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The Author Questionnaire — A Great Book Promotion Tool

The first, important step in crafting book sales, marketing and publicity plans

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An author questionnaire is a key “internal” book marketing and publicity tool in a traditional publishing house, used by a number of departments when developing your comprehensive book publicity and book marketing plan.
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The information filled out on the author questionnaire disseminated to the various publishing departments, from editorial to publicity to sales, each of which uses it to target audiences for the book based on your own background as well as the book’s subject. It is used to craft materials for the media, for booksellers, and in order to ascertain the book marketing and promotional resources the author brings to the table.

The author questionnaire can also be a useful tool for any wannabe author or self-publishing author. In addition to being a handy first step to creating a book press kit, your jacket flap bio, etc., it will help you summarize your book for others, as well as assess your personal marketing and publicity platforms. It will outline the promotional strengths and contacts you can readily exploit, and show you those might need to develop before you publish.

If you are self-publishing your book, filling out your own author questionnaire is a useful exercise to help you craft your own marketing and publicity plan, and show you the areas you might need to develop before your book is actually published.

The Author Questionnaire Helps to Market Your Book

An author being published by a traditional publishing house will be asked to fill out an author questionnaire, likely by your editor, sometime during the pre-publication timeframe, often right after the book has been acquired.

The answers on an author questionnaire form the basis by which these key departments can make determinations on an author’s publicity or marketing plan. For example:

  • The document will help your editor create a “tip sheet” about you and your book for the sales force; your home location would dictate which booksellers (through the sales department) might invite you to do book reading and/or signing events.

  • Your current geographic location would dictate where some of the publicity department would center their media outreach efforts for an author’s book

  • Countries where you 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.

  • Generally, authors will note that the information requested on the author questionnaire is likely on file with their editors somewhere, whether from their book proposal, or their contract, etc. Despite that fact, make sure to fill out the author questionnaire thoroughly: used by all those departments that are critical to your book’s success—and for self-published authors, too—the author questionnaire provides a one-stop repository for all the information pertinent to your book sales and promotion efforts.

    The Parts of an 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 Your Book — this includes basic information such as your name, your pseudonym (if you’re using one), your book’s title, etc. It also includes more personal information about what inspired you to write the book, interesting stories about your writing and publishing process, prior history of the book.

  • Personal Contact Information — all your own current contact information, including phone, email, etc. and any business contact information.

  • 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 include the photo 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.

  • Biographical Information — place of birth, schools attended, countries resided in, other bio info that might be pertinent to your book promotion.

  • “Platform” — information about your current internet presence, media experiences, association affiliations, and previously published books that might help your current book’s marketing and publicity efforts. Also information about media, industry, and book retail contacts who could help spread the word about your book.

  • Author Questionnaire Template

    Fill out your own author questionnaire to help jump-start your thinking about your book’s marketing and publicity campaign. We provide a 2-part, general author questionnaire template to help you — we suggest you fill out both parts. Part 1 of the Author Questionnaire Template guides you through summarizing details about your book and your own biographical information; Part 2 of our Author Questionnaire Template helps you summarize and assess your own media platform.

    See how the author questionnaire is used in this article about developing your comprehensive book publicity and book marketing plan.

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