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Laura_6
03-13-2013, 10:37 PM
After querying an agent with sample pages, she has requested the full. Yay! :hooray: However, she also wants a bio and a marketing statement. I've never been asked for those before. Is a bio like the generic one they have on Amazon, which appeals to readers? Is it more detailed, listing all my groups and pubbed stories (which was mostly already covered in the query)?

And what's a marketing statement? Should I clarify my target audience? Or is it to list all the ways I think I can help sell my book if it gets published?

(I've written her for clarification, but I haven't heard back, and I'm curious what others think.)

Thanks! :)

victoriastrauss
03-14-2013, 05:29 AM
Is your book fiction or nonfiction? For fiction, marketing statements aren't needed--for the bigger publishers, anyway (which are the ones an agent should be submitting to) and a savvy agent should know that. Smaller houses often want marketing statements, because they rely more heavily on their authors to promote their books--but for many if not most small presses, you don't need an agent to submit your work.

Who's the agent? PM me in confidence, or email me at beware [at] sfwa.org. I'd be wary, just because requesting a marketing statement for fiction is really not typical of an established agent.

I think there's a thread in this forum from a week or a couple of weeks ago that deals with this same question.

- Victoria

Siri Kirpal
03-14-2013, 05:51 AM
Is your book fiction or nonfiction? For fiction, marketing statements aren't needed--for the bigger publishers, anyway (which are the ones an agent should be submitting to) and a savvy agent should know that. Smaller houses often want marketing statements, because they rely more heavily on their authors to promote their books--but for many if not most small presses, you don't need an agent to submit your work.

Who's the agent? PM me in confidence, or email me at beware [at] sfwa.org. I'd be wary, just because requesting a marketing statement for fiction is really not typical of an established agent.

I think there's a thread in this forum from a week or a couple of weeks ago that deals with this same question.

- Victoria

Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

There is an earlier/recent thread on the same topic. I'm wondering if it's the same agent.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

JM Tohline
03-14-2013, 07:20 AM
Re: agents not usually requesting marketing plans.

If the agent is, in fact, an established agent, it could just be that they are savvy and understand that many publishing houses - even major publishing houses - are finally catching up with modern times, and are therefore interested in what authors are doing on their own (as in: they are more likely to sign an author who is doing things on their own than to sign one who is not).

People can say that you will get more marketing help from a big publishing house, but the truth is actually closer to this: the big publishing houses have a larger budget for marketing. But typically, this budget is not allocated to a book until it has sold at least 5,000 copies (which, incredibly, most books never do). In other words: what would your marketing plan be to get the book to that many copies?

I would say send her the things you mentioned for bio (publishing credentials, etc.), and for marketing plan, let her know where you are active online and in the writing community, and how you hope to use this activity to create awareness for the book. There are lots of instances over the last few years, after all, of authors getting lots of help from the major publishing house to which they are signed...after they used their own platform to create lots of awareness and help those first few thousand copies sell.

Old Hack
03-14-2013, 01:51 PM
Re: agents not usually requesting marketing plans.

If the agent is, in fact, an established agent, it could just be that they are savvy and understand that many publishing houses - even major publishing houses - are finally catching up with modern times, and are therefore interested in what authors are doing on their own (as in: they are more likely to sign an author who is doing things on their own than to sign one who is not).

My bold.

I am so tired of this idea that agents and publishers are old-fashioned dinosaurs and don't have the first clue about how to publish well.

If they were so behind the times they'd have fallen by the wayside while other more savvy businesses took the lead. And yet that's not happened. How about that.


People can say that you will get more marketing help from a big publishing house, but the truth is actually closer to this: the big publishing houses have a larger budget for marketing. But typically, this budget is not allocated to a book until it has sold at least 5,000 copies (which, incredibly, most books never do). In other words: what would your marketing plan be to get the book to that many copies?

Budgets are calculated for each book before they are signed up. A book with a large advance is likely to be allocated a larger marketing and promotional budget; a smaller book will get a smaller budget.

But as for books not being allocated any marketing money to a book until it's sold a prescribed number of copies? That's not how it works. Not at all.


I would say send her the things you mentioned for bio (publishing credentials, etc.), and for marketing plan, let her know where you are active online and in the writing community, and how you hope to use this activity to create awareness for the book.

That's not a marketing plan, it's a spamming campaign.

If a pubilsher asks for your marketing ideas they're not going to be interested in which online communities you're involved with. They want to know how you propose to market, promote and help sell it to its potential readers. If you say, "I'm a member of AbsoluteWrite which has over 50,000 members and I'll put a link to it in my signature there," they're going to realise you don't know much about marketing.


There are lots of instances over the last few years, after all, of authors getting lots of help from the major publishing house to which they are signed...after they used their own platform to create lots of awareness and help those first few thousand copies sell.

You're implying that publishers don't attempt to sell the books they publish at great expense until their authors have hand-sold a few thousand first.

Why would publishers spend so much money on editing, typesetting and designing books only to then not attempt to sell them? It doesn't make sense, business-wise or logic-wise.

Publishers work hard to promote and sell their books even before they are published. If they didn't, they'd soon go out of business.

Pup
03-14-2013, 05:28 PM
and for marketing plan, let her know where you are active online and in the writing community, and how you hope to use this activity to create awareness for the book.

I doubt that publishers are half as interested in the writing community, as the reading community, unless the book itself is about how to write. Publishers would have the mindset that most books are sold to readers, not to a writer's colleagues.

victoriastrauss
03-14-2013, 07:30 PM
If the agent is, in fact, an established agent, it could just be that they are savvy and understand that many publishing houses - even major publishing houses - are finally catching up with modern times, and are therefore interested in what authors are doing on their own (as in: they are more likely to sign an author who is doing things on their own than to sign one who is not).
Sad to say, it's much more likely that an agent who asks for a marketing plan for fiction is either inexperienced, or one of those increasingly common semi-agents who focus exclusively on small presses that authors can approach on their own. If you're OK with small press publication, fine (though why hand over 15% of your earnings to an agent to make you a book deal you could have made yourself?). But if your goal is big-press publication...perhaps not the best choice.

An established, successful agent knows that there's no need to include a marketing plan with a fiction submission to trade publishers, which do their own marketing. They expect authors to be pro-active with self-promotion--but that's in addition to, not instead of.

If you have a genuine platform--and I'm not talking about a few hundred Facebook "likes" or Twitter followers--mention it in your query letter. It may make you stand out a bit in the query crowd. Ultimately, though, it's not your platform that will sell you, but your manuscript. And a good manuscript can sell even if a writer has no platform at all.

- Victoria

JM Tohline
03-14-2013, 11:19 PM
I am so tired of this idea that agents and publishers are old-fashioned dinosaurs and don't have the first clue about how to publish well.

If they were so behind the times they'd have fallen by the wayside while other more savvy businesses took the lead. And yet that's not happened. How about that.

Last week, I spoke to a publisher who recently won the National Book Award for one of the novels he published. He used the word "dinosaurs" in describing publishing houses and the publishing industry.

He also said, 'We know it's important to use Twitter and Tumblr and all this new media to get our books out there and make sure people know about them. We just don't know how.'

I'm not saying publishers don't get behind books; of course they do. They want their books to sell just as much as the authors want them to sell. But what percentage of novels actually make a profit? Don't you think that number would be higher if publishing houses were able to throw the full force of their marketing department behind each and every book they published?

I also recently spoke to a woman who had one novel published by Penguin Putnam and two others published by small presses. She said she had far more marketing help from the small presses than from Penguin Putnam.

Again: I'm not saying publishing houses don't want their books to sell. But I am saying that an author who has a good marketing plan on their own - who knows what they can do to help their book sell - will get more help from the publishing house itself in the long run. All things equal, new books will all get the same amount of help early on, but if one book starts selling better than others, the publishing house is going to give this book more attention in order to capitalize on the momentum.

JM Tohline
03-14-2013, 11:22 PM
I doubt that publishers are half as interested in the writing community, as the reading community, unless the book itself is about how to write. Publishers would have the mindset that most books are sold to readers, not to a writer's colleagues.

True, but being active in the writing community can make a huge difference in how much help an author has in getting the word out there about their book. If an author is an integral part of the writing community, after all - and the writing community is excited about the book in question - these other writers will want to make sure all their fans and readers know about the book as well.

DennisB
03-15-2013, 12:04 AM
Old Hack,
Thanks for your candor. But you know, I was in radio for decades as a jock, salesman, operations manager and even a GM. We always felt that WE were the experts, not the client. We certainly never went to the client and said... "what marketing plan do you have for us to sell your business?"

To me the idea that a publisher would think that a writer would also be an expert in marketing a book is... well... crazy.

Old Hack
03-15-2013, 12:04 AM
Last week, I spoke to a publisher who recently won the National Book Award for one of the novels he published. He used the word "dinosaurs" in describing publishing houses and the publishing industry.

He also said, 'We know it's important to use Twitter and Tumblr and all this new media to get our books out there and make sure people know about them. We just don't know how.'

And yet I now build my reading list almost exclusively through the recommendations I get from Twitter. Publishers seem to be using it to promote their books very effectively to me.

In other words, anecdotal evidence only proves the point of the person providing it.


I'm not saying publishers don't get behind books; of course they do. They want their books to sell just as much as the authors want them to sell.

But you did.

In your earlier comment you wrote,


People can say that you will get more marketing help from a big publishing house, but the truth is actually closer to this: the big publishing houses have a larger budget for marketing. But typically, this budget is not allocated to a book until it has sold at least 5,000 copies

So which is it? Publishers don't provide any marketing budget for their books until they've "sold at least 5,000 copies", or "publishers get behind books"? You can't have it both ways.


But what percentage of novels actually make a profit?

Much depends on the specific publisher but on average, between 70% and 90% of the books from trade publishers turn a profit.


Don't you think that number would be higher if publishing houses were able to throw the full force of their marketing department behind each and every book they published?

If publishers were to add further costs to the budget of every book then more books would lose money, not make more money.

Not every book is suited to heavy marketing and promotion. Some books sell regardless of such activities, such as directories and classics; some books benefit more from one particular marketing push, others from a different sort of attention. Books signings tend to work for established, well-known authors but not so well for debut writers; reviews in the national press are brilliant for novels, but pretty useless for textbooks; and so on and so forth.

You seem determined to prove that publishers are doing things wrong: what you're ignoring is that they've been publishing books for a long time and know what's worth spending money on, and what gives the best return.


I also recently spoke to a woman who had one novel published by Penguin Putnam and two others published by small presses. She said she had far more marketing help from the small presses than from Penguin Putnam.

More anecdotal evidence. What were her sales like in each case? Isn't that the most important thing here?

I know a writer who has been published by both small and large presses. She's had huge amounts of both marketing and promotional support from her large publishers. See, I can play this game too!


Again: I'm not saying publishing houses don't want their books to sell. But I am saying that an author who has a good marketing plan on their own - who knows what they can do to help their book sell - will get more help from the publishing house itself in the long run. All things equal, new books will all get the same amount of help early on, but if one book starts selling better than others, the publishing house is going to give this book more attention in order to capitalize on the momentum.

Except that all things aren't equal. All books don't get the same amount of help early on because some books are more important to the publisher than others, and so get a bigger push; and as I've already said, different books require different sorts of marketing and promotion.

It's rare for a book to be assigned an extra chunk of marketing money as you describe. It does happen, but not often. There's a long lead-time involved in much marketing activity, such as buying ad space, which makes "capitaliz[ing] on the momentum" as you suggest very difficult.


True, but being active in the writing community can make a huge difference in how much help an author has in getting the word out there about their book. If an author is an integral part of the writing community, after all - and the writing community is excited about the book in question - these other writers will want to make sure all their fans and readers know about the book as well.

When I was editing full time I only ever signed books because I thought they were well-written, entertaining, and appropriate for the market. I didn't ever sign an author because he knew lots of other authors, online or anywhere else.

All this is getting a little off-topic, I think. Shall we see if we can get back to the discussion in hand? Thanks, all.

Old Hack
03-15-2013, 12:07 AM
Old Hack,
Thanks for your candor. But you know, I was in radio for decades as a jock, salesman, operations manager and even a GM. We always felt that WE were the experts, not the client. We certainly never went to the client and said... "what marketing plan do you have for us to sell your business?"

To me the idea that a publisher would think that a writer would also be an expert in marketing a book is... well... crazy.

I agree. Let me clarify.

Publishers don't expect writers to know how to market their own books: but if they do ask for marketing plans, they're not going to be impressed by a writer telling them they're a member of an online writers' forum.

DennisB
03-15-2013, 12:34 AM
JM may have nailed it. The publisher said they don't know how to market using Twitter and Tumblr. I'm not sure anybody does. At least, not unless you ALREADY have a platform. I'm sure that Suzanne Collins and Rick Riordan have tens of thousands of friends and followers on their various social media, but did they have that many BEFORE they struck gold with their writing?

My guess is that it was the other way around. For an unknown to develop a mass following without committing murder is pretty hard to imagine.

It may be the ultimate "chicken and egg" situation.

Donna Pudick
03-23-2013, 05:44 PM
When I was an editor for a big house, we started promoting our books as soon as the contract was signed. No website back then, but we used space ads, tv ads, radio, a newsletter, promotional materials, etc. We continued this for many months after publication, and in the case of non-fiction, often for years.

I will say this, though. I have had authors ask me outright, "Do I have to promote my book?" Of course they do, with book signings, talks, and appearances. If they ask that question, it's an automatic rejection.

We did not ask our non-fiction authors for a marketing plan, but they did have to have a platform and convince us that there was an audience for the book.

Old Hack
03-23-2013, 06:08 PM
Things are very different here in the UK, Donna. Judging from the conversations I've had with agents here, if an author doesn't feel able to promote their books they wouldn't get an automatic rejection: that point would be considered, of course, but it would be factored into the calculations when an agent or publisher considered the book concerned.

Donna Pudick
03-25-2013, 05:48 PM
I'd love to be able to rep authors whose work I admire, but who can't do much to promote their books. I started out doing that when I first opened my business, but sales figures reflected their reluctance or inability to even show up at a book signing. Needless to say, the p-cos who "had faith" in them didn't ask for a second book.

Our authors also have to be computer savvy, know how to use track changes, attach mss, download and save material onto their hard drives, etc. I don't have the time or inclination to teach them, and neither do the p-cos.

DennisB
03-25-2013, 09:11 PM
Donna,
If and when I get my contract, the first question I'll have is... "when does the book tour start?"
But I feel that there's a difference between promoting one's work and marketing it. (And again, I was in the marketing business. I know the difference.)

Donna Pudick
03-25-2013, 10:06 PM
It is true that a large number of small p-cos often ask authors for their plans for marketing their books. Marketing is the job of the p-co, or it should be. As one who has worked in marketing books for years and years, it's a big deal, expensive, and time consuming. Small p-cos, with limited funds, need to rely on help from their authors. Authors must take that into account before they submit to them.

But promoting the book is a job shared by both p-co and author. If an author isn't willing to at least have a social network, go to local bookstores for signings, and give talks to local groups out there who want to hear from an author, it's not worth it to me to rep that author.

And the proof is in the royaties. Authors who agressively engage in promotional activities for their books, get nice rewards, often making up for their advances in the first few weeks after release.

Old Hack
03-25-2013, 10:23 PM
I'd love to be able to rep authors whose work I admire, but who can't do much to promote their books. I started out doing that when I first opened my business, but sales figures reflected their reluctance or inability to even show up at a book signing. Needless to say, the p-cos who "had faith" in them didn't ask for a second book.

Our authors also have to be computer savvy, know how to use track changes, attach mss, download and save material onto their hard drives, etc. I don't have the time or inclination to teach them, and neither do the p-cos.

I've asked a couple of my agent-friends about this, Donna, and they both disagree with you very strongly.

They're not new agents, or beginners: quite the opposite, actually. They're well-known, established, successful agents with a history of spotting great books and very talented writers.

Their view (and mine too, if I were still commissioning books) is that if a book's really good then it's worth publishing, even if the author is reclusive. There are many ways to promote the book that don't involve the author getting up on his hind legs and dancing for the public: and things that authors can do, such as book signings, have a relatively small effect on sales compared to all the other marketing and promotional efforts that can be done. Reviews, for example, don't require the author to have a public face, and are often very effective at selling books.


Donna,
If and when I get my contract, the first question I'll have is... "when does the book tour start?"
But I feel that there's a difference between promoting one's work and marketing it. (And again, I was in the marketing business. I know the difference.)

Book tours are notoriously inefficient ways of selling books, especially for new writers.

They work best for established authors, who will attract good numbers of people. But for new writers they're mostly an indulgence, as are launch parties.

Ensuring that books are available in plenty of retail outlets, for example, is generally a much more valuable strategy than spending time arranging author interviews. Even with the increasing market share of online sales, if books aren't in bookshops they don't sell, because nearly half of books bought online are first chosen in a physical shop. Which is why full distribution is still essential to the success of most books, regardless of whether authors are good at promoting or not.

thothguard51
03-25-2013, 10:42 PM
My marketing strategy, write another book, and then another. That is what the publisher wants to hear...

Old Hack
03-26-2013, 11:25 AM
Agreed.

I was thinking about this again and realised that if it is true that if writers won't self-promote their books won't sell, how is it that foreign rights are sold and the resulting books often sell in large amounts with no help from the writer, who usually never even visits the country concerned?

I agree that writers can help with the marketing and promotion of their books: but having seen many writers who are reluctant to promote who nevertheless write books which sell in good quantity, I am not convinced that it's as important as Donna suggests.

Sheluvspink
03-26-2013, 07:04 PM
Thank God for the responses here! I was so worried about how much marketing responsbility I'd have if my book was published by a fairly large publisher. I for one have absolutly no problem being involved in marketing events such as if I was asked to attend book signings or grant interviews.

But I don't have a large platfrom to promote, my twitter following isn't in the thousands and I have no idea what I'd need to do to market. I just like to write, so if an agent came to me with that question right out of the gate it would seem as if it was my responsiblity to establish a marketing plan and if I wanted to do that I might as well self publish.

Filigree
03-26-2013, 08:28 PM
In all fairness to Donna, I would never even submit to an agent or publisher who required me to attend conventions, go on book tours, spam the Twitterverse, etc. I do what promotion and publicity I can, while knowing that an erotic romance e-book in a very niche market has a very different profile than a mainstream literary fiction print book.

Authors may have strong reasons (financial, security, and career reputation) not to make public appearances.

WeaselFire
03-27-2013, 12:27 AM
Still haven't seen an answer - Fiction or Non-Fiction? For non-fiction, these are standard questions. Never been asked for fiction.

Jeff

triceretops
03-27-2013, 12:41 AM
I agree with Victoria and OH. This is an agent, mind you. I've seen small press publishers (fiction) and publishers of non-fic ask for this, but not an agent. Not only is it unusual, but I find it suspect. My own agent casually asked me what my social network was like, during a phone call. But I was not asked for an itemized list or promo/marketing proposal.

tri

veinglory
03-27-2013, 12:58 AM
The marketing plan I wrote (non-fiction) said what kind of book it was, named similar books, named which individuals/libraries/colleges would probably buy it, and gave a sales estimate. I did not talk about writing communities, my twitter etc at all. The proposal was successful. So, don't assume all marketing statements are the same. Sometimes they just want to know that you are aware if who your market is, and have written a book that will suit them.

I have also written vestigial "marketing plans" for ebooks that could be boiled down to: "Google me, I haz internet footprint". Basically my sites, blogs, yahoogroups etc. I did not list forums.

Old Hack
03-27-2013, 10:58 AM
For non-fiction books you do need to include in your proposal some information on the book's place in the market, and how to reach the market.

Susan Page wrote a book called something like "how to sell a book and make lots of money", which gives all sorts of excellent advice on writing non-fiction proposals: it's very good, has helped many writers that I know, and is worth getting.

Donna Pudick
03-27-2013, 05:28 PM
I've never asked an author what s/he can do to promote his/her fiction book. It's the authors who approach me and ask if they have to. P-cos advertise and put their books in bookstores, but the author should be able to inform, at least the locals, that the book is there. It doesn't take much effort for even a recluse to join a bunch of social networks, including Goodreads, Facebook, etc. to help get his/her name out there.

My most agressive client has been a quadriplegic for 67 years. He has never once complained about promoting his book, even though it's not out yet.

AmberS
04-01-2013, 05:57 AM
My friend's agent asked for this and the agent is legit and got her a three book deal with the Big 5. To be fair she asked for this when submitting the book/proposal to the publishers after they had already signed the author. But to me it's not a stretch that, knowing it will be needed before submission, someone would ask for it sooner. My agent didn't ask for this, but just throwing this out there. Look for verifiable sales with publishers you want to sign with. That's a far better indicator of legitimacy than whether they ask you for a social media/marketing plan.

rnpudel
04-01-2013, 09:53 PM
However, she also wants a bio and a marketing statement.


My first ms was inspirational fiction. While I had a few full requests, one asked for a marketing plan with a bio. I had no idea what that was, so I asked a friend who is traditionally published in this genre. She told me that this type of request can be common in this genre. And in fact, many agents who sell only inspirational books, ask much more of the writer than agents who rep mainstream market books. I'm not sure why.

So I wrote the ten page proposal with a bio, comp titles, and marketing plan. At the time I thought it was ridiculous to be writing such a thing BEFORE I got the agent contract. But you gotta do what you gotta do.

Six months later I got a rejection letter from that agent. It was long and fairly confusing and absolutely showed her lack of experience.

My next ms was fiction for the mainstream market and has generated more than a handful of requests, none asking for a proposal. :)

Donna Pudick
04-05-2013, 05:01 PM
Never heard of needing a proposal for any kind of fiction.

stormie
04-05-2013, 06:10 PM
Back in 2005 there was an agent--well-known in NYC--who liked my query, liked the partial, loved the full (after a few rewrites she wanted to see), but then in an email asked what marketing plan I had. As I was thinking about it, another agent called wanting to rep me, I notified her (and another agent who had the full) and went with him. At the time and even now, I don't understand why she needed me to submit a marketing plan.

I like what someone said up-thread for their marketing plan to an agent: "I plan on writing another book, then another...." :)

ETA: All of the above relates to novels, not nonfiction.