Friday, March 18, 2011

To Outline Or Not To Outline

Suzy Prudden and I have written books without complete outlines and we have written books with complete outlines. I can assure you that working from a comprehensive outline that you and the publisher and editor have agreed on before hand is better than working from a verbal agreement with no outline. A good outline guides you. It lets the publisher know exactly what you’re going to do before the fact, so there is no chance of a misunderstanding that could cost you your advance. Without an outline you can go completely off course in your writing. I speak from vast experience.

When in doubt – create an annotated outline. An annotated outline gives the chapter heading, a sample opening paragraph – demonstrating how the chapter will read – followed by an outline of what the rest of the chapter is going to be about. It is truly easy to write a book after you have made a comprehensive annotative outline. One really good piece of information I got from someone was to make each chapter heading interesting. The best chapter heading I ever wrote was for our "Suzy Prudden's One Stop Diet Revolution" which reads "Why Exercise and Sex Are Better In The Morning."

A book proposal for an agent or publisher includes:

* Title Pages
* Table of Contents
* Annotated Outline
* Comparison Sheet
* Synopsis
* One Page Bio
* 2-3 Completed Sample Chapters
* A Realistic Marketing Plan.

By realistic marketing plan I mean you can actually do it because you will be using contacts you really have. Publishers are not impressed with dreams and possibilities nor should you be. Statements like, “I plan to call every talk radio program in the Los Angeles area and talk to the producers until they agree to interview me,” are grounded in what you realistically plan to do – it’s an action plan. “I will receive nationwide radio coverage for the book,” is not grounded in reality. It would be nice, but there’s no action in "I will receive" and your book might not fit with every radio station even those that cover books. If you said you planned to call every talk show producer in America that might be a little better, but it’s still awfully big to get a publisher’s mind around. Even worse is, I will do everything to market the book you set up for me and tell me to do.
The following are some suggestions of places you can do your own marketing and placement.

Your Website – develop a website about you where you make yourself interesting. It can be sophisticated or very simple – what is important is that it be informative, and that you give lots of information away.
My website is simple you can find it at I laid it out, wrote the material and sent it to Nancy Villella at who laid it all out and posted it on line. You can post your own, or have someone do it for you. I chose years ago not to spend the time building the skills to create websites and focus on writing instead.

I have a little store where I sell autographed copies of my paperback books – those which are available on Barnes and Noble and Amazon without autographs. I have a little news page where I announce things that I do. The newspage is filled with reviews and announcements. It is not filled with press releases. You post frequently so that people get to know you if they are wondering who you are. My website is also posted to my blog which I write on two or three times a week - usually I write about writing, sometimes I write reviews.

On my home page I have two good reviews of my latest novel which shows that reviewers (third parties) like what I’m doing. I have only five pages. I connect to my blog and to Facebook and Twitter. Eventually I will contact to YouTube and have a podcast about writing tips. Your site doesn’t have to be big or fancy, it should be interesting and informative. In the next few weeks I will post a radio and television interview that I have done recently. That should give me much more traffic.

I pay attention to traffic and have a website that keeps track of my visitors.
I am in the process of researching key words and I will use those keywords on my site and on my blog. Keywords also position you as an expert in your field.


Create an annotated outline for your book.

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