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What sort of thing is a publisher looking for when they ask for the author's own market study as part of a manuscript submission/acceptance process -- and why do publishers want one from their prospective authors?
As publisher of Oak Tree Press, I routinely send a marketing questionnaire to any author whose manuscript I am considering. The primary thing I am looking for is his/her willingness and (hopefully) enthusiasm for the idea of promoting the book. I developed this policy after a couple of painful experiences wherein the author either could not or would not promote. In one case, ill health was the demon, in another, the author made it clear to me that he had done his job by writing the book...now I should do mine, which included marketing from a to Z and beyond, and please just give a call when Oprah has selected his title for her club.
In both these cases, I felt that to have known this up-front would have been a huge boost for all concerned. In the case of the willing, but unable author, I could have slanted things to accommodate and hopefully compensate for his lack of physical strength...and I did dive into this, but the lag time always worked against us. In the second case, had I known this attitude before signing the contract, I would have NOT taken the title on.
Oak Tree is a small press, and I and the few good folks who work with me must wear many hats. There is no room here for a prima Dona "that's not my job" attitude. We want to work with authors who will take a "partnership" attitude toward the whole process, like we do. That is why we want to know, up front, how the author sees himself in the marketing process.
I subscribe to a number of writers' lists and frequently see remarks which infer that publishers don't promote books adequately out of pure meanness to the author, or some such. I can imagine this being even close to true, especially when considering the sweat that goes into producing a published book, not to mention all the up-front dollar which are spent before you really know how the reading public will react I know it isn't true with Oak Tree...we work on promotion all the time, scouring the 'net and industry publications, TV news, magazines, anything that might offer a venue for one of our titles, and get the best mileage for our PR dollars. All we ask of our authors is that they be "in there" with us, watching for, dreaming up and maximizing the possibilities.
To this end, I developed the questionnaire. I try to make it clear that this is not meant to be a Ph.D. thesis in marketing, just a reach for information and "getting to know you" exercise. An author who balks at having a go at completing it sends me a signal that most likely we are not going to be a good match and I have made it policy to not move forward on that title. Period.
The marvelous byproduct of this has been the array of terrific ideas the author brings to the table. Obviously, if we get to the point of sending out the questionnaire, we know we love the book itself and have ideas on how we would market it, but it's amazing to see the creative and frequently unique ideas the author can bring to the table...a bonus all the way around as I see it.Billie Johnson, Publisher
James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
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