Now that Princeton University Press has committed to publishing THE ART OF THE PUBLIC GROVEL, I’m finding myself in an unfamiliar position. It’s been years since I sold a book after it was written. Usually, I sign a contract and then plunge into writing a manuscript. This time, I’ve signed the contract and I’m going straight to doing pre-publication publicity stuff.

Which means that I get to do a brand-new Author Questionnaire for Princeton’s publicity department. Those of you who’ve been reading my blog for a while will remember my last encounter with one of these necessary monsters, done for the History of the Ancient World. I can pirate some of my answers…but this is a different kind of book, and there are some topics on THIS particular monster that I’ve got to wrap my mind around.

This, incidentally, has to be done by mid-January.

You’ll probably find this long and tedious, but here it is, in case anyone’s interested in comparing it to the Norton questionnaire. And, as always, if you have any suggestions, PLEASE POST THEM.


Book Title:
Author’s Name (as you wish it to appear on your book):

Below, you’ll find a detailed questionnaire that will serve as an invaluable resource in helping the Press plan the promotional activities for your book, from writing jacket copy to getting reviews to advertising and exhibits. We appreciate your completing the form in its entirety and returning it at your earliest convenience.

1) Educational and Professional Training: Please give dates, institutions, academic fields, and degrees. You may attach C. V. instead.

2) Career: Please give dates, institutions, academic departments, and exact titles. Please list professional associations to which you belong.

3) Author Bio: Please provide a brief description of yourself in two or three sentences that we can use at the end of the book and on the jacket or cover. Include your current academic position (title and school) and any appropriate previously published books.

4) Published Works: Please give titles, dates, and publishers of books, and mention names of any journals or magazines to which you are a regular contributor.

5) Rights: Have any of your previous books been translated, co-published with a UK publisher or licensed to a book club? If so, please list title, year, publisher, and/or book club.

6) This is the most important section of the questionnaire:

Capsule Description: In no more than 250 words, please describe your book to a potential buyer. Discuss what is most important about your book, what distinctive contributions it makes to your field, the method of approach, and the main conclusions you have drawn. Your statement will help our staff in writing jacket copy and all promotional material. Please do not repeat verbatim from your introduction or preface.

7) Short Description: In some cases, we may need to describe your book in 50 words or less. What is the most succinct statement that you can make that aptly describes your book?

8) Competition: Are there any competing books? If so, please provide titles, dates and publisher and indicate how your book differs from them. Include any features that make your book unique or first in its field.

9) Audience: What is the primary readership for your book? What are the related audiences (if applicable)?

10) Special Sales: If applicable, do you have corporate or professional contacts that you recommend we contact for bulk sales of your book? This could include contacts at firms for whom you consult. Please provide names, addresses, and phone numbers of your personal contacts.

11) Direct Mail: Besides supplying our catalogues and other brochures to major domestic and foreign bookstores and libraries, we also send them directly to individuals whose names are on our in-house lists or other lists we rent, including those of the main professional associations. Are there other groups or associations we should consider targeting?

12) Class Use: If your book was primarily written as a text for course use, please list the names of courses in which you anticipate your book being adopted for class use.

13) Exhibits: Please recommend three to four scholarly meetings you attend regularly where you would like to see your book exhibited.

14) Advertising: Which 3 scholarly journals do you recommend for advertising your book? (Please rank them.) There are a number of considerations that we need to take into account in preparing the advertising plan. However, we value your recommendations.

15) Electronic Promotion: Do you participate in or are you familiar with a Listserv or other dialogue on the Internet where we should promote your book? If so, please provide the name of the Listserv and e-mail address of the moderator whom we will contact. Do you have a web site containing information on your book? If yes, supply your URL and we will add a link from our web site.

16) Excerpts or Serialization: Are there any chapters or sections in your book that could be published in a magazine or journal before the book appears? Please indicate these sections and suggest the appropriate media.

17) Publicity: Are there any distinctive or news-worthy features of your book that should be emphasized in our publicity (i.e. new research, tie-ins to events, etc.)?

18) NYRB reviewers: We are routinely invited to suggest possible reviewers for the New York Review of Books. Please provide the names of people who either already write for the New York Review, or write in the NYRB style, who might be interested in reviewing your book.

19) Prominent Contacts: If applicable, please provide the names of prominent people you personally know who might be interested in writing an endorsement for the book.

20) Lectures and Travels: List any prominent places where you have lectured. Include any plans you may have for the coming year.

21) Publicity Hook: (This question is of particular relevance if your book is written for a general audience). Broadcast and print media look for a hook that might be either quirky or topical on which to frame an article or piece. If applicable, please briefly highlight 1-2 such hooks about your book that could be used for this purpose. One example might be a story from the book that illustrates it central theme. These can be given either in the form of vignettes or talking points.

22) Other Media: Have you been interviewed on either television or radio? If possible, please list show names, addresses, phone numbers, contact names, and the date and subject (briefly) of your interview.

23) Prizes and Awards: Please note any prize or award for which your book may be eligible and include the name (and, if not nationally known, the address) of the sponsoring group. Please limit your suggestions to five, and rank them in order of importance.

24) Review Copies: Please give the exact titles of general, scholarly, or specialized publications (including web logs), both regional and foreign, that regularly cover books and might cover yours. If you know of individuals at these publications who might be interested in your book, please list them too.

25) In the event you have additional recommendations to help us sell your book, feel free to add them here.

Showing 4 comments
  • AmyL

    Wow. That’s a daunting list of questions. Do you have to fill that (or something similar) out for every book you write? I’ll be over here not envying your task. 🙂

  • Sandy Diaz

    I loved reading your questions!! I work with a book publicity agency (TCI Smith Publicity) and our author questionnaire is actually longer, our authors often groan when they see it. Our version focuses more on the author’s background and areas of expertise rather than their industry contacts.

    Good luck to you and know the information is truly needed!

  • meredith

    Hey Susan, I feel your pain! This monster questionnaire is as bad as the postdoc applications I am currently writing, only mine may yield zip, while yours at least will be used for impressing the great and the good! I’m currently doing a research proposal in German — schrecklich!

    Btw, I am so sorry I won’t be able to come play for a few days in Virginia next week. My uncle died suddenly and my folks need me at home….

  • Sahamamama

    Perspective: You have gotten through worse. You will get through this. If you feel sorry for yourself, eat some chocolate chips from the bag and think of me. I am currently reading through this ENORMOUS book about world history, and the text is 777 pages long! Will I EVER finish this “cursory” book? And this is just the FIRST volume! Gasp! There are supposed to be THREE more coming out, so I’d better get to work on this one… something about a guy named Lugulannemundu. Wow.

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