When I was approached by a publisher to put together a proposal for my book “The Mominatrix’s Guide to Sex,” they made one thing clear: They didn’t want it to be a collection of my online columns. And really, I understood where they were coming from; there’s no reason for someone to pay for something that they can get for free.
It’s certainly the challenge for many writers, columnists and bloggers who are creating unique and compelling online content but want to somehow translate that into book form. However, if you’re able to whip up such fabulous work on a regular basis on your site or blog, then it should be an easy task to do it for a book. And if you’ve got an archive full of great writing, it can actually be an asset when you’re writing your proposal and hopefully your book.
One of the benefits to having an archive full of columns was that I was able to create my annotated Table of Contents -- one important and essential component of a non-fiction book proposal -- with ease. It’s quite difficult to envision what exactly your book will cover without yet writing it, but by skimming through past columns and posts, I was able to compile a list of emerging topics that would translate well into chapters. In fact, I’m pretty sure my entire Table of Contents was loosely based on my past columns.
However, when I began writing the book, I found myself in quite a predicament in terms of what to replicate from the columns and how to combine certain pieces in a way that was seamless and not forced. As it turns out, trying to fit pre-existing work together into chapters can actually be harder than writing new content.
Of course, even with over two years worth of columns, I used only about 20% of them for actual book content. The rest I created from scratch -- not just because it was important that I write new material for the book, but also because even with tons of columns to draw from, they came nowhere near the 70,000 words I needed.
If you’re working on a book proposal based on an existing blog or column, use it as your inspiration or muse. Don’t be afraid to draw from it as there’s a good chance that you’ve got excellent content there and it will be a fine example of your writing voice, and that’s really what publishers will be interested in.
But be prepared to create new content as well, which will not only help you sell the book -- to both your existing and new readers -- but will ensure that you’re writing something that no one can find anywhere else. Therein lies the greatest appeal.
Kristen Chase is a mom of 3 (and a fetus due mid-October), Publisher and COO of Cool Mom Picks, and author of "The Mominatrix's Guide to Sex," a funny, frank advice book for new and seasoned moms. You can find her almost daily at her personal blog, Motherhood Uncensored. If you've got comments or questions regarding the book proposal process, feel free to leave them!
More from living