Thomas J. Watson, Sr., the man who founded IBM and made it a technology leviathan, distilled the company philosophy into a single word: THINK. Such a simple word, almost self-evident, but nevertheless a stretch for many businesspeople. Were it not, there would never be mistakes, misfires, or miscalculations. Perhaps the power of the word THINK is what has made IBM such a successful company for its nearly 100 years in business. Watson believed so strongly in the concept of THINK that he trademarked it in 1935, then he plastered it all over the company.
Everything great starts with a thought. For the businessperson who wishes to write a book, nothing is as important as thinking the first thought and continuing to think about that thought: what it is, what it means, its implications and extensions and ramifications and repercussions and everything that it encompasses and surrounds. You can’t leave the idea alone for a minute. You have to keep thinking and thinking and thinking about it, at least for a month. Maybe for a year or more. Only you know for how long. You need to give it time to grow, to mature into an expression of you and your foundation idea or ideas, to become presentable to the rest of the world. The way you present your idea to the world is, first and foremost, in a book proposal.
To think is the first step toward writing a book, and it is often given short shrift – at the author’s great risk. There is nothing more disappointing for both author and audience than a half-baked book. Amazon, the premier purveyor of books, encourages readers to comment and write reviews for the books they read – and boy, do they! Where once a book could ride for a while on the publisher’s publicity, that little bit of competitive momentum has been undercut by the availability of popular opinion.
My son and I were discussing the blind spot, a common illusion and human fallibility. An A, O and X appear side by side. You cover your right eye and move your head back; the O disappears, then as you move back further it reappears as a gray circle. You can demonstrate this remarkable failing for yourself here, but please don’t fall victim to it in your book proposal.
Many people, having come up with the germ of a good idea, unfortunately fall victim to a psychological blind spot: They think they seaw the O disappear when in fact they didn’t. To help avoid this problem when thinking about your book idea, try using some of the wonderful brainstorming and mind-mapping tools available to us, either from books or software such as Inspiration.
Begin developing your excellent idea, bolstered by your discovery tools, to write a book proposal. We are absolutely convinced that any author, new or seasoned, ought to develop a complete, formal book proposal. It helps you develop and execute your idea and its extensions in a logical manner – in truth it’s a microcosm of the book itself – because its purpose is to convince others of your book’s importance. Even if you’re going to self-publish, the book proposal serves as your business plan. Moreover, if you plan to take your idea to an agent or publisher, it’s your sales tool. Agents and publishers tell us they assess the merit of a book idea based on how clearly and interestingly it’s presented in the book proposal – even if the author’s writing isn’t that great.
Writing the proposal also helps you sharpen your ideas. The very act of describing and explaining your book idea(s) in a formal document gives you a new and sharper perspective on what you plan to write about. You’ll probably write several drafts of your proposal because it gives you an opportunity to see how your ideas play out and ways in which to change or improve upon them. Neither of us has ever written a book without first writing a proposal. Nor has either of us seen a great book that wasn’t born of a great book proposal.
If you get the thought and the proposal right, you will indeed see the the gray circle. That’s your brain matter at work.