How to turn a setback into a success!What to Do with Unsold Book Proposals and Sample Chapters by Roger C. Parker

At one point or another, just about every author has come to the conclsion that their carefully-prepared book proposal and sample chapters is not destined to be published.

Perhaps it’s  string of rejections from trade publishers, or research indicates that the market you have targeted is not responding positively to your self-published book idea.

In either case, you feel it’s time to move on.

But, hold on for a second!

Lets examine the other side of the coin. Abandoned book proposals and sample chapters can often be as the basis of effective marketing. There is actually great value in the work you’ve already completed

The main thing that’s required is a change in perspective from “unfinished” or “rejected” to “potential.”

It’s not the “book that won’t appear,” but the marketing potential of the work you’ve already completed!


Here are some of the ways you can convert files you’re completed proposal and chapters a marketing projects. These include:

  • White papers. Perhaps you could take the basic ideas of your original book proposal book and use it as the basis of an an engaging and informative white paper. White papers are 8 to 12 pager special reports that focus on solving a reader challenge combined with a summary of the steps involved in turning an obstacle into new opportunities. The marketing research you put into your original book proposal can be used as the structure of your white paper. The table of contents you intended the chapters in your book can be the main points of your white paper. Instead of spending weeks researching and writing each of the individual chapters, your writing time for each of the original topics can be measured in hours instead of weeks.
  • Lead generators. By viewing an abandoned book proposal as a white paper candidate opens the possibility of creating a lead generators to attract new business and build your email marketing list. A lead generator combines an offer (in most cases, your white paper automatically delivered as an Adobe Acrobat PDF) with a response device, like a coupon. The offer typically includes a photo of your white paper’s cover and a short description of the benefits of the white paper. The benefits can be summarized in a paragraph or even just a short bulleted list of benefits. In addition to lead generators added at the end of blog posts, you can also add lead generators to your website. These help convert casual visitors into prospects for your business. You may have noticed that, soon after arriving at a website, a pop-up appears. A pop-up is basically a coupon that appears on your screen, inviting you to download a special report or invitation to attend an upcoming webinar. You may also have noticed that an exit pop-up appears when you are leaving a website. In either case, you are invited to download a white paper and—in the process—agree to receive the firm’s newsletters and special offers.
  • Blog posts and podcasts. I have long been an advocate of the series approach to marketing. A series of blog posts or podcasts can be more effective than unrelated, individual blog posts. Each installment in a series pre-sells interest in the next installment. Equally important, each installment drives traffic to preceding installments. Each of the topics intended as chapters in your original bppl proposal can be devoted to individual blog posts, podcasts, or videos. A series can consist of as few as 3, or as many asas 7, installments. For more details and examples, see my Content Marketing Institute blog post, 12 Months of Content Marketing Ideas for SlideShare. Afterwards, of course, you can assemble the individual topics into a short booklet (20 to 40 pages). In many cases, your task tightening up your original files, rather than creating new files. And, the same advantage of the above series approach might be possible.
  • In a similar way, chapter files intended for our original book can often be easily recycled into issues of your upcoming email newsletters. Even better, depending on the sequence of the table of contents you’ve prepared for you book, you might even consider a series of newsletters. Or, you might consider grouping chapters on related topics into individual issues.
  • Virtual presentations. Speaking has long been a popular way for entrepreneurs, coaches, and consultants to market themselves. In today’s environment, there are fewer opportunities for face-to-face speaking opportunities. But, as one door slams shut, new doors open. Today, firms like Zoom, and others, have eliminated the often daunting audio and video obstacles that formerly obstacles to presenting live online events. In this case, you can might create PowerPoint presentation slides to add a visual dimension to your ideas.
  • Premium books. Here’s an interesting question: “Who are the leading vendors in your field?” Premium books are another often overlooked option. Premium books are published by corporations that want to help prospects better understand their offerings. Or, corporations distribute complimentary copies of premium books “thank” current or previous buyers of their products and services. In addition, premium books are often sold to current and prospective owners of their products who need to know how to better understand their products. In this case, they are sold through retailers in their field, i.e. a fishing lures may be sold through sporting goods stores. There are several advantages that premium books offer authors who are subject area experts. One of the obvious examples is that premium books are usually smaller than trade books. In addition, authors of premium books receive income while writing the books, rather than waiting for books to be sold. The other advantage is that authors of premium books may also be viewed as marketing consultants rather than “authors.” Offering to write a premium book opens the door to preparing a series of lead generators and other promotional materials associated with the premium book. From an optimist’s point of view, a single, well-conceived premium book can potentially lead to writing a yearly update to the book, as well as other writing assignments. It has been done, and it can be done. If nothing else, “thinking big” can not only dispel the original disappointment and frustration that follows a temporary setback into a energetic search for new markets for your creativity and talent. (It’s how I got my start, for example.)

Additional ideas

The above are just a few ideas for breathing new life into abandoned book proposals and sample chapters. Other ideas include worksheets and templates. If your original book manuscript included one, “how to” tutorial sections, consider creating the series of templates, sold as downloadable PDF files. These make complex procedures simple by providing step-by-step guidance.

You might also consider using your original proposal and sample chapters as a foundation for a foundation for seeking writing assistance. Options include co-authors (whose name will appear on the cover of your book), work-for-hire writers—typically freelancers who could help you turn your files into newsletters, blog posts, and scripts. Many high-visibility marketing authors, such as Jay Conrad Levinson, author of the 100-title Guerrilla Marketing series– have depended on others to help out turning their ideas into finished projects.

Taking action

Start by reviewing your existing book proposal (or proposals) and completed chapters. Print out what you’ve written on 3-hole punched paper and store in a 3-ring binder. This will make the file easier for you to read what you’ve previously written and also give you a place to for inserting hand-written notes.

  • Look for ideas, paragraphs, or sections that might be easily recycled into fresh marketing opportunities.
  • Review your time and financial resources, which will help you realistically evaluate your options. (Mortgaging your home rarely makes sense!)
  • Before contacting other authors or writers, jot down your specific needs before discussing your project with them.

Hopefully, the above will inspire you to seriously consider converting book proposals and unfinished book manuscripts into fresh marketing opportunities.

Author Bio:

Roger C. Parker has participated in several previous Non-Fiction Writing Conference “Ask an Expert” events. Roger has not written several nonfiction books sold around the world, but he’s also had to find new markets for books that were ahead of (or behind) their time. Many “escapees” from corporate cubicles have depended on him to make then transition from corporate life to entrepreneurial success.

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