A Key Tool to Market Your Book: The Author Questionnaire

Why It's Essential to Fill This Out

Taking notes at the AGM
The author questionnaire is a basic book marketing tool. PeopleImages.com / Getty Images

In a traditional publishing house, a contracted author will be asked to fill out a questionnaire by his or her editor, sometime during the pre-publication timeframe, usually right after the book has been acquired.

A Key Book Marketing and Publicity Tool

The completed questionnaire is distributed to a number of publishing departments to help develop book publicity and marketing plans; therefore, the can also be a useful tool for any aspiring or self-publishing author.

Authors might note that the requested information is likely on file with their editors somewhere—in the book proposal, or even right on the book contract. While that may be so, the author questionnaire provides a one-stop repository for all the information pertinent to your book sales and promotion efforts. It's important to fill it out thoroughly.

The Parts of the Author Questionnaire

While every publisher has a different format for their author questionnaire, there are a number of areas that will be standard, though they won’t necessarily appear in this order:

General Information About the Book — This includes basic information such as name, pseudonym (if applicable), and book title, etc. It also includes more personal questions—what inspired the book, interesting stories or anecdotes regarding the writing or publishing process, prior history of the book, etc.

Personal Contact & Biographical Information — All your own current contact information, plus place of birth, schools attended, countries resided in, other bio info that might be pertinent to your book promotion.

Author Photo — While not technically part of the “questionnaire,” the author questionnaire will often reference and/or ask you to attach your author photo, which will then be included in the press materials that publicity sends out. Make sure to have a great, professional-quality photo of yourself taken—if you’re lucky, it will be widely circulated.

“Platform”  and "Big Mouths"— Information about the author's:

  • Current internet and social media presence
  • Media experiences
  • Media vehicles (i.e. does the author have a podcast or radio or TV show? A regular column? etc.)
  • Association and industry affiliations
  • Previously published books that might help your current book’s marketing and publicity efforts.
  • Personal media, industry, and book retail contacts who could help spread the word about your book.

The Author Questionnaire Helps Market Your Book

The completed  author questionnaire is disseminated to the various publishing departments, from editorial to publicity to sales, each of which uses it for their own purposes.

The answers on an author questionnaire form the basis by which these departments make strategic choices about the author’s publicity or marketing plan.

Here are some examples of how the author questionnaire might be utilized: 

  • The book and author information will help an editor create a “tip sheet” for the sales force to present to booksellers.
  • Current residence or home town might dictate which booksellers might invite an author to do book reading and/or book signing events.
  • Current geographic location could also predict where some of the publicity department would center their media outreach efforts.
  • Countries where the author resided for any length of time might help the subsidiary rights department sell foreign language translation rights to publishers in those countries.
  • The organizations an author belongs to might prove helpful in spreading the word—the book marketing department might send key members “big mouth” copies.
  • The book marketing and promotional resources the author brings to the table, such as personal marketing and social media platforms (blog, number of Twitter followers) might inform where marketing dollars will be spent. 

Book Marketing Tool for the Self-Published Author

The self-published author will find the author questionnaire useful as a brainstorming and strategic tool that will help to craft a marketing and publicity plan.The questionnaire will help him / her:

  • Summarize your book for others.
  • Assess your personal marketing and publicity platforms.
  • Outline the promotional strengths and contacts to readily exploit
  • Point out what needs developing before publication.
  • And, of course, it helps greatly if you are hiring freelance marketing or publicity help.

Learn more about developing your comprehensive book publicity and book marketing plan.

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