Crafting a Book Proposal: The Onboarding Questionnaire

I previously wrote about my thought process for why and how I’ve decided to publish my book Building a Second Brain with a traditional publishing house. I’ll try to share with you in as much detail as possible my journey, starting with my first challenge: crafting the book proposal.

The book proposal is the lynchpin of the entire publishing value chain. It is the starting point for all conversations and negotiations about the book. It is the calling card to any editor, agent, publisher, or publicist a writer might want to talk to. It is the only complete document in existence for most of the publishing process, until the finalized book pops out the other end.

For that reason, I’ve decided to hire the very best. I am working with Janet Goldstein, who worked with David Allen on his best-selling books Getting Things Done and Ready for Anything, to guide me through writing a compelling book proposal. My first task was to fill out a “client onboarding questionnaire,” an exhaustive brain dump of everything I know and have related to the “book project.”

It was a fascinating and eye-opening experience, because every question addressed the book as a business: which problems or pains it seeks to solve, who are the customers who will gladly pay for it, and which benefits it is intended to deliver to them. Completing the questionnaire helped me step out of the shoes of the writer caring for his baby, and into the shoes of a publisher creating a business model.

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