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Best Questions: A Roundup of Selections from Author Questionnaire

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A PMA ROUND TABLE

 

Best Questions: A Roundup of
Selections from Author Questionnaires

 

When we invited PMA members to
explain how they involve authors in marketing, many mentioned their author
questionnaires, and some sent copies along. Although the forms vary in size and
style, certain questions are key for getting the most usable and valuable
information. We asked six publishers to share their favorites.

—Judith
Appelbaum

 

More Is More

 

Our top three:

 

● Describe your author
platform—i.e., any professional or informal training, experience and
expertise; communications networks (Web sites, blogs, newsletters, listservs,
associations); name recognition (newspaper or magazine columns, honors and
awards); and other marketable assets you bring to this project. In other words,
what can we leverage to bolster your status as an expert in the subject of your
book?

 

● Please give us your ideas
on the best ways to reach your target audience for this book. Be as specific as
possible, listing any catalogs, Web sites, newsletters, or other outlets you
think we should use. No idea is out of bounds, though we can’t promise we’ll be
able to implement them all.

 

● Attach a hardcopy list of
any personal and professional friends, relatives, and colleagues and their
snail mail/email addresses that we should contact with a publication notice
when your book comes out. Please email this list to our publicist, as well.

 

Mary
Shafer

Word
Forge Books

www.wordforgebooks.com

 

Things You Might Not Think Of

 

Our author questionnaire has
roughly 50 questions and we find them all useful, but here are three whose
answers have been hugely helpful or clarifying:

 

<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>If your name is ever mispronounced, how should it be
said? (One of our
authors with a deceptively simple-looking name was especially grateful for this
one; it reminded her that she needed to confirm the pronunciation with
talk-show hosts before going on the air.)

 

● Note any regional or
national media exposure, even if it had nothing to do with your book or its
subject. (This has
gotten ink for our authors in alumni publications, and bookings into major
television markets. Often, they don’t tell us about such previous exposure
unless we ask specifically!)

 

● Who is this book for? What
are your top three intended audiences? Be specific (e.g., dog owners,
psychologists, primary school teachers, etc.). List in order of importance. <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>(This question has been
known to open up markets we hadn’t considered before.)

 

Cynthia
Frank

Cypress
House, Lost Coast Press, and QED Press

www.cypresshouse.com

 

Data to Add In

 

Useful questions include requests
for:

 

·         a brief description of how the
author views the book for use in future promotional copy

·         personal media contacts to round
out our review copy list

·         the author’s workshop/lecture
schedule so we can build a tour around where an author will be

 

Bonni
Hamilton

Red
Wheel Weiser Conari

www.redwheelweiser.com

 

Important Enclosures

 

It’s most useful to get
information from authors about their own media contacts and knowledge, because
often they know about specialized publications that we don’t know about. The
question we use to elicit it is:

 

Are there
any specific U.S. publications (consumer and trade magazines, journals,
newspapers, and bulletins) or specific editors/writers that you believe MUST
receive a review copy? (Note:
We maintain extensive media lists, as you’d expect, but we want to flag
contacts you deem especially important.)

 

One useful section of our Authors
Questionnaire is called “Important Enclosures.” It says:

 

Please
enclose along with this form:

 

<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt;font-family:Symbol’>·            A resume. (Include your occupation
and title; education and professional training; association and volunteer
activities, and any prizes, honors or awards you have received. Also list
titles, publishers, and dates of any other books you have written.)

<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt;font-family:Symbol’>·            A short 1-2 paragraph biography.
(Typically this may be used in a press release in order to give the readers and
the media interesting background on the author.)

<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt;font-family:Symbol’>·            Copies of major reviews or
endorsements of your previous books, if applicable.

<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt;font-family:Symbol’>·            A print photo or a digital image
of yourself. (Important.)
Please note: If you plan to send a digital image, it should be (a) in color, (b)
at least 2 inches high, and (c) a minimum of 300 DPI.

 

Laura Keresty

Wilderness Press

www.wildernesspress.com

 

Seven Top Picks

 

1. What are the two or three
things that will make your book interesting to readers?

 

2. What do you hope to accomplish
by writing this book (for example, to persuade to a point of view, to challenge
a commonly held belief, to teach, etc.)?

 

3. Who will want to read your
book? What characteristics/knowledge level/demographic traits, etc., will
readers tend to have in common? What are the primary and secondary audiences
for your book? Please describe each briefly, and give one or two benefits your
book will provide. (Example: Sunday-school teachers; new teaching methods and
emotional support.)

 

4. Where do you feel your book
should be sent out for review? What publications do you trust for making your
own book-buying decisions?

 

5. Who should be sent sample
copies for course-adoption possibilities or because of their influence in
recommending large purchases?

 

6. What conferences and meetings
would be appropriate for displaying or selling your book? Asterisk the ones you
will attend and where you would be willing to distribute flyers, display, or
sell your book.

 

7. What mailing lists can you
supply to us? What other mailing lists can we get access to through you?

 

Kim Shimer

Judson Press

www.judsonpress.com

 

Sets for Two Time Slots

 

The first three parts of our
questionnaire are most important in terms of urgency, and we ask authors to
respond to them right away, even if they can’t answer the rest of our questions
until later: They are:

 

·         We need to capture the essence of
your book in an enticing way with 20 words or less. What phrase or statement
would you use?

·         Define your audience. Who might be
expected to buy your book? Can it be used as a textbook?

·         What are the key selling points of
the book? What are its unique features?

 

In terms of value for marketing,
our most productive questions are:

 

·         Do you have any special contacts
such as professional associations or career affiliations that might facilitate
reaching potential buyers?

·         Do you know of any groups that
might want to sell your book to their members? If so, do you have a contact
name at the group?

·         Are there professional journals,
special publications, Web sites, or blogs that might review your book? Please
provide any contact names and the addresses for less-well-known publications.

 

Michael Madole

Allworth Press

www.allworth.com

 

 

 

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