You’ve got a brilliant book idea. You’re ready to start writing, but sitting down and banging out an outline or first chapter is intimidating—it’s hard to know where to start. A good place to begin is what we call the “one-pager.” A one-pager is a short piece of writing that helps you organize your content and gives you a road map for the next steps in the editorial process. It’s valuable to you and it’s valuable to the person receiving it, whether that be an editor, writing coach, literary agent, or acquisitions professional from a publishing company.
The meat of the one-pager
There are some key topics you should address in your one-pager. Thinking of a title, subtitle, and specific genre are all helpful, but not critical at this stage. Sometimes, a draft manuscript will inform the perfect title and subtitle, and in other cases, a title and subtitle can be a road map for writing. Here’s what’s critical at this stage:
Synopsis. What is your big idea? What value will the reader get from reading? Almost as importantly, what is the book not intended to be? The synopsis is a summary of what you want your book to say and its key takeaways. Although it will likely change as you write, a drafted synopsis now provides a foundation for a first draft later.
Target audience. Sometimes an author will reach out and say, “Everyone will love my book!” That’s a red flag. When I hear that, I think, “The author hasn’t determined a target market.” And that will undermine a project from the beginning. Imagining the value your book will bring to a certain group of people makes it more targeted. It’s easier and more effective to market to, say, proponents of youth football as Merril Hoge did in Brainwashed: The Bad Science Behind CTE and the Plot to Destroy Football, millennials as George Kroustalis did in Secrets to Becoming a Financial Badass, or business leaders looking for innovative solutions as Stephen Shapiro did in Invisible Solutions: 25 Lenses that Reframe and Help Solve Difficult Business Problems.
Call to action. What should your reader do after they have read your book? Your book should have at least one major takeaway that prescribes change on an individual, societal, or industry level. This can be as simple as arguing a more successful employee wakes up at 5 a.m. every morning or as complex as proposing large-scale economic or social change.
Goals. What’s your goal in writing this book? Think ambitiously, but realistically. Becoming a New York Times bestseller is probably not feasible, and that should rarely be your “why.” What we hear more often are things like, “I have a slightly different take on a political issue of the day,” “This book will solidify my position as a thought leader or recognized expert in the field of generational difference consulting,” or “This book will lead to more speaking opportunities and wealth advising business.” Those are all great reasons for publishing a book. Your goals should align with your book’s message and be achievable.
What comes next after the one-pager?
Having a completed one-pager is a launch point for the following possible options:
-Table of Contents. A table of contents is a “how” to the one-pager’s “what”—if a one-pager provides an overview of what you are saying, the table of contents is a plan for how to make your point.
–Outline. A document more detailed and expanded than a table of contents, the outline builds off and expands on the one-pager’s main ideas.
–First chapter. The one-pager covers the major topics in your book so you know where to begin writing and what will capture readers’ attention.
-Full-blown book proposal. A book proposal is the document used to pitch your book to literary agents and publishing houses. It usually includes an analysis of the following: the book’s content, target audience, author bio, marketing platform, comparative title analysis, table of contents, and a sample chapter or two. A one-pager can aid your book proposal by providing a first-draft synopsis and focusing your ideas on each of these topics.
The end product
Your one-pager doesn’t have to be a formal document that addresses all the topics above line by line. It can take whatever format works for your brainstorming process. These guiding ideas can prompt your thinking on central ideas and make the blank page a lot less intimidating by giving you a place to start. Once you have the main ideas down on paper, your book has a platform from which it can launch.
As the CEO at Amplify Publishing and Mascot Books, Naren Aryal is a recognized publishing industry expert. Naren advises authors, thought leaders, and various organizations on the opportunities and challenges that exist in the evolving publishing world. He’s guided the company’s growth from a single children’s book in 2003 to becoming one of the fastest growing and most respected hybrid publishing companies in the world. Today, Mascot Books publishes hundreds of books a year across all genres, and Amplify Publishing is a leading nonfiction imprint specializing in “big ideas” from some of the most reputable names in business and politics.
Naren frequently speaks at publishing and business events about the importance of developing compelling content and a robust author platform. He is also the author of How to Sell a Crapload of Books: 10 Secrets of a Killer Author Marketing Platform.
Prior to entering the world of books, Naren worked as a lawyer, advising technology companies in the Washington, D.C. area. He holds a B.S. in Finance from Virginia Tech and Juris Doctor from University of Denver.