Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Author Questionnaire

Yesterday I received an “author questionnaire” from my publisher.

At last it feels as if the first book in my new series that I turned in last year (2012) for publication next year (2014), was not a figment of my imagination. Unless a series is on a regular schedule i.e. one of my friends has a book out every nine months, many of us are at the whim of the publisher to pin down the actual publishing date.

There are also great debates on the actual time of year to publish a book. Is your book going to be positioned as a summer read or a holiday special? Is January a good month? May? October? What else is out there? What is your competition?

A long time ago I stopped worrying about how well my book would sell and decided to focus on my writing and stay out of the result. It took a great weight off my mind and I stopped comparing myself to other writers in my genre. Of course my stomach still turns over when I receive my pathetic statements. Denise Swanson was quite right when she said it takes about ten years to become an established author.

Well before I was published, Sisters in Crime authors Denise, Carolyn Hart and JoAnna Carl visited Dutton's Bookstore (now long gone) in Los Angeles and spoke of their journeys to publication. It was pretty sobering but forewarned is forearmed. I am thankful to my Dad for urging me not to give up the day job...yet.

But back to the author questionnaire! Even though I’m excited to receive it at last, the questions are detailed and extremely time-consuming – which is why it is always wise to have certain elements in place ahead of time.

Here are a few samples of what to expect:

  • A half-page biographical sketch (about 250 words).
  • Education and hobbies.
  • A list of other things you’ve done that could provide interesting hooks for various media interviews.
  • Cities or countries you have lived in.
  • Other books you’ve written.
  • Two summaries of your book – one in 250 words; the other in 50 words.
  • List of books similar in genre and tone.
  • List of books that could be in competition. What makes your book different?
  • List of hometown media outlets – TV, radio, bookstores, magazines, newspapers.
  • List of relevant organizations, professional affiliations that could help promote your book.

And the list goes on! Yes, in the old days the author would rarely get involved in helping the publicity department gather all this information but times have changed.

So – I am going to make myself another cup of coffee, roll up my sleeves and get cracking.


LD Masterson said...

Whoa. I'm not yet published but that questionnaire is a bit daunting.

Hannah Dennison said...

Yes it is! In fact I admit to switching my coffee to a stiff gin and tonic.

john problem said...

The trick is to give them what they'd like to hear. You've lived in Timbuctoo and Sayreville N.J. Your books are similar to Patterson, Tolstoy and Enid Blyton. Your education was at Harvard, Princeton, Yale and Castiglione High School (Italy). Your interests are fine art, great literature and quilts. And you got the 'Achievement Award for Publicity and Advertising of
2012'. Also you used to be an assassin for the FBI. Should work!

Rick Blechta said...

I, for one, can't wait to read it, despite what the questionnaire says.

Charlotte Hinger said...

Hannah, I'm getting ready to do the same thing. But as John Problem said, it would be so much easier and more fun to just make something up.

Aline Templeton said...

Maybe you should, Charlotte. Having filled in a good number of these myself I reckon you could say anything you liked since I've never noticed that they pay and attention!

Sue Whittaker said...

The secret would be to let them have what they would like to hear. You might have were living in Timbuctoo along with Sayreville D.M. Your guides are like Patterson, Tolstoy along with Enid Blyton. The education was at Stanford, New york, Yale and also Castiglione Senior high school (France). The pursuits tend to be artwork, great literature and blankets
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