This Author Interview Questionnaire took me four full, long days to complete, even though I was more prepared than many to take this step. Thanks to an agent who requested a marketing analysis with my submission a few years ago, I’d already done most of this work.
Judging from reactions I heard, my guess is that this agent’s request for a marketing analysis weeds out unwanted submissions from writers not yet ready to think beyond artistic concerns to business concerns. I recall others saying, “I’d never do that, she’s just trying to rip off my marketing ideas so she doesn’t have to do the work!” But then I needn't tell you what most writers feel about marketing when a picture will do.
|Photo via Flickr|
When confronted with the hair-pullers and whiners, I’ve found it is best to quietly shoulder past and get on with the work of building a career as an author. I was right to do so—as it turned out, I returned to this document often, just as my publicist will return to my Sourcebooks questionnaire again and again to inform her efforts.
What goes into a marketing analysis
Here are some of the points I built into my two-page, single-spaced marketing analysis, each of which prepared me to complete the Sourcebooks Author Interview Questionnaire. For your benefit I’ve included one example for each.
- Current headlines related to your book’s theme that can create media talking points for your novel. Headlines about body image abound—one at the time was “Jenny Craig Fires Kirstie Alley for Getting Fat Again.”
- Nonfiction titles selling well that are tied to your book’s theme. Sarah Nilsen’s Does this Book Make my Butt Look Big.
- Comparable fiction titles and how yours differs. Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner: mine differs in that the treatment is less humorous and the stakes are higher—unlike my protagonist’s career as a dancer, Cannie Shapiro’s newspaper job was never at risk due to her body shape.
- How you used these themes to make your novel relevant for the reader. On the brink of losing everything, new friends support Penelope Sparrow as she reinvents herself on a shoestring; a recession need not always demand the sacrifice of dreams.
- Why you were the right person to write this tale. Background as self-employed dancer, choreographer, and dance critic; lived through husband’s suicide; academic and personal interest in body image.
- Pop culture trends that make you believe the book will sell. Proliferation of reality television shows about dance; Dove’s Campaign for Beauty).
- Who your target market is and how you might reach them. This section had many parts, but the most obvious was women readers who consider their bodies’ idiosyncrasies as imperfections, reached by reviews in the women's magazines they turn to for tips on diet and exercise.
In addition, the Sourcebooks Marketing Questionnaire fished for relevant PR contacts—where I’ve lived, where I went to school and when, where I worked. They wanted to know whose books I read and what blogs might review my book. They asked what media experience I’ve already had, leaving me glad I jumped on opportunities to do cable television shows and radio interviews and to speak to writers and other community groups.
If you are a submitting author, consider doing a marketing analysis now. This preparation will inform your queries in a way that is attractive to a prospective business partner. The agent will sense that she is plugging into an existing business model rather than stroking the ego of an author unsure of whether his writing is any good. Then, when your book is ready to sell—whether to a traditional publisher or through you, directly to the public—you won’t be riddled with anxiety as you pray that one of your PR efforts will hit its mark. You’ll be able to move forward with the confidence born of having a plan.
And if you end up at a traditonal publisher, having to fill out a lengthy marketing questionnaire, your hair will thank you.
Just catching up? Here are links to the other posts in this series:
Countdown to a Book 1: Joining Hands
Countdown to a Book 2: Pitching
Countdown to a Book 3: Getting My Agent
Countdown to a Book 4: Developmental Editing
Countdown to a Book 5: All About Image
Countdown to a Book 6: From Writer to Author
Countdown to a Book 7: Five Tips for Getting Blurbs
Countdown to a Book 8: The Manuscript Becomes a Book
Countdown to a Book 9: Why an ARC?
Kathryn Craft is a developmental editor at Writing-Partner.com, an independent manuscript evaluation and line editing service. Her work is represented by Katie Shea at the Donald Maass Literary Agency. Her monthly series, "Countdown to a Book," details the traditional publication of her debut novel, The Art of Falling, by Sourcebooks in January 2014. Connect with Kathryn at her Facebook Author Page and Twitter.