How to Write the Marketing Section of Your Book Proposal

3565779958_bf2505d314_nIt’s an iconic line from an iconic movie. Maverick and Ice Man break the chill between them whilst maneuvering their F-14 fighter jets in a dogfight against a group of Russian MiGs. Each of them helps the other with life-saving aeronautical stunts. Back on the ground, mission accomplished, Ice Man expresses his newfound appreciation for Maverick.

“You can be my wing man anytime.”

“Bullshit,” Maverick responds, “You can be mine.”

You’ll be glad to know publishers don’t expect you to save their lives, but the marketing section of your book proposal should assure them that you will be a good wing man, a good partner.

It might surprise you how rare a good business partner is, which is exactly what you are if a traditional publisher contracts your book—not at the expense of being an artist but certainly in addition to that role. And bad partners can cost a publisher a lot of money.

Brief setup: In December 2012 I started a series of posts on how to create a book proposal. I wrote two posts before realizing the series would be far more helpful to folks if I actually coached a writer through the process of crafting a book proposal. After a brief contest of sorts I decided to work with Gary Neal Hansen. My strong hope is that others will be working on their book proposals as I coach Gary through this process. So far I’ve posted about motivationconceptbioplatformworking titlebrief description, table of contents, and chapter synopsis.

Following are the things I like to see in a marketing section:

  • potential endorsers (well-known people with whom you’re acquainted who might be willing to lend a blurb),
  • how often you speak and where,
  • potential channels for marketing and promotional efforts,
  • organizations with which you have a relationship that would be willing to help market the book, and
  • sales history of previous works

Gary’s marketing section, as I’ve come to expect from him, is straightforward and honest, and he has diligently included each item I’ve asked for above. This section is too long for me to include here (if you’d like a copy, hit Gary up via Twitter @garynealhansen, and I’m sure he would be happy to provide it).

Instead, let me offer what just might be the killer app for writers who don’t yet have a big platform. Gary admits he is in this category, as are most writers. So if that’s you too, you’re in good company.

Do this. Provide the items above as comprehensively and honestly as you can. Pull out all the stops, wrack your brain, and give us every bit of promotional potential you have at your disposal.

Then turn the corner. Use a heading like “My Marketing Plan for This Book” or “How I’m Going to Help You, the Publisher, Move as Many Books as Possible” or “My Plan Moving Forward.” And then tell the publisher what you are going to do to build your platform and what you will do when the book releases.

See, here’s the thing. Publishers recognize that if we sign your book today, the book isn’t likely to release for another 12 to 24 months. That’s a lot of time for an author to make a lot of headway in expanding his/her potential to bring exposure to his/her book.

Michael Hyatt (@michaelhyatt) recommends writing down a sales goal. Define success. How many books do you want your book to sell in the first twelve months? Gary, if I were you, I’d shoot for 15,000.

As with the working title, involve your friends. Brainstorm a plan for promoting your book.

For example, Gary, you could talk about what you already have in place in terms of  your blog and social media. You could even say you’d use whatever advance you receive to give a design facelift to your blog. Publishers love that kind of thing because it shows us you’re willing to put some skin in the game.

This section isn’t about impressing a publisher with all you have going on as much as it is assuring the publisher you are going to be an awesome, go-getting partner. But you have to do more than just say that. What on a concrete level will you do? That’s what we want to know.

And by the way, doing this will also help your book get into the hands of as many people as possible, which is the whole point, right? I mean, seriously, what’s the point of getting published if your book sinks without a ripple? Forget getting published. How are you going to help a publisher move X number of copies?

Bonus Content: The best way to start a nonfiction book project is by writing a book proposal. I’d love to give you a free copy of my Book Proposal Guidelines, used by countless authors to write their book proposals. 


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Well Thanks For this But Is any Online Promotion like Website and Other Stuff will help me out in Technical Books

  • Thank you for the link about book launches and for the information about creating a marketing plan. This is where I feel totally inadequate. Would a publishing board laugh if they saw things like “I’m a Costco member and plan on submitting a news release to their Connections magazine.” or “I graduated from X university and will submit a news release to their alumni magazine that has a circulation of XXXXXXX.” It seems a little like grasping at straws, but it also shows that I’m willing to explore every avenue ;).

  • Gotta love any post that references Top Gun.

    Question: for a published author who sells books in the back of the room, what’s a good number to shoot for (author sales)? Are you impressed with an author who can personally sell books?


    • I love this topic because selling books at speaking gigs is tried and true. It’s been around forever, and it’s not going anywhere. What’s a good number to shoot for? Shoot for having everyone in the room buy at least two copies. I’m not necessarily impressed with authors who can personally sell books. To be honest, I expect it. Why write a book if you don’t feel comfortable selling it?

  • I’m loving these posts, Chad. Thank you.

    I have a bunch of questions to throw out here, but understand you might not have the time to answer them. So, no worries, if not. Here’s what is coming to mind:

    –The things on your list are basically all the “tactics” you plan to use to help promote the book. Is this the section where you should also be describing the “strategic” aspect of who the target market actually is? Or should the target market be its own dedicated section?

    –I second Gary’s question about the sales numbers. I have absolutely no idea what a first time author should aim for in sales, but would love to better understand what a poor, fair, good and excellent range would be. Of course that is going to depend on all kinds of things (e.g., the target market), but for those of us who have absolutely no starting context, some rough numbers would be amazingly helpful.

    –How long, roughly, should this section be? If the plan is really well crafted, is there harm in it going longer? (Since I’m in marketing, I feel like I can make this part really shine, but I don’t want to overdo it.)

    –Do you need to have already contacted organizations, media, etc. to see if they are willing to do something for you, or can it just be your plan (“here is a list of the 10 target organizations”)? If you are an unknown author, I can’t imagine that anyone is going to promise to promote you before they even see a book.

    Thank you!

    • Target market. I would place that material closer to the beginning of the proposal. I like to see it in the brief description, but you could make it its own section too. Either way works.

      Man, it’s hard to answer your sales question. So much depends on the size of your platform and the potential of your concept and writing. I will tell you from my experience at Baker, though, that generally speaking if a first-time author (who does not have much of a platform) hits 10,000 copies in the first 12 months, generally we’re all fairly satisfied with that, especially if the book is still moving steadily after 12 months. I hope that’s helpful.

      Length. I would keep it at 3 pages or less.

      No, you don’t need to have contacted orgs. Just be forthcoming about organizations you already have a relationship with vs. those you don’t have a connection with but want to pursue.

  • Chad, of course I loved your Top Gun analogy. Great movie, BTW.

    Wonderful thoughts here today, as always.

    Ohhh, the dreaded Marketing Plan… LOL! (I think I must be odd; I actually like that part of proposal writing. It forces us to think outside the box.) Since I live near a tourist mecca, I’ve thought of tons of ways I could use that to further my influence. My alma mater is also in the heart of that geographic region, and we can never underestimate the power of networking.

    I love making friends, meeting new people, and sharing the journey. A key thing to remember in platform-building is to never discount a valid opportunity. I think when we serve Christ first, others second, and ourselves last, God’s vision for us in made manifest, and doors that were once closed are suddenly blown open!

    And speaking of platform-building, may I put a plug in for Gary here? Gary has graciously agreed to do an interview with me in early February.

    Blessings all!

  • Chad, very helpful as always. Thank you!

    This is the area where I felt least confident about how to put materials together. My “AHA!” here is that you are helping me see the difference between “submit your thoughts on these areas that relate to marketing” (which I did) and “submit a marketing PLAN that has these elements and maybe some more” (which I really did not do.

    Several questions come to mind from the process and from your post.

    1. How should an author think about endorsers? I know a lot of people who have written books — but most of them are academic books and they are only famous in their specialty. I’m not confident I know anyone with national name recognition. What I tried to do was think of people I knew personally, or in a couple of cases through social media, who had credibility in a larger group. For some this was my denomination or the field of theological education. Others are people who have written things that tried to reach people who I think of as part of my potential readership. What makes a useful endorsement?

    2. How should an author pick an appropriate sales target? I simply have no perspective on this. I can joyfully aspire to 15,000! However, I don’t know the factors that go into such a calculation. It is very hard to get a sense of what any book actually sells unless it is your own or the publisher puts “zillions in print!” on the cover. I don’t want to pick a figure out of the hat, or put down something that makes the acquisitions editor’s eyes roll. So how do I create a useful equation for potential sales?

    3. The question of channels and organizations are other things where I sort of need to have my imagination sparked. I’d love to hear your thoughts and the other readers’ thoughts — and if anyone knows of good blogged or published resources on this please share!

    4. In light of Lisa’s comment (and this question is for you too, Lisa) what is a book launch team, and how does one get a sense of how to plan one? I’d love to include such things in a marketing plan, but prior to conversations on Chad’s blog I’d never heard of these things.

    (Lisa, if you’ve copied down everything you’ve learned from being on launch teams, would you be willing to blog about it? If you’ve already done that I hope you’ll send me a link or the post’s title.)

    • Gary, be fearless! So what if you don’t personally know anyone of national acclaim. You’re widely recognized in your field and you’ve previously published an awesome book. Think about contacting those you respect and admire, and tell them about yourself and ask if they’d be willing to be an “influencer” for the book you’re working on. Of course, offer to send a copy of your first book, Kneeling with Giants, as a complimentary gift. It never hurts to ask as long as we’re diplomatic about it. Pull out all stops, and go for it!

    • I was on the launch team for Rachel Held Evans’ book (Year of Biblical Womanhood). I actually expected to be much more involved. When I applied, I listed all kind of info on my professional marketing background and how that would be helpful to the team, etc. In actuality, it was a Facebook group with 75 people who were willing to do a review on their blog, a review on Amazon and contribute online promotions however else they see fit. There was no other structure. I felt like a launch team could be SO much more if well planned and coordinated. I don’t know if they are all like this, but it seems to me you could run one much better if you put effort into it. I’d love to hear what other teams have been like.

    • Your aha was in many ways my aha too.

      Endorsements. Look for 3 things. People you know who have high profiles/big platforms. People you know who have impressive titles. People you know who will help you reach a particular tribe.

      Sales goal. This isn’t necessarily something you’d put in your proposal. It’s your own personal goal that makes success measurable and helps you focus on what you need to do in your promo efforts. You know what your last book has sold so far. Based on that and the hope of doing a bit better on the second, you might land one number. Then bump it up a notch to take you out of your comfort zone.

      Channels/orgs. Don’t overthink it. You know who you know. You have the associations you have.

      Launch team. Try this post:

    • The launch teams I have been on have also functioned out of a facebook group. The members of the ‘launch team’ do all they can to get the word out the author’s new book.

      Is your email address on your website? I’d be happy to send you the things I’ve learned so far 🙂

  • Great information; thank you!

    • You are most welcome, Scott. Thanks for dropping by. And if you think of it, let me know how you found out about my blog. Would love to know. Be well.

  • This is encouraging. Every time I get an idea for marketing I put into a running file I have. Another thing that has helped me… every time I have an opportunity to be on a book launch team I jump at it. Then I copy down everything I learn. (Not to mention that you get to network with everyone else on the team.)

    • Lisa, awesome! I love the idea of jumping book launch teams. You’re right, that’s a great way to learn and network.