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Q&A: Author’s questionnaire–What it is and what you need to know

Q: “What is an “author’s questionnaire’?”

A: Mary Ellen Lepionka, author of Writing and Developing Your College Textbook: A Comprehensive Guide:

“An Author’s Questionnaire usually comes from the marketing department to develop leads for reviewers of, contributors to, and especially adopters of your text. I suggest filling it in as completely as possible to make your contacts, colleagues, affiliations, and achievements known to the people who will attempt to market and sell your title. Also include any press–news articles about you (and keep sending them). List your upcoming opportunities to promote your book, such as guest lectures, keynote addresses, interviews in the broadcast media, academic conventions, teleseminars or webinars, etc.

Ideally you would have a marketing plan of your own to include–what you intend to do to help get the word out about your book and win adoptions. For example, you could include the forthcoming title in your email signature, blog about it, add it to your web site, ask colleagues to try it out, discuss it on Technorati or Linked In (or whatever other web 2.0 organizations you have joined, e.g., Facebook), and include it in your bio whenever you publish an article.

The marketing department needs all the help it can get. It is a common misconception that publishers invest heavily in marketing and promotion. The truth is that even the largest have certain systems in place to do only so much with the many products they field each year. They also do not cover the whole universe of potential adopters because sales forces focus on certain territories where they have done well in the past. Competition among large publishers to control adoptions in their territories is pretty intense. Your book will be in the company’s catalog, which will go out to their customers and to leads from your Author’s Questionnaire, and information about adopting your book will go out in an email campaign to only a percentage of the people who actually teach that course. To achieve its full potential, in other words, your book will need not only your Author’s Questionnaire. It will need you.”

A: Scott Harr, Department of Criminal Justice, Concordia University St. Paul:

“Maybe different publishers have different jargon or meanings (or uses) for such, but when I’m asked for these from my publisher it’s mostly used for marketing purposes since we write our own ‘about the author’ section. I try to be thorough, maybe erring on providing more than less, then let them decide what they want to use. Typical questions include degree earned, schools attended, courses taught, publications, etc. Questionnaires can also ask about the book (what’s new or special about it, etc). Most of all, I never exaggerate or, obviously, say anything not factual. Always amazes me when people do, especially in this day and age of easy confirmation at the touch of the www. My only real ‘hint’ is once you do one, save it for the next time so you don’t have to redo something that can be quite time consuming.”

A: Rebecca Plante, PhD, Associate Professor, Sociology Department, Ithaca College:

“When I’ve done author’s questionnaires, I too err on the side of being more thorough. The marketing team at one of my publishers is small, but the (back)list is small as well, so they can do their job very well if I give them the benefit of my knowledge of my market. My work is interdisciplinary, which is problematic sometimes, and I try to be extensive in giving ideas about who might adopt, how to pitch the work, what the key features of my books are. I absolutely keep old copies of these documents to (hopefully) use in the future! I’ve also had undergrad research assistants help me cull the Internet to determine who’s teaching relevant courses so that I can provide that information – ‘Dr. So and So teaches human sexuality at XY College’ – possibly along with relevant syllabi.”

A: Sheila Curran Bernard, author of Documentary Storytelling and Archival Storytelling:

“In my experience with Focal Press, it’s a sales & marketing tool — a brief questionnaire seeking information for the publisher about you and your book and your professional memberships and such — your thoughts on possible places the book might find an audience, including professional associations, annual meetings, specialized schools or areas of study, that sort of thing.”

Here’s an example of an Author’s Questionnaire provided by Focal Press:


Your name:

Title of your forthcoming book:

  1. What professional magazines do you read regularly?
  2. What websites, online forums or blogs do you visit regularly?
  3. Please list all professional organization or association memberships.
  4. What conferences will you attend in the next 12 months? Please spell out any acronyms and provide web site information if possible.
  5. Please provide dates of professional speaking engagements, along with contact details of organizers and topics to be covered.
  6. Please list any training or teaching you will be leading in the next 12 months. This may be at a university, corporation or conference. What are the topics covered and please provide any contact details of organizers.
  7. Very often corporations purchase large quantities of books for training or giveaways. Please list any organization, with which you have a relationship, that would potentially be interested in buying copies of your book at a reduced rate in bulk. Include a contact details (including a name) and how they could potentially use your book.

Please keep us up to date on your speaking and teaching schedule. We can provide you with copies of your book to include in the price of registration or sell. We will also provide you with fliers or cards promoting your book.