One of the first things we send to our new authors is an author questionnaire from the publicity department. This may seem like a simple Q&A – but really it’s the basis of your entire marketing outline plan. We receive lots of questions about it, and we sometimes receive some very blank forms. So, we thought we’d do a step by step guide on completing it.
The book title, full name, address, telephone and mobile
The first five points are standard. We ask for these for basic communication.
Website and Social media sites
We also ask for a website and social media links. This is great for promotion. We can share your website to interested parties and tag you in relevant posts. On say, twitter and facebook
Date of birth, place of birth, nationality, how long have you lived where you currently reside? Where have you also lived?
Next, we ask for your date of birth, place of birth and nationality. This is for two reasons
- We can market you to those areas.
- Book awards almost always ask these questions when submitting a book.
Later we ask about how long you’ve lived where you currently reside, we ask this specifically for book awards too.
This is a tricky one to explain as everyone is different. It’s good to mention previous places you’ve lived, places you’ve worked, where you had your education and anything else that could help us!
Do you have any Hobbies?
This can be very beneficial as certain clubs and so on can be very supportive.
Do you have any professional qualifications, memberships or are part of any organizations?
We then ask you to let us know if you have any qualifications – some magazines such as ‘science’ themed examples, can be very happy to support people in their field. Even if your book has nothing to do with science.
We also add the question ‘are you a member of any organizations’? – many organizations have been immensely supportive, some even hosting signings, sending out a promotional email, having posters pinned on the walls.
Please include a brief description of your book.
Next up is the description of your book. Now, we’re not looking for an actual in-depth description, but key points. Good things to mention would be the genre, the subjects, where it is set, the themes. Points that we can look at and work on.
Are there any books that are similar to yours? Or that you took inspiration from?
It can be helpful to look at successful marketing strategies for similar books. Genres in particular; for example, There’s a huge cult following for thrillers, with many book clubs and events dedicated to that genre.
We ask this for the same reasons as the hobbies question. It’s also a good idea to tell us when you do work. Say, if you work weekends, we’ll know not to book events on those days. If you’re a nurse and have an unpredictable schedule, we’ll then know to work on this closely with you.
Why did you choose to start writing?
This question gets asked a lot by bloggers and radio, so it’s great to know more about your writing journey. Also, some write to beat depression or illness. In the past sites such as Health.com and Mind.org have been very happy to support people going through a struggle sometimes they’ve even helped to promote!
Who is your target audience?
Possibly the most important question in the entire questionnaire. The most common answer we get is ‘everyone’ – to put it simply, no book appeals to everyone. That gives us nothing to work with. Answers that help us are Children aged 7-11, lovers of tennis, scientists, young mothers, the dystopian community, 50-70-year-olds. Being overly specific is good!
Do you have any media experience or contacts that would be helpful in the promotion of your book?
A very important question. Perhaps your brother works for a radio station? Does a cousin work in Barnes and Noble? Or a friend of yours knows a book distributor. Every little helps, so have a little think before you say ‘no-one’.
Please provide a list of bookstores that you frequent, or are local to you.
Local is key with signings and stocking. Local stores are always the first to help out, so starting small is very important. Of course, once success happens, we branch to the stores where the demand is. Putting Waterstones and WH Smith is not much help, as we assume that anyway! We don’t live locally to you (or we are unlikely to) so we may not know about the charity shop that holds book events, or the small Tesco branch that has an entire shelf dedicated to local authors. If you’ve written a children’s book, perhaps name some local schools or even where you went to school! An insight into your local area is always so helpful.
Please name any local newspapers, radio stations and magazines you think would be interested in featuring your book?
Most of the time we get the same list: ‘The Times, The Sun, BBC Radio’ – all very big media outlets.
Best selling books can find it hard to get into these huge newspapers. To put it plainly, it’s very unlikely for any large TV, Newspaper or radio to even consider a book when it’s first released. The only time they will be willing to help is when it becomes a best seller or is close to getting there. Same as the bookshops, local media and news is where to start, independent places too!
Do you have any further ideas for promotion?
Again any suggestions are going to be so helpful. If you know of some magazines that may be interested, certain features of your book that may seem small to you, but could have the potential to be a marketing tool. E.g. if your book mentions a historical location, references a figure from the past, is about a certain aspect of time, a group of people of a living person now! It’s always worth saying! You really never know! It’s always important to broaden the horizon and look at every marketing opportunity.
We put optional on this, as we always create one regardless. But we do ask the author before we do, in case there is a specific one you have in mind. It is always good to give us one – even if you want us to add to it. It gives us a good idea of what you want it to include. We’ve actually written an entire article about how to create the perfect press release, check it out, here:
Please attach an author photo
We use these on our website and when news/magazines ask for a photo! So, make sure it’s a good one! High quality, not a selfie, preferably landscape, with good lightning taken on a higher resolution smartphone or camera. See our author photo guide here, for more detail! Just an FYI – we will still always ask permission to send anything like this over. And that leads us swiftly onto the last section!
Can we pass on your contact details to the media?
Every author is different. Some wish no remains anonymous, some don’t! We include this so we know what you feel comfortable with. An example of using this is: If a bookshop asks to get in contact with the author to arrange a signing or to ask questions about what you would like, we would provide a number or an email – after informing you, of course.
This NEVER means we will put any personal details online, or to anyone who asks. You will get no spam emails from anyone, including us, no cold calls.
We will only use the details you provided to get in contact with you when needed and to provide a means of communication with potential, professional media relations, bookshops or bloggers.