Don’t Forget the Marketing Synopsis

Writing a book is an art, but publishing a book is a business. And along with any business comes the need for marketing plans and promotional ideas. But that’s not an author’s job, right? If this were a fairy tale world, yes. Publishing today is more about cold hard facts.

An author’s ability to bring a marketing synopsis to the table—along with a great manuscript—makes a difference in what books get picked up. This is true for both fiction and nonfiction titles. You need to show your publisher what you’ve got in your marketing arsenal.

Now, this doesn’t mean that a great book written by an author without marketing savvy will not be published. But given a choice of three good novels, all things being equal, editors will factor in an author’s ability to market and publicize his or her own book.

In today’s market-driven economy, a writer who thinks as creatively about marketing as plot is a better author.

Any marketing ideas you have are best presented to a publisher in a marketing synopsis: a few pages explaining how you can market your own book. Not only can it help your agent sell your book to a publisher, but it also can be the decisive factor that makes an agent take your book over someone else’s. Anything that differentiates your book from other submissions is a big advantage.

Collect marketing ideas

At first, don’t worry about how good or bad your ideas are—just brainstorm. You can always winnow down your ideas before submitting them. To start, just jot down all notes and keep a log. Figure out ways to get your book seen and heard.

  • How many other writers do you know who are members of communities, online or off, who will be willing to read your book and, if they like it, talk it up? Ask around and offer to reciprocate. I know four self-published authors who did this for each other and, between them all, reached more than 7,000 readers. If you include a number like that in a marketing synopsis, you’ll get a potential publisher’s attention.
  • Take a look at your everyday activities and think about your affiliations or communities that might spread the word.

    When first-time author Dora Levy Mossanen considered this, it turned out her biggest marketing potential was part of her weekly routine. Mossanen is an active member of a temple with a congregation of more than 10,000 members. And her rabbi, in addition to all his other duties, runs a book club.

    Mossanen gave the Rabbi the manuscript of her novel Harem; after reading it he agreed to use the book as one month’s selection if it was published. And voila! Mossanen had something real to offer her publisher, Scribner, and she secured a deal.

    Is there a religious affiliation you can use to market to potential readers? A school affiliation? A job affiliation?

  • Do you work for a giant corporation that has a newsletter? Talk to the editor. She or he might be willing to write you up in the company news. Saying your book will be exposed to 10,000 nationwide employees is significant press.

    Get blurbs from authors

    Included in your marketing synopsis should be other authors from whom you can get blurbs. This is always a difficult thing, and no one ever knows quite how to go about doing it. You don’t want to be a pest or embarrass yourself. I’ve found the best and most successful way to meet authors is to go to writer’s conferences and workshops.

    When I do a workshop, there is always at least one author who comes up afterward and asks if I’ll take a look at his or her book and consider blurbing it. For some reason, I can turn someone down in e-mail, but when he or she is looking me in the eye, I cave.

    Try to get a list of at least four authors who will blurb your novel. List what books they’ve published and include their affiliations. And bigger names aren’t always better. The right match matters more. Getting a blurb from Stephen King if you’ve written a historical romance won’t help you much, but getting a blurb from a romance writer with a readership of 100,000 will.

    Include the Internet

    Don’t forget the Internet when forming your plan. Include ideas on how you will work the Web. Even more important than promising you’ll do your own Web site is getting attention on existing sites with dedicated audiences.

    Start by using Google to search for and find niche communities that fit your book. Then write to the Web site owners and find out how you can get involved.

    Marketing to a specific niche—through Internet or otherwise—is often necessary for your book to reach a wider audience. Build buzz in areas where you can, and hope that it spreads to the mass market.

    Ultimately, it is a writer’s job to write a wonderful book and a publisher’s job to promote and market it. But, more than ever, publishers are aware that no one sells a book better than its author. Your marketing synopsis is yet another element to separate your book from every other submission and help solidify a sale.

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