Writing a Great Book Proposal

This article by Rachel Toor provides a novel way to approach the book proposal: the author’s first step should be to complete the “author’s questionnaire” first.  The author’s questionnaire is a standard marketing tool used by publishers right before a book goes to press.  It’s used to help market a book and it provides some helpful guidelines for any author who is actually pitching a book.  Toor explains why this is important:

In publishing offices, once most of the easy-to-reject and crazy proposals are shooed away, you’re left with a bunch of attractive, viable-seeming candidates. There’s nothing wrong with most of them, at least on a quick first read. They fit the categories in which your company publishes, and often come with recommendations from people you trust. They trail long CVs crammed with all the right stuff.

In other words, there are a lot of potentially good choices. Surfeit creates opportunities for pickiness, and taste plays a big part in selection. Often on reality shows, even when there’s nothing wrong with a person—not one annoying tic, no weird clothing choices, no arrogant and snarky remarks directed at other contestants—he is sent packing because all but one hopeful is going home. Just so. Not every strong manuscript submission is going to result in an offer of publication. There are a whole lot of other sexy, slinky fishes in that sea.

What she doesn’t include in her essay is a copy of or link to any of these helpful marketing questionnaires.  So, I’ve included questions that I’ve found on-line from a number of different sources.  These are the questions that the forms all seem to have in common.

Happy proposal writing!

Author’s Marketing Questionnaire:

  1. Please write a short (100-word) narrative autobiography that we can provide to the media.  This should not be a straight CV, but rather a description of how your personal and professional background relate to the writing of  this book.
  2. Who is the target audience for your book?
  3. Has any part of your book been published previously?  If so, which sections and where and when?
  4. Please list up to 20 publications (print and on-line outlets that review books), ordered by your priority, that would be appropriate for your book.
  5. Please provide the names of companies (other than bookstores), associations, or societies that would find your book particularly relevant.
  6. Please list the scholarly meeting at which we should consider exhibiting your book (highlight the meetings that you attend).
  7. What are the names of typical courses in a college curriculum for which your book could be used as a text or supplementary reading.
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