Friday, January 15, 2016

#9: The Author Questionnaire: Are You A Writer? Or A Spy?

After you get a book deal, you're going to start worrying about your inbox because every now and again - when you least expect it - an email is going to ruin your day. Or life, as the case may be.

One of those days will be when you get your Author Questionnaire.

Or, sometimes, New Author Questionnaire. I was partway through revisions when the New Author Questionnaire from Simon & Schuster/Atria dropped into my inbox. It happened at MacMillan/St. Martin's Press, as well, so you can expect you'll get the same quiz when you sign a book deal. 

The form will be e-mailed by your editor's assistant - who sounds very young on the phone but who probably a PhD in English or Art History from Harvard - so play nice. (For more on dealing with powerful literary assistants, check out this post: The Devil Wears a Headset.)

The email will go something like this (because they always go something like this):

Hi there! Hope everything's well! Can you please fill this out and get it to us by the end of the day? Tomorrow morning at the latest. Thanks!

It's always 'tomorrow morning at the latest.' Unfortunately, you will have no warning that this questionnaire is coming. Nobody will breathe a word of it. But it will be one of the most important tests you ever write. 

The Author Questionnaire is something the publicity and marketing departments need to promote you and your book. But the form is so long and involved, you're going to wonder if you're just publishing a book - or trying to get recruited by the C.I.A. 

The questionnaire is all about determining your 'platform.'

Are you famous? Award winning? Lauded in your profession? If not, do you know anyone who is? And preferably, someone you're related to? 

I didn't have any time to 'study' for my New Author Questionnaire - and I think it set me back. 

But now here's your 'Cheat Sheet.' 

Basically, this is a word-for-word transcription of the questionnaires I received from my publishers. I was absolutely devastated to read them because I really didn't have anything impressive to say about myself. All I'd ever done was ... well ... write. And at publishing houses, they've got a lot of people who do that already - plus other things like being famous, saving lives or winning the Nobel Prize.

By the way, I've condensed the formatting just to save space - there's actually a lot of a intimidating space to answer each question. Warning: If you have a delicate ego, you might need a drink and/or session with your shrink after this one. Good luck! 

btw as usual, you have until the end of the day. Tomorrow morning at the latest. 



In filling out our questionnaire, please feel free to attach additional sheets if needed.

Book title and editor:  

Name (pseudonym if applicable)  


Home Address:

Home Telephone number:

Cell Phone number:

Email address:

Business Address (if different from above):  

Business telephone:

Agent name, address, and phone:

Please indicate if you would like your correspondence to be sent to your home or business address:  

Date of Birth:  

Place of Birth:

Educational Background (with names of college or university newspapers):

Honors, Citations, or Prizes:

Present Occupation(s):

Marital Status:

Number of Children:

Names and/or Occupations of family members, if newsworthy or relevant:

Avocations, Hobbies, or Special Interests – underscore anything relevant to your forthcoming book:

Please list all Social Media Accounts, Websites, Blogs, etc., especially those applicable to your book:

Clubs, organizations or charitable causes you're involved with: 

Cities and States in which you lived, including approximate dates:

Foreign countries in which you have resided or traveled:

Names of newspapers in your hometown, and any contacts you may know:

Names of newspapers in your current town or city, and any contacts you may know: 


Please provide a summary of your book:

What was the inspiration for your book?

Who are your favorite authors?

How and why did you start working on this book?

What kind of experience has writing your book been for you (fun, exciting, agonizing…)?

Tell us anything about you as a working writer that you think might be interesting or unusual:

Did you have any interesting experiences while you were researching your book, or getting it published?

What do you feel is the market for your book?

Please list the names of any classic or popular books that seem to have the same kind of readership you want to attract, e.g., books which might provide useful comparisons or sales handles for your own work:

Please list current books, or works in progress that you know of, which might compete with your book for public attention:

What features distinguish your book from others on the subject?

Please list other books you have written with the title, publisher, year of publication, description of the book, (e.g., fiction, verse, biography, etc.) and sales figures for each:

If any of your books have been serialized, reprinted, (e.g. paperback), adopted by book clubs, made into a film or published in foreign editions, specify details and give the names of each magazine, book club, film production company, and/or foreign publisher:

Please list magazines or periodicals which have published your writing, giving approximate dates and titles.  Please indicate if you are a regular contributor: 

If you have ever been a guest on a U.S. TV or radio talk show, please give the name of the show, host, date, and topic of interview, to the best of your recollection:

Show: Host: Date: Topic:

Are there any well-known people who you feel should receive an advance copy of your book for the purpose of giving promotional quotes?  These people do not have to know you personally, but please indicate those who do.  Please supply complete addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses, if you know them:

Please list any U.S. periodicals that you believe should receive complementary copies of your book and the name of any editor or staff writer you may know personally, or any regular contributor who may be interested in your book:

Do you shop regularly at a particular bookstore or bookstores, and do you know any booksellers personally?  

Where do your friends and family members shop for books?

Please list any organizations, institutions, or associations that might be interested in either selling or publicizing your book (include complete addresses).  If you have contacts with any of these groups, please indicate the name and title of the person or persons you know.  Would any of these groups have mailing lists available?  If so, do you know how these lists may be obtained?

Do you have lecture or seminar experience?  How extensive?

Do you have a lecture agent?

Please let us know about any upcoming lecture schedules and provide us with your lecture agent’s name, address, etc., if applicable:

Are you planning any business or other travel around the planned publication date that would allow time for possible publicity interviews or book signings?

If you have had other books published, please enclose copies of any publicity about your work, e.g., endorsements (jacket blurbs), book reviews, mentions in magazines and newspapers, ads, etc.

Please attach a brief biographical sketch. Please do not include any information that you do not want released.

For publicity purposes and/or for the book jacket, we would appreciate three copies of a black and white glossy photograph of you.  Please indicate if the photographer is to be credited.  If this photo is not from your private collection, please secure written permission for the photo to be used.



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