Serious book proposals (XI): channels to market

Previous posts in this series have emphasised the importance of defining the market for the proposed book. It is helpful to supplement this with information about how the market may be reached.

The publisher might think, ‘OK, we can see that there might be a market for this book, but how exactly do we reach this market?’

Help them by providing some concrete information. For example:

  • which bloggers feature book-related content on your subject?
  • what is your own social media operation?
  • which periodicals carry book proposals?
  • what associations, societies, and networks exist? How might they help – for example, through publishing an item in a newsletter or negotiating a special offer for members?
  • which conferences or other events do your prospective readers attend?
  • which websites do they visit?
  • how can you promote the book directly?

You can help yourself by maintaining a record of your own activity — appearances in the press, speaking events, and so on. Then you can select the relevant data to include in your proposal to show that you would help to get the book known. Concrete details are more persuasive than vague generalisations (along the lines of ‘I am frequently invited to give talks’).

When I presented the above ideas during a talk at the Society for Authors, several of their members began to look disgruntled. Then one of them said, ‘Why should we have to do all this: isn’t marketing the publisher’s job?’

To which my answer is ‘Yes, but…’:

  • if you are sending a book proposal to a publisher, you presumably want to be offered a contract. If you provide the publisher with helpful information, that will make it more likely that you achieve your goal;
  • information on the channels to market is not only helpful in its own right: it also identifies you as a commercially savvy author, which makes you a more attractive proposition;
  • it isn’t zero-sum: in my experience, it isn’t the case that a publisher thinks ‘Oh, if the authors doing some marketing, we don’t need to’; if anything, it’s the other way round.

Imagine you were a marketing bod working in a publishing house and deciding how to allocate your time between projects. Which author would you rather give your time to: the disgruntled one who has done nothing to support the marketing department’s efforts or the author who has been constructive and communicative?

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