So you want to publish the next great book! To do so you first need a book proposal.
Back in late 2011, I spent hours putting together a book proposal for my severance negotiation strategy book, How To Engineer Your Layoff.
After engineering my own layoff three months earlier, I had hoped to get a literary agent, land a book deal, and spend the next year writing the book. Writing a book was always on my bucket list. And what better time to do so than after retiring on a beach in Hawaii?
Alas, fate had other plans. I submitted my book proposal to about 15 agents and didn’t get a single reply back. Undaunted, and with the help of my dad and wife, I decided to self-publish my book anyway.
I had been writing about retiring early since 2009 when Financial Samurai began. During this time period, I dealt with my struggles of walking away from a steady paycheck at a young age. I also met hundreds of others online who struggled with the same issues.
We talked about overcoming the one more year syndrome to do something new. We even discussed strategies on how to convince our spouses to work longer so we could retire earlier! I failed in that department.
Then it hit me. What if more people could walk away from their jobs with a departing financial gift? A severance package would help ease the transition into early retirement, entrepreneurship, parenthood, education, or even a new career.
I knew I just had to publish the book.
My Rejected Book Proposal Turned Out Fine
One of the reasons why I write from firsthand experience is because I like to know what’s meaningful and what’s not. Negotiating a severance package gave me the liquid courage to walk away from a six-figure job I disliked at age 34.
A severance package changed my life for the better.
No longer do I suffer from chronic lower back pain, sciatica, and TMJ due to the stress of working in finance. My hair stopped falling out and greying. My wife and I were finally able to have children after years of trying. And I got to pursue my creative side while being free!
How To Engineer Your Layoff has gone on to generate over $550,000 in profits since 2012. When the gatekeepers don’t give you a chance, do it anyway! Do not be deterred by rejection. Embrace it!
During the first couple of years, HTEYL only generated about $10,000 a year in profit. But after continuously expanding and revising the book, profits have grown by 5X.
Sure, you’re not living it up on $50,000 a year before tax. You can’t even comfortably take care of a family of four with only $50,000 either. But to me, $50,000 is an excellent source of passive income that was created from nothing.
In addition, if I were to have gotten a book deal back in 2012, I probably would have accepted a book advance of as little as $25,000. Phew!
New Opportunities Arise If You Stick Things Out Long Enough
Eight years of writing later, at the end of 2019, I finally got a book deal with a major publisher: Portfolio Penguin Random House. I didn’t go looking for one so no book proposal was necessary. The offer came to me through a cold e-mail outreach.
Once the pandemic began in February 2020, I decided to write my next book, Buy This Not That,
Looking back, I appreciate all the rejections I’ve had in my life. The rejections make any success you have all the sweeter. Rejections are also highly motivating to prove your rejectors wrong! I love them.
If you want to become a published author, below is my rejected book proposal that should have been accepted. I haven’t read this book proposal in 11 years. I just happened to have found it in my Google Drive documents when I was searching for something else.
Upon re-reading the book proposal, I found it to be pretty good! Alas, I’m biased.
Title: How To Engineer Your Layoff: Make A Small Fortune and Live The Life You’ve Always Wanted
Presented on June 15, 2012
I. THE CONTENT
In a recent study by Manpower Inc, 44% of respondents say they are “unsatisfied” with their jobs. With roughly 138 million taxpayers in America, at least 61 million Americans are looking for something more meaningful to their jobs.
Go over to China, and that number is likely in the hundreds of millions. Unfortunately, people feel stuck in their jobs thanks to bills to pay and debt obligations to meet. There is a never-ending amount of anxiety experienced by millions of workers.
Unless one plans to work until death, there is always a backstop where one no longer wants to work. As a result, this book is not only targeted to the disgruntled worker, but to all workers.
How To Engineer Your Layoff will teach people how to strategically negotiate their layoff by building key relationships and deploying various strategies to ensure maximum return.
B. Unique Selling Proposition
There are plenty of books that show you how to get a job, but there are none that show you how to exit a job with a healthy severance package.
It’s like the age old client complaint to his stockbroker that they always get recommendations on when to buy, but never to sell. As an executive who has engineered his own layoff, readers of this book will:
1) Realize employees have incredible legal rights and aren’t just discarded rag dolls in an ever growing world of corporate power.
2) Learn how to successfully negotiate with large corporations without the need for expensive legal council.
3) Read about success stories of individual people who have engineered their layoffs.
4) Think critically about their financial future so that when the time comes to separate, they will be more than ready to take the leap of faith.
5) Plan for life after work.
C. Book Overview
The manuscript will be divided into 16 chapters consisting of several topics.
Table Of Contents
Chapter 1: Take Back Your Life
Chapter 2: Your Worst Enemy Is Also Your Best Friend
Chapter 3: Time For A Heart To Heart With Your Boss
Chapter 4: When All Else Fails, Bring In The Big Guns
Chapter 5: What To Look For During Severance Negotiations
Chapter 6: Case Studies Of People Who Have Successfully Been Let Go
Chapter 7: Negotiating A Separation Package When Joining A Competitor
Chapter 8: Gray Area Separation Maximization Techniques
Chapter 9: Why I Left My Job
Chapter 10: Life After Separation
Chapter 11: Rediscover Your Various Income Streams
Chapter 12: Reasons Why You Should Not Engineer Your Own Layoff
Chapter 13: Reasons Why You Should Engineer Your Layoff
Chapter 14: How To Retire Early And Never Have To Work Again
Chapter 15: Making Your Savings Work For You
Chapter 16: The Privilege Of Giving Back And Sharing Our Knowledge
D. The Manuscript
1. Manuscript Status: I have written 30,000 words so far. With the framework in place, I am prepared to write 55,000 more words to finish the book. Furthermore, I have over 100,000 words written in various blog posts from which I can draw information.
2. Special Features: The chapters will contain subheads, lists, bullet points, and a review box of key points for efficient reading.
3. Anticipated Length: 60,000-85,000 words.
4. Anticipated manuscript completion date: Approximately 60 days after receiving a commitment from the publisher.
II. THE MARKET
There are 138 million taxpayers in America today. Roughly 44% of workers in the latest survey by Manpower Inc revealed they are “unsatisfied” with their job, and another 20% who are borderline.
In other words, more than 60 million Americans would like to do something else more meaningful with their lives and logically engineer their own layoffs.
The target audience isn’t just the disgruntled worker. At some point, everybody will stop working. With the decline in pensions and a fickle economy, everybody needs a guide to figure out how to maximize their separation.
The audience for this book is made up of people who don’t have the skills, knowledge, or courage to face their superiors and negotiate their freedom. It’s as if the US workforce is one big zombie wasteland, begrudgingly following orders to walk off a cliff until no more.
How To Engineer Your Layoff will be written in a way that is scaleable across all cultures, and across multiple industries in various countries.
The book touches about the softer side of human emotions and negotiation tactics that transcend all regions.
Do you really think your landlord will raise your rent after you get them tickets to your favorite opera? Will the Human Resources manager fire you if you brought her a scarf back from her favorite island of Santorini?
I will write my book in a way that is translatable and applicable in many different languages. I grew up in six different countries and have visited 30 other countries. As a result, I have the ability to relate to a large variety of audiences.
D. Platform And Affinity Groups
1. 150,000+ monthly visitors to FinancialSamurai.com
2. 3,000 Twitter followers of @FinancialSamura
3. The attention of hundreds of the most influential personal finance bloggers on the web as the founder of the Yakezie Network of PF and Lifestyle Blogs.
4. Yakezie Network’s potential reach is around 750,000 pageviews a month.
5. The burgeoning early retirement / FIRE community which I helped kickstart in 2009
6. The thousands of Occupy Wall Street protesters who wants to take back their lives and battle for their rights against large corporations.
7. The millions of workers in highly cyclical industries such as semiconductor, banking, consulting, capital goods, communications, energy, and transportation who experience employment whiplash every time the economy goes through a boom and bust
E. Comparable Books
I have never come across online, or in the bookstore a book on how to get laid off and negotiate a phenomenal severance package. All the books are about how to get a job, how to interview, how to choose an industry that fits you and so forth.
Getting laid off is big business, with big payoffs. Doing a quick search on Amazon, I’ve found the following three books. The latest book was published in 2010 and is a comedy.
1. How To Get Fired!: The New Employee’s Guide To Perpetual Unemployment by Jeff Havens (Publisher: Big Pow! Books; 1st edition (April 1, 2010)). Book is a comedy and doesn’t give you the tools to negotiate real money severance.
2. Getting Fired: What to Do if You’re Fired, Downsized, Laid Off, Restructured, Discharged, Terminated, or Forced to Resign by Steven Sack (Grand Central Publishing (January 15, 2000)). Outdated.
3. Fire Me, Please! 101 Ways to Get Fired from Your Miserable Job by David Cordell (Dreamcan Books (December 27, 2004)). Outdated. Only 96 pages.
My book will be unique because:
1. Living my book in real-time. I managed to work for 13 years on Wall St., build a net worth of three million dollars by age 34, build a popular personal finance blog, and engineer my layoff that paid for five plus years of normal living expenses.
2. A solid platform. With the creation of Financial Samurai and the Yakezie Network, I have a large platform to market and distribute my book. None of the authors have the same platform and presence online.
3. Scaleable. The book will be written in a way that can connect across workers in Europe, the US, Canada, Australia, and Asia. The book will not be limited to just the 138 million workers in America.
III. THE AUTHOR
I am a 13-year veteran of Wall St. who became a Vice President at the of 27, and a Director at 30. I managed a multi-million dollar business in San Francisco for one of the major investment banks.
In 2012, at the age of 34, I realized my dream of working for myself by successfully engineering my own layoff. I received my undergraduate degree Magna Cum Laude from The College of William & Mary and my MBA from UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.
I grew up in six different countries (Philippines, Zambia, US, Japan, Taiwan, Malaysia) and can speak Mandarin. My hobbies include investing in the real estate and stock markets, playing poker, tennis, snowboarding, golf, hiking, and traveling.
In 2009, I started the personal finance blog, Financial Samurai, which has grown to be one of the most widely read personal finance blogs on the web with over 150,000 pageviews a month. Financial Samurai has a Pagerank of 4, mozRank of 5.5, an Alexa Rank of 30,000, and a Domain Authority of 66.
In December, 2009, I started the Yakezie Network, which now has 100 of the best personal finance and lifestyle bloggers online as Members. The potential reach of the Yakezie Network is in the 1 million+ pageviews a month.
B. Personal Marketing
- I will tap my entire Network of bloggers within the Yakezie Network to help promote and become affiliates of my book. The maximum potential reach is over 750,000 readers a month.
- I plan to speak at Fincon 2012, Blog World and any other conference who will have me.
- I will create video content on my site, and guest post on at least 10 other highly rated blogs.
- I will do at least 10 podcast interviews from across different genres, and different countries to get the message out.
- I will touch base with all my ex clients and colleagues in the industry to help them spread the world. I will send personal e-mails to friends in cyclical industries to also help highlight the book.
IV. Sample Content
Chapter 1: Take Back Your Life
Welcome to the beginning of the end! You’re sick of your job and don’t know how to get out. Every day that passes feels like another ounce of misery crushing your soul.
You were once again passed up for promotion as your boss makes your life hell. You can no longer stand your co-workers, especially the one who keeps whistling some tune you can’t stand and the slob who cracks hard-boiled eggs at his desk for breakfast.
Your commute is so long you’re sure baby pandas are dying because of your pollution. Meanwhile, you can’t help but wonder if even a monkey can do your job. You didn’t go to school to sign up for this!
Millions of people are stuck in work situations where they feel trapped. A May 2012 study by Right Management a Manpower subsidiary, found that only 11% of people were satisfied with their jobs and that 16% were “somewhat satisfied.” A full 44% were dissatisfied. But you already knew this!
With bills to pay and dependents to feed, how can we be irresponsible and voluntarily abandon a steady paycheck? With unemployment rates at 8%-20% levels around the world, there’s no guarantee we’ll ever find another a similar paying job again!
What do you value more? Freedom or the hypnotic allure of money? I suspect if you’ve purchased this book, the answer is freedom. For most of us, work is a means to an end. Work to live rather than live to work.
Imagine A Different Environment
Imagine someone giving you $20,000 to not work. Or how about $50,000, $100,000, or even $500,000? More than likely, you’ll be ecstatic and take it, especially if you were thinking of leaving anyway.
Let’s flip things around and imagine a scenario where your company says you have to pay $20,000, $50,000, $100,000, $500,000 in order to quit your job.
This proposition is similar to a slave having to work off his debt to gain freedom. It is absolute horseshit, but in reality, quitting your job without anything in return is very similar. Sure, you can gain your freedom by quitting your job, but you’re also losing all your income!
Many people are afraid to approach their boss about a separation agreement. Even more people don’t realize employees have powerful rights. When you know your rights, you’re able to maximize your returns.
One friend managed to hold off getting laid off for for two years in Seoul, South Korea. He learned that employees cannot be terminated without severe financial penalty to the company unless an employee volunteers or conducts gross negligence. In those two years, my friend was able to provide for his family, save a ton of money, and leave with a separation package valued at 2X his salary.
Know you’re helping your boss make the difficult decision of whom to let go. Some receive $5,000 for leaving, while others may receive $500,000. Whatever sum you receive is better than zero and all gravy. Best of all, bonus money gives you a nice cushion to embark on the new life you’ve selected.
I, the Financial Samurai, am here to help make what you imagine a reality.
The Biggest Push Backs To Negotiating A Severance
I’ve talked to over a hundred less-than-satisfied employees about the subject of engineering their layoffs instead of just quitting. I always tell them that instead of complaining, to do something about their situation! The most common excuses I get are:
- “I find it disingenuous to scheme how to get let go. It’s more honorable to quit.”
- “I have a lot of pride in my work and can’t see myself taking it down a notch.”
- “If I engineer my own layoff, I fear that I won’t be able to get hired again.”
Most of these people are either too young, or too naïve. They haven’t worked long enough in the work force to get screwed over by a co-worker, boss, or economic cycle. Further, they haven’t seen enough good friends and loved ones lose their jobs through no fault of their own. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll realize that negotiating a severance is possible.
One of my friends got let go while on vacation just two years before he could start receiving retirement benefits. He was 54 at the time and the best mailroom clerk one could have! The company could have cut any number of financially secure employees, but chose to cut a 10-year veteran of the firm who barely made $30,000 a year. Shameful.
As a former manager who participated in the hiring and firing of people, I almost always noticed when an employee’s enthusiasm started to fade. Work always follows the heart.
Thoughts Follow Action
If you are reading this book, but have one of the above common responses, you are thinking things through. Is it still scheming if you do not act, but your mind thinks otherwise? Of course it is. Wanting to figure out how to leave your job demonstrates you no longer have the full desire to work and perform like you used to.
There are millions of people out there who would gladly take your position for less money and work harder to boot. Denying people this opportunity is selfish. Instead, do society justice. Let someone who wants your job do it and figure out how to leave your job gracefully and on your terms.
The worst employee is the one who complains about the situation and does nothing to it.
Gone are the days of company loyalty to employees and company pensions. One must look out for themselves first because the company and very few other people will.
Now that you’ve done some self-discovery, it’s time to get to work!
I firmly believe my book will enable millions of people to break free from miserable jobs to live more meaningful leaves. I didn’t think negotiating a severance was possible until I tried.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Book Proposal Review
So there you have it! My rejected book proposal. Not too bad right? It is more thorough than I had remebered.
I suspect the book proposal was rejected because negotiating a severance was too unusual a topic, even though there are millions of employees who will eventually move on. Perhaps the idea of negotiating a severance to FIRE was too new of a concept since FIRE had not gone mainstream yet. Or maybe I just didn’t contact the right literary agents. I’m not sure.
What I do know is having a platform is the main way to get a book deal with a traditional publisher. Given publishers don’t really market your book, you need an existing platform to help spread the word. But if you already have an existing platform, you may rather self publish and earn greater economics instead.
Whatever route you decide, build a platform and build a brand. If you do these two things you’ll have a much easier chance of landing a book deal. At the very least, you should be able to have a literary agent respond to you!
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