raindrops on plant fronds

Publicity Questionnaires for Authors

I have just had the most amazingly exciting book-related news… but I can’t share it quite yet. Soon, though… 🙂

In the meantime, I thought I’d do a quick post about publicity questionnaires as I whinged about how difficult they were last time but didn’t give any details.

Basically, a publicity questionnaire is what it says on the box – a questionnaire your publisher sends you to gather all the basic info they need for publicity purposes. Most of the questions revolve around whether you have any ideas, especially for local publicity, and whether you have any relevant experience. But what they really want to know is what you’re willing to do.

If you’re active on social media sites, they’ll want to know all your addresses. If you’re willing to tweet and Facebook and so forth, but don’t have accounts, then get them set up before you send in your questionnaire. But only do this if you’re willing to follow through. It’s best to be honest up front if you despise the very idea of being on Facebook.

The questionnaire will almost certainly require you to write a super-short summary of the book, a short bio and perhaps a paragraph about why you wrote the book.

Your publisher may also ask you to outline some of the key themes of the book and/or what aspects you think are likely to engage readers. It’s this last thing that I found really tricky. It’s hard to answer this question in relation to a thriller without giving too much away! In the end, Claire (my wonderful, wonderful agent) suggested that some single words would probably be the best approach for The Bone Dragon, so we sat down and brainstormed. In the end, I chose the words/phrases ‘wishfulfilment’, ‘resilience’, ‘pain’, ‘finding love’ and ‘friendship’. There were some other words on the list that are even more important, but I didn’t want to reveal too much… Laura, my fantastic publisist at Faber, will tell me if I’ve ended up not revealing enough.

The other thing to think about is how much you’re willing to share about your personal life. It is enormously important to be very clear about this in your own mind before you start engaging with the media. Make the decision in advance, and then be polite but extremely firm about it. Be aware that most reporters will try to push – that’s their job after all. But don’t feel you’re being disobliging or ungracious if you politely but firmly steer the conversation away from anything you have decided should remain private. That’s OK. And it’ll be totally par for the course from the reporter’s point of view. Just be nice about it and offer the reporter something else that is story-worthy instead. You do owe them that for their time, but you don’t owe them an insight into every aspect of your life.

On the other hand, be aware that if you engage with the media you need to be willing to share some insight into your personal life. At the very least you’ll need to talk about your hobbies and interests, so think about some good stories in those areas. It’s also good to have a few stories about family and friends in reserve. Just be wary of identifying exactly who the other people in the story are (either by name or other key details), unless the story is completely positive. Try to avoid stories that other people would find embarrassing, but feel free to humilate yourself… up to a point, of course!

So, those are my thoughts… but if anyone has any tips they’d be most welcome!

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