The marketing section of your book proposal is crucial to getting picked up by a mainstream publisher. If you’re part of a company you’ve lined up help from the company’s public relations and promotions department, you have a huge advantage. Here’s how to describe that asset in the proposal.
Making the most of a corporate PR asset
The time to get your management and marketing teams behind your book is when you’re pitching it, not much later when you’re about to publish it. This allows you to work out a rough marketing plan well in advance, and write it up in the promotion section of your proposal. That plan will make your book far more attractive to agents and publishers, because it shows you have professionals ready to launch the book when the time comes.
I can’t resist a shout-out here to the publicity team I worked with at Forrester Research. They were thrilled to work on a book launch and helped us to generate lots of quotes, bylined article placements, shareable videos, speeches, and even TV appearances. There’s no way I could have become a successful author without the help I got from people like Karyl Levinson, Jon Symons, Tracy Sullivan, Laura Moran, and Erica Sahin.
The first tip here is obvious: work with your PR team on this before making promises. Not only is it rude to commit corporate assets you haven’t checked with, but more to the point, your PR team has all sorts of skills and ideas you probably never thought of. They’ll likely be excited to work on the project, since a book launch is far more interesting and promotable than most corporate PR efforts. Remember that PR teams are busy, too; don’t be surprised if they need at least a month to finalize a plan with you.
Tone is important in what you write up in the proposal. PR teams are used to writing about their accomplishments, but may be shy about making promises. A promotion section, by contrast, should focus on what you will do, not just what you have done. Of course, suggesting the tactics you’ve got cued up is a lot more credible if your team has already successfully used those tactics to promote things in the past. The right mix is 25% proposed tactics and 75% proven past success — that’s a mix that will look terrific to potential publishers.
And be specific. Really specific. Don’t just say you have 150 media contacts. List some contacts that have responded and generated coverage in the past. Don’t just say you’ve published op-eds, list them with links. And don’t just say you have a strong social media game, list assets like podcasts, blogs, and Instagram and Twitter accounts with numbers of followers. Don’t leave much to the acquiring editors’ imagination; the more obvious you make your assets and successes, the better off you will be.
Here’s a list of possible assets, tactics, and accomplishments you could include. Each could be a bullet or a subsection in your promotion section.
- Size of PR team. Specify the number and type of staff that will be dedicated to the book launch, and for how long. (For example, “My company’s PR team of four publicists, including a media specialist, a social media specialist, and a ghost writer, and they will work on the book launch for a period of one month before and three to four months after the date of the launch.”)
- Outside book publicist. Will you hire one? If so, what successful book launches have they worked on?
- List of media contacts. It doesn’t hurt to list ten or 20 journalists or other media with whom you have relationships. (While those contacts will likely never learn that you shared their names, don’t make up relationships that don’t exist; the acquiring editor is well within their rights to call Thomas L. Friedman or Bill Maher and ask if they’ve heard of you.)
- List of media hits. What coverage has your team generated in the past? Include links and excerpts. If any of these are from books, that’s a bonus.
- Bylined article placements. What publications will allow you to write an article for them? Which have your team placed articles with in the past? Include trade publications and newspaper op-eds.
- Blurbers. List names of contacts who could provide cover quotes with titles, e.g., Elon Musk, CEO, Tesla and SpaceX.
- Media tour. Do you plan one? How will it work and what will it include? Has your company done one in the past?
- Speaking engagements. What speeches has the team lined up in the past? What conferences and events will you possibly be speaking at in the future? How many speeches do you typically do in a year?
- Social media. What accounts does your PR team control, with how many followers? List some past posts that have gotten shared a lot (e.g., 4 million views).
- Media assets for sharing. If your company has resources that will allow you to create high-quality video, audio, or infographics, describe what you plan to create.
- Company channels. Will you give the book to employees? Will your sales team send it to clients and prospects? Describe how many books you’ll distribute using these methods. Also, do you have employee or customer newsletters, and if so, how many people do they reach?
Ask your team if there are other assets, since they may have some unique promotional tools you wouldn’t think of. One of my author clients once told me, “Yeah, well, I guess we control 10 million online ad impressions per week and there’s a lot of remnant space we could use.” Not a bad asset to take advantage of!
How to write about publicity, and how to keep in touch with a PR team
In the proposal, write about your plans as if they are settled. For example, write “We plan to create create sharable videos” or, “We will feature the book in a newsletter that goes to 250,000 clients.” Don’t say, “We may” or “We might,” say “We will.” Publishers know your plans will change; so long as they can see the assets and the intent, they’re not going to ding you if your final tactics differ from what was in the promotion section.
Lastly, it’s a good idea to keep in touch with your team as your book progresses. Thank them when the book deal closes; share the proposed publication date; let them know when you’ve completed the manuscript. And share the book content as soon as it’s in good enough shape to be informative to them. These folks are going to be crucial to your book’s success. Treat them like key partners, and it will pay off in a successful book launch.