Lesson 6: Author Biography & Marketing and Publicity
This is part of our free non-fiction book proposal course written by Lydia, Senior Editor at Penguin Random House. To see all posts in this series, please click here.
In this lesson, we’ll look at writing an author biography and how to start thinking about marketing and publicity. In this section of the proposal, you will be expected to share details about your credentials and experience which relate back to the specific subject you aim to cover in your book.
Why should you write this book?
One of the questions the publisher will be thinking when reading your proposal, is what makes you the best person to write this particular book? You need to show them why you are the perfect person to write this project throughout the whole proposal, but particularly through your biography. Before writing your biography think about why you want to write this book and what qualifies you to write it.
Your biography should answer the following questions:
- What are your qualifications to write this book? Here you can reference your education, research, or experience.
- How long have you been in this field?
- Have you had other professions that link to this subject that the publisher should be aware of?
- Do you have much experience writing or would this be your debut book? If you’ve written a book before, provide information about it – was it published and did it sell?
As well as giving details about your job, education and experience, it’s helpful for a publisher to know if you are already connecting with audiences about the subject you intend to write on.
- Are you a regular interviewee on TV or radio?
- Do write a regular blog or guest column at a newspaper?
- Do you have a podcast?
- Have you delivered a TedX talk or something similar?
- Do you run an annual conference on your subject?
- Have you created a popular newsletter that has a great open and read rate?
- Do you write regular articles on LinkedIn, or Tweet like there’s no tomorrow?
It’s important to show a publisher how you engage with the subject you are planning to write on and what work you have shared publicly on the subject. So think back over your work and career, and think what achievements and initiatives might help make a case for why you are well placed to write this book.
Whether it is writing an academic paper on what businesses can learn from the music industry, or an analysis of the welfare state that went viral on Medium, to an award winning podcast on motherhood, or an Instagram account sharing delicious recipes, a publisher will want to know what you do on a regular basis to share your ideas and work on this subject. And they’ll want to see evidence, so provide them with links to your work in the proposal.
If you have a lot of experience in the media, include details about any festivals, talks, symposiums, radio shows, interviews and so forth you have done.
Highlight your achievements to the publisher. Let them know if your work already has a proven audience or community and what kind of reach you have online – if you have a considerable number of followers on social media, share stats with them about your following, engagement and also follower demographics, if appropriate.
Another question a publisher will be thinking about is how will this author get the word out about their book? They will be interested to know what kind of network you have built and who might be able to support publication.
If you have any helpful publicity contacts, or know respected people in the field in which you are writing who would offer an endorsement for the book or post about it online, say so. Endorsements from well-known names can transform a book’s sales performance. So if you happen to be good friends with a top celebrity chef, an influential bookstagrammer, a TV presenter, or respected academic, tell the publisher.
Write a list of all the people, communities, and networks that you have links to and provide information about their reach online – the number of followers they have – and explain how you think they could help the book’s publication. This could include alumni networks, online groups you are part of, or institutions you are a member of.
For each contact or group, think about what they would be able to provide to support the launch of your book? Could they provide a quote to add to the cover of the book? Would they commit to writing a foreword for the book? Would they post about your book online? Would they host a Q&A or a Facebook Live on their channels? Could they offer up their venue for an event? Would they include information on your book in a regular newsletter they send out? Would they buy copies of your book to give to their staff or members?
For any person or organisation you list, be sure to make it clear how and why they would help your book.
Ideas for Publicity and Marketing
As well as hearing why you are qualified to write this book and who you might know that could help support publication, publishers will be interested to hear your initial ideas on how you plan to carry out marketing and publicity. This is sometimes displayed as a separate part of the proposal, but it is related to who you are and who you know, so it makes sense for it to follow on from your biography if you don’t want to give it a separate section.
When starting to think about marketing and publicity ideas, consider the following questions:
- What is the best way of getting your book to your ideal reader? For example, it might be through podcast adverts, an article in the Times, or a live event like a festival or conference.
- What might be the three most interesting facts or stories from your book that publicity should focus on?
- Which sections of your book would best advertise the book and hook the reader in? Radio programmes and newspapers sometimes serialise books so it’s worth thinking about which bits of your book could be turned into great extracts for publicity?
- Is there an anniversary coming up that your book could be related to? For example, if you’re writing about a famous battle, is there a significant anniversary of that battle coming up you could tie publicity to? Or if you’re writing about a company’s history or a memoir of a company you started, is the company about to reach a major anniversary, say thirty years in business?
- Will there be a rush of news events about this issue in the coming months or years? If your book is very topical, it’s worth thinking about how the news will cover this subject in the next few months and years, and how your book might play into that news cycle and society’s interest in the subject. Will interest in your subject have waned slightly or will it have grown?
- Are there any TV or film radio tie-in opportunities available? For example, if you have been a guest on a TV programme, is it likely you’ll be called back to feature in next series as that might help with publicity for your book. Or has someone seen your blog and approached you about creating a podcast about the story you’ve uncovered?
If there is something that is going to make your book stand out, a publisher would want to know about it. Even if it’s just a potential event or opportunity, they will be interested to hear.
If you have ideas about which news outlets, TV programmes and radio stations would be interested in covering your book, provide a list of the segments or shows you’d expect your book to appeal to and why.
If you have ideas about how you and the publisher could reach the audience for your book through online marketing (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google Ad words) and any live events, provide details. This could be linked back to your own online platform and followers, or could be focusing on leveraging the power of your connections described above.
Remember that this is the section of the proposal dedicated to showing a publisher why you are the most qualified person to write this book. Use this section to impress them with your achievements, experiences and knowledge. Show them how you have engaged with this subject privately and publicly, providing information on the communities you have built and are part of.
For any information you share about yourself or link you provide to your work, remember to explain why it is important to your book.