the public (your readers)? Do you need to adjust your thinking and your behaviors to increase your response rate, polish your communication, and/or up your customer service? ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

What is your degree of interest, willingness, ability, and availability to market your book? Do you have media experience? Are you willing to learn? Can you speak comfortably, engagingly, and authoritatively on your subject?

Answer the above. Where do you feel strong? Where do you feel less confident? You will need to market your book and interact with the media at some point. How can you get started in this area? With what strengths will you lead? What skills are you willing to learn? What workarounds can you devise for impediments you foresee? ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Do you have the connections (how many?) to promote a book and the skills/interest necessary to mine those connections? Do you have Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, and/or other active social media accounts and a system for always increasing your connections there?

Do you? Make a list of everyone you know. Everyone. Personally and professionally. Get out your address book and your holiday card list. Add your email contacts, your phone contacts, and your Facebook friends. Consider the extent of their networks. Consider the reach of your current social media accounts. Do you need to start or become more active on any social media platforms? Are there one or two that suit you and your audience that you can focus on? What are ways you can systematically increase your connections over time? ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Do you have an email list? An e-newsletter? A website? A blog? A column? A syndicated column? A speaking career? What are the ways you currently reach out to others with your message(s)? What ways are you developing or willing to develop?

Answer these questions (without panicking!). If you have any of the above, do they need enhancing to accommodate your book and book promotion activities? In what ways? When will you do those things? If not, which ones make sense for your purposes? How and when will you bring those things into being, and how will you maintain and develop them? ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

How does your online presence already fit with your future as an author, your book(s), and your topic(s)? How do you plan to adjust if you need to? Are you actively participating online in current conversations relevant to your topic(s) in as many forums as make sense?

What jumps out in answering these questions? What modifications can you make? Where are your customers and readers online? What subject area conversations can you meaningfully contribute to? ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Are you aware of the amount of work, stamina, and new skills, and the different outlook required to properly promote a book?

If not, who can give you a realistic perspective? When will you contact them for specifics and advice? How and when will you clear your schedule to make all of the above possible? Who can you enlist for support and accountability? ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Are you, as an individual, promotable? Do you have a personality (or persona) that makes you particularly saleable and appealing?

What are your most endearing, inspiring, and intriguing features? What are some ways you can put these characteristics front and center on behalf of your book? ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


[1] Pre-production refers to what happens before a book’s production work (editing, design, indexing, and the like), such things as writing, re-writing, contract negotiations, and getting to know the publisher’s people.

[2] Post-production refers to what happens after the book’s production work is complete, usually starting the minute the book goes to press (i.e., it’s at the printing company being printed…almost no publisher owns their own printing presses), primarily meaning sales and marketing activities.

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